Commentary

Girardi cost AL with questionable calls

Manager's bad decisions mean the American League will be on road in World Series

Updated: July 14, 2010, 4:27 PM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If George Steinbrenner still were alive and in his prime, chances are Joe Girardi would have gotten a phone call from the owner after the All-Star Game. And the conversation wouldn't have been pleasant.

The American League lost home-field advantage in the World Series on Tuesday for the first time since baseball began staking that edge on the outcome of the All-Star Game, and Girardi can blame himself after the AL's 3-1 loss to the National League.

Girardi's All-Star problems began during the Monday news conference when, for some reason, he announced that Boston Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre was out with a bad hamstring and was being replaced by the Texas Rangers' Michael Young. There was just one problem. While Beltre does have a sore hamstring, he still planned on playing and Young was not replacing him.

[+] EnlargeAlex Rodriguez
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAlex Rodriguez watched … and watched … and watched Tuesday's All-Star Game.

Those problems continued in the ninth inning when Girardi watched a possible rally fizzle because he had left his bench too thin despite having a record 34 players on the roster, plus a player (Ty Wigginton) who was eligible to re-enter the game. Girardi left David Ortiz, the slowest player in baseball not named Molina, on the basepaths to run and left Alex Rodriguez on the bench. That proved costly when Ortiz was forced out at second by Chicago Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd, who was playing right field in the ninth, on catcher John Buck's blooper to the outfield.

"Wrong place, wrong time. And the wrong guy too,'' Ortiz said. "I saw where he was playing but everyone knows that Marlon Byrd has great speed in the outfield. I saw him coming in and I just didn't want to get thrown out into a double play. I just got caught in between. It bounced in front of him and he made a good throw to second base.''

Instead of having runners at first and second with one out, the American League had a runner at first and two out. Ian Kinsler then flied out to end the game.

"We were talking about pinch-running him in a situation,'' Girardi said. "We also had a little issue with Beltre, and we were concerned about Beltre and we were concerned about his hamstring, so if we get the tying run on, Alex was going to pinch run and then go in.''

OK, but then why not pinch-run Rodriguez for Ortiz after Beltre struck out? And for that matter, why manage a game "that matters'' in such a manner that you leave yourself without enough players despite a roster that has nine more players than a normal allotment? And how can you not get one of the best players in baseball history into the game?

"I was ready to go,'' said Rodriguez, who insisted he is fully healthy. "It was just up to him about what situation to put me in. … Sitting out there for three hours, Joe probably thought it was just best not to use me unless he really needed me. I was ready. I was ready. He must have wanted me to hit.''

"A-Rod could have pinch-run but you don't want that guy to go in if he's not loose and could get hurt,'' Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. "You've got to get a guy with some legs like Elvis Andrus, but he was already in the game.''

Girardi also chose to bring in Matt Thornton with two on in the seventh when more experienced pitchers were available. The White Sox reliever gave up a walk and the game-deciding three-run double to Atlanta's Brian McCann. Still, Thornton is accustomed to pitching in such situations and at some point the player is more responsible than the manager who put him there.

Home-field advantage, Girardi said, "is extremely important and whoever is in the World Series is going to have to work hard.'' It hasn't been a major issue under the new rule because the World Series hasn't gone seven games since it went into effect, and has only gone more than five games twice.

But if it does go seven games this year, Ortiz says he's not worried for the AL champion. "They've got airplanes.''

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com