Yanks win despite manager

October, 26, 2009
10/26/09
12:17
PM ET
Mike Celizic joins a chorus of pundits wondering how a control freak like Joe Girardi could possibly have managed his team to within four wins of a baseball championship. Granted, it does help that Girardi's got some pretty good players. But does he really deserve this?
 Girardi
    Not that it’s that hard to manage the Yankees. Fill in the line-up with some of the best players in the game and figure out which pitchers to use to get to the ninth inning and Rivera. While you’re doing it, don’t wear out Rivera.

    That’s pretty much it. It’s true that Joe Torre, Girardi’s predecessor and the winner of four titles, first invented that formula and then mucked it up. Torre’s sin, repeated like an annoying habit for the last five or six years of his reign, was to overuse Rivera.

    Year after year, by the time the playoffs arrived, Torre had worn out the one player he needed to win a championship. For good measure, Torre burned out any other reliever he had laying around who made the mistake of pitching too well for too long.
Torre's sins might have been many, but wearing out Mariano Rivera probably wasn't one of them.

But if Celizic is right, the manifestation of that wearing out would be, what?

Using him so much in the first five months of the season that he wasn't able to pitch well down the stretch? Well, even if that happened, it didn't matter; Torre's Yankees finished in first place every season.

Using him so much in the first six months of the season that he wasn't able to pitch well in the seventh month? As you probably know, the Yankees last won a World Series in 2001. Over the next six years, Rivera pitched 38 innings in 24 postseason games. In those 38 innings, he gave up 20 hits, four walks, and three runs. His ERA in those 38 innings: 0.70.

The problem for Celizic, and for that matter anyone else trying to explain the Yankees' postseason failures, is that there's really nothing tangible to latch on to. Sure, we can go back and nitpick here or there -- I think Torre should have used Rivera in an extra-innings game in 2002, and I think he should handled Alex Rodriguez differently in 200X -- but would any of those things have made a difference?

Probably not. For the most part, at this time of the year all a manager can do is wind up his players and send them off to battle like little tin soldiers. Maybe Girardi really has been guilty of overmanaging; if so, he's overmanaged his team to the World Series and lost only two games along the way. I suspect that a lot of teams would love to be overmanaged so well.

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