Everybody's hammering Joe Girardi for not yanking A.J. Burnett sooner in Game 5, and maybe everybody's got a point. What really bothered me, though, was when he yanked Alex Rodriguez in the top of the ninth inning for pinch-runner Freddy Guzman. Nobody's going to remember because it didn't wind up mattering, but if you add up all the things we don't remember, you'll learn a lot more than from just those things we do remember. Anyway, I'm not buying Girardi's explanation, as reported the Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough:
- But how hard was the decision to take out A-Rod?
"Extremely hard," Girardi said during an optional workout Friday. "But that's one of the few situations that you know you have to do it. Because if there's a ball in the gap, you have to make sure that guy can score. Alex runs the bases very well, but sometimes it's that extra step that can tie or win a game for you."
Yes, of course ... but there's a huge difference between tieing and winning.
One thing I've grown to like about Girardi is his willingness to go for the jugular, right now. Tight game in the eighth? He's bringing in Mariano Rivera. Close game and Jose Molina's due up? He's bringing in Jorge Posada. I like managers who grab for the win when it's there to be grabbed.
You have to grab for the tie, too ... But while grabbing for the tie you have to think about the future because even if everything works out there will be a future. Replacing Rodriguez with Guzman makes sense only if Guzman -- and Guzman alone -- winds up scoring. If anyone else scores, then obviously A-Rod might as well have stayed in the game.
You can see where I'm going with this, I'm sure. If you score one run, you're going to wind up two innings later with Rodriguez's slot in the batting order coming up -- but wait! What's this? The Yankees are carrying just one extra infielder during this series, so your new cleanup hitter (and third baseman) is Jerry Hairston, who ... well, you know. Jerry Hairston, for all this talents, isn't Alex Rodriguez.
Simply put, in this particular situation the tiny edge gained with Freddy Guzman doesn't nearly balance the massive difference, if and when the game goes to extra innings, between Hairston and Rodriguez.
Girardi is well within his duties to look for every little edge, even if it's just "that extra step." But eventually he needs to learn that a little edge now isn't always worth what it costs.