"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Look, Daddy, the wheels are still off.

There are two ways you can manage a game, I suppose. You can manage in a vacuum, simply making moves based on the game in front of you without considering the context of the standings or the number of games left in your season, or you can manage according to the calendar, knowing that games in April or May don’t carry the same importance as those in September or October.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi appears to have chosen the latter method, which is fine, except that he seems to be working from a calendar that says September instead of April. On Friday night he made one of the most curious managerial decisions of all time when he ordered his staff ace to issue an intentional walk in the first inning of a scoreless game (the first game), a move that produced a grand slam off the bat of Carlos Peña.

On Saturday night he confirmed his inability to read the calendar by choosing to give Derek Jeter a half-day off as DH. You know, because he must’ve been so exhausted after playing shortstop for one consecutive game without a single day off. How long did it take for that decision to bite Girardi in the ass? Not long.

Desmond Jennings, the first Tampa Bay hitter in the bottom of the first inning, grounded a ball out to shortstop where Eduardo Núñez was waiting. Núñez booted it, and Jennings reach base safely on the error. It could’ve been a meaningless play in a meaningless game in the first week of April, but it wasn’t. Hiroki Kuroda was on the mound for the Yanks, and he could’ve made the error forgettable by zipping through the next three hitters, but he didn’t. He took about ten minutes to strike out Carlos Peña, but Jennings stole second on strike three, then advanced to third on an Evan Longoria ground ball.

With two outs and a runner on third, Kuroda seemed to feel the moment a bit. He walked Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist to load the bases, and for the second straight day a Yankee starter found himself facing a game-changing moment with two outs in the first inning. Just as Sabathia had the night before, Kuroda failed here. Scott laced a single up the middle, and the Rays had a 2-0 lead.

The Rays would add a run in the second on an RBI single from Peña, and another in the third courtesy of a large home run from Matt Joyce, and the Yanks were staring down a 4-0 deficit against lefty David Price. A tall order, to be sure, but after they scraped together two runs in the fourth on RBI singles from Andruw Jones and Eduardo Núñez, it looked like they might be able to make a game of it.

They wouldn’t.

By the time the game moved into the ninth inning, the Rays held a comfortable 8-2 lead. Curtis Granderson led off with a triple and came home on a sacrifice fly from pinch-hitter Raúl Ibáñez, but that was only important to those keeping score or playing fantasy baseball. When Russell Martin walked and pinch-hitter Eric Chávez singled, however, there was something close to hope. When Nick Swisher launched a no-doubter into the right field seats to cut the lead to 8-6, there was actual hope. When Robinson Canó followed that with a gritty seven-pitch walk to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Alex Rodríguez, there was possibility.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon had made one quirky defensive decision after another through the first two games, but finally he found himself in a position where there was only one move he could make. He brought in his closer, Fernando Rodney. As the stadium awoke to the drama and Michael Kay’s voice rose to a fever pitch, the Rodney-ARod confrontation lasted all of five seconds. A-Rod pounded a grounder just to the left of second base, the type of hit that rockets into center field against most American League defenses, but the Li’l Professor had his infield positioned perfectly, and second baseman Sean Rodríguez only had to take a couple steps to his left to field the ball easily and throw to first for the final out. Rays 8, Yankees 6.

Let’s get one thing straight here. It’s not time to panic. I mean, what are we, Red Sox fans? Even if the worst-case scenario plays out and the Yankees lose on Sunday to drop to 0-3, it will only serve to remind us of 1998, and that season worked out fine. Even so, it would be nice to get a win. No pressure, Mr. Hughes. No pressure at all.

[Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images]

Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Hank Waddles  Yankees

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1 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 8, 2012 5:37 am

I've never been a JoeyJoeJoe fan and 2009 doesn't change that. He seems like a nice enough guy but as a manager..he's tightly wound and over managers WAY too much. There is simply zero, zero, ZERO reason to EVER issue an IBB in the first inning of a game. And it was CC!! If there's ever a time for insubordination that was it. I mean..what the hell did CC and Martin think of that? Was there no one on the bench to question that call?

Oh well..at least we didn't give up 72 home runs today like other contenders did.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 8, 2012 8:39 am

Hiroki didn't pitch well but I was disappointed in how the YES announcers treated him. Condescending, I thought. As if he was a guy who'd just come over here. As if they hadn't done a lick of homework about his time with the Dodgers.

3 Chris in Sydney   ~  Apr 8, 2012 9:59 am

And here I was naively believing that all regular season games are potentially worth one win no matter the date...

4 Chyll Will   ~  Apr 8, 2012 10:02 am

[2] Some people like the sound of their own voices more than anything else, just like Girardi seems to like the sound of his own managing.

[1] I'm with you. Not certain it would have been any better or worse with Donnie, honestly, but we'd probably fume a lot less at the inexplicable all season long.

5 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 8, 2012 10:15 am

I will agree that Joe's moves were a head scratcher. However, it was the players ho lost the game. Joe cost us a run by walking the bases loaded, but our pitcher needs be be able to handle that situation without giving up a hit. Does Jeter really need time off already? Doesn't seem like it, but Joe is treating Nunez like a MLB player, and assumes he can make 98% of routine plays. If Joe can't assume that, we shouldn't have Nunez on the team.

You forgot to mention Hank, that last night, we had 2nd and 3rd, no outs, and ARod, Teix and Grandy coming up. Looked like a no-brainer scoring opportunity to me. I kinda ASSUMED we would score a run or 2 there.

I believe you will see Joe handle Jeter and ARod with kid gloves. And there will be plenty of situations where we will freak out when he does. But we gotta keep both these guys healthy and energized for 162+ games, and there is no formula for that task.

What did Casey say? There are no good managers, only good players?

Should the infield have been playing 'in' in the last game of the 2001 World Series?

Managing is a guessing game.

6 Chris in Sydney   ~  Apr 8, 2012 10:20 am

And speaking of much-needed rest: Ibanez is in RF today.

7 flycaster   ~  Apr 8, 2012 10:26 am

[4] Wrong. You would blame him for every loss, just like you did Torre, and just like you do Girardi. I agree with OldYanksFan. Would I have ordered an IW in the first inning Friday? No. But CC was the one who failed. Were Maddon's two squeeze calls equally moronic? Sure, but they escape scrutiny because his players won the game anyway. Just as the Yankees could have.

8 seamus   ~  Apr 8, 2012 11:03 am

i agree with [5] and [7]. not the right call, but not what cost us the game. actually, Friday's game we lost because Mo blew it. Shit happens.

9 RIYank   ~  Apr 8, 2012 11:10 am

Dudes, there isn't exactly one reason that a team loses a game. Obviously they lost G1 because Mariano gave up a single, a triple, and a long smash. But they also lost it because Girardi ordered an IBB in a situation that is obviously not right for it.

I have no problem with giving Jeter time off, by the way. It's true I deeply hate watching Nuñez play, but let's face it, Jeter isn't a great shortstop.

10 Hank Waddles   ~  Apr 8, 2012 11:46 am

[5] I have to admit that I was doing laundry during the 8th inning, so my attention was divided. When it came time to write the recap, I completely forgot about that missed opportunity. Thanks for pointing it out.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver