Apparently there were two baseball games between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays played Sunday afternoon – the one I saw and the one written about by John Harper in the Daily News.
In the game I saw, Joe Girardi, with his ace C.C. Sabathia on the hill, had an inexplicable attack of brain lock and sat down his third baseman Alex Rodriguez, leftfielder Brett Gardner, and first baseman Mark Teixeira in what looked very much like the biggest game of the season so far.
Tex did DH, which seemed to have been what the Yankees acquired Lance Berkman for. Instead, Berkman played first base and missed making two plays that Teixeira almost certainly would have, making Sabathia’s performance look, in the box score (he was credited with three earned runs), much less impressive than it really was (four of the Rays’ eight hits were infield squibs).
In the game I saw, new Yankee Austin Kearns played left field instead of the speedy Gardner, and Ramiro Pena subbed at third for A-Rod, presumably because in the heat of his chase for 600 home runs, Rodriguez needed a day off. What chance would even a tired A-Rod have had against the Ray’s Scott Shields? Well, he hadn’t hit a home run since July 22, but Pena hasn’t hit one all year in 50 games and in fact has only hit one in two seasons. Forget why Pena was in the lineup – the question should be why is he even in a Yankees uniform?
To John Harper – who, to be fair, is usually much sharper on these things – Girardi’s decisions were “Fair, fair enough. I’m not criticizing Girardi here. His big-picture style has been one of his strengths as a manager, making sure not to ovetax his bullpen or overwork veterans …”
Overtax? You sit out your two biggest and most high-price players, your two biggest sluggers, in a key game with a division rival? The Yankees had a chance to put a thee-game bulge between themselves and the Rays. Now they may be sharing first place with them tonight.
Griardi couldn’t have rested A-Rod – who’s making, what, $33 million this year — Tex and Gardner tonight against Toronto after beating Tampa Bay?
A certain arrogance has crept into Girardi’s managing. He’s gotten away with so many bone-headed moves in the last two years, such as pitching A.J. Burnett in place of Andy Pettitte in last year’s World Series, that he now seems to think that any decision he makes, no matter how silly and devoid of logic, will work out in the team’s favor, including playing the Yankees Triple-A lineup against the second best team in the league.
The result of yesterday’s game – the one I saw – left the Yankees returning home after a baffling, deflating loss that didn’t have to happen. I like Mike Vaccaro’s line in the Post: “Next time,” when the Yankees plays the Rays, “the varsity might even decide to show up.”