Mike Lupica on the risks that Joe Girardi just keeps taking:
- There are still a lot of smart, passionate, grudge-holding Yankee fans who want to talk about all the pitching mistakes that Joe Torre made when the Red Sox started to come back on the Yankees in 2004. But when Torre came home in that American League Championship Series, the way Girardi's Yankees come home now, here were Torre's starters:
Jon Lieber, Game 6.
Kevin Brown, Game 7.
Girardi? He has the winningest starter in postseason history tonight in Pettitte, his ace Sabathia waiting in the wings if the Phillies make it to tomorrow night. Of course both are going on three days' rest because the Yankees have only three starters they trust, at a time when the only other pitcher Girardi really trusts is the great Mariano Rivera. By now everybody knows that the last team to win a World Series going with just three starters was the '91 Twins.
Josh Beckett went on three days' rest in Game 6 of the 2003 Series, Marlins against the Yankees. Everybody screamed that Jack McKeon was making a huge mistake, that he should wait and pitch Beckett on full rest in Game 7 if it came to that. The Marlins manager went all in with Beckett and he pitched one of the most dominating close-out games in the history of the World Series.
He made McKeon right because he won.
Girardi plays things his way to the end and good for him. He still has the better team in this Series. Burnett getting pounded doesn't change that. The Yankees should win it all tonight. Then the manager's right. Better be right.
I think Lupica's right. I think Girardi had better be right.
If he's not right -- that is, if the Yankees lose because Pettitte and Sabathia both got hammered -- his job probably won't be in danger. After all, it's far from obvious what else he might have done. Chad Gaudin has thrown exactly 42 pitches in real competition since September. Maybe that's Girardi's fault, but again it's far from obvious what else he might have done. The Yankees certainly didn't need Gaudin to start in the Division or League Championship Series, and while Girardi presumably could have gotten Gaudin another inning or three of relief work along the way, that wouldn't change today's equation.
But nobody ever wants to do that, presumably because it's so bloody unorthodox. Sure, you can get away with it in the middle of the summer, particularly if you've got to play two games in one day. But if you try it in the World Series, the media will murder you before the game and they'll really murder you if you lose.
Of course, Girardi's setting himself up to get murdered anyway. Any time you do something unorthodox and lose, the media will kill you. If that does happen, may I suggest a line of attack? When Jack McKeon started Josh Beckett on short rest six years ago, he looked at Beckett and thought, "This pitcher can do this thing."
Girardi, on the other hand, looked at his three starters and thought, "All of these pitchers can do this thing.
Girardi might be absolutely right. There are certainly a lot of old-timers who think that every starting pitcher should be able to fare quite well after just three days of rest (and if they don't, it's all in their baby heads).
But we can't know if Girardi is right. We can only know if it works. Which is why those two theoretically disparate things become, in the end, the same.