Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Lightning 4.11.2010

  • Stepping out front in the wrong way:

Joe Girardi has done nothing to dissuade me from the fact that his lack of experience as a manager is going to haunt him until he learns the nuances of strategy and, more importantly, handling his clubhouse.

That, more than anything else, has been Joe Torre's strength throughout his long managerial career. It wasn't game calling; it wasn't likability; it wasn't luck; it was his calm in the face of a storm that allowed Torre----more than any other manager including strategic superiors like Billy Martin----to survive for so long under George Steinbrenner and maintain the backing of his players.

I'm not seeing that with Joe Girardi.

There's an overt lack of feel for the way he runs things as if he manages in a straitjacket. So tied into organizational edicts and his notorious book of stats, numbers, pitch counts and parameters that he's almost robotic. This will either evolve into a more freewheeling and deft way to handle circumstances or will eventually sow the seeds for his downfall.

Few want to admit this, but the Yankees won the World Series last season in spite of Girardi.

That team----and this team for that mattter----could viably function with Derek Jeter as player-manager; or without a manager at all. In fact, they might be better off.

There is no explanation; no excuse for Girardi inserting himself into the storyline of C.C. Sabathia's near no-hitter yesterday. Rather than let Sabathia's masterpiece speak for itself, Girardi has caused another mini-firestorm with his dogmatic adherence to the phantom numbers of a pitch count.

In case you missed it, Girardi said that regardless of whether Sabathia retired Kelly Shoppach to keep his no-hitter after the eighth inning, he was coming out of the game.

Girardi's quote:

"It's not something you want to do, but you have to think big picture,"

"I told Dave (Eiland, the pitching coach) 110 to 115 and that was it. If he would have been 105 in the ninth maybe I'd let him go out."

The NY Times story mentioned that Girardi was thinking about David Cone's near no-hitter in 1996 as he returned from aneurysm surgery; Torre yanked him after seven innings.

To even compare the two situations isn't simply a misunderstanding and mishandling of players and games, but it's utter garbage.

C.C. Sabathia is 6'7" and 300 pounds; he's durable; and he's tough. He wasn't pitching in the 30 degree cold of Minnesota; he was pitching in the climate controlled atmosphere of a dome. He couldn't have thrown 15 more pitches for history?

Would Girardi have been that clueless that he would've drawn the ire of the entire clubhouse and the Yankees fan base (that's not all that thrilled with him to begin with) by pulling Sabathia for an arbitrary reason such as a pitch count that was at 111 when Shoppach broke up the bid?

It's ridiculous.

The players seem to like Girardi personally; they play hard for him; but there's been an underlying aura----since his hiring----that they don't trust him to do the right thing in his handling of the players nor in strategy; that they have to protect him from himself because he either thinks too much and has to "do stuff" to make it look like he's in charge rather than maintain a feel for the job. Such a feel comes from experience that Girardi does not have.

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira both made magnificent plays to keep the no-hitter intact; Jeter would've been apoplectic had Girardi pulled Sabathia after eight innings. Again, Girardi could've lost the clubhouse there and then with one move that would've put the puppet-strings under which he operates.

This is another black mark against Girardi. Another reason to question his suitability for the job. You can mention his positives----intelligence; hard work; likability; the championship from last year----but there will come a day when the players won't bail him out and save him from himself. The evidence----his inexplicable love affair with Sergio Mitre; the Joba Chamberlain mistakes; his gaffes in the playoffs; and now this insertion of himself into what should've been a celebration of Sabathia's excellence----are all a concern that he's never going to get it; never going to learn the touch and feel that goes with managing a club full of stars.

Eventually, Girardi's going to do something so devastatingly wooden; so overtly self-destructive for a specious reason, that not even that roster is going to protect him from himself. The most disturbing thing isn't that he considered it; but that he felt he needed to announce it, robbing Sabathia of his proper due and again insinuating himself into the middle of a story for no reason other than just "because".

I'd like to say he wouldn't have had the temerity to pull Sabathia with a no-hitter heading into the ninth inning; but I don't know; and that should scare Yankee fans more than anything Girardi's done so far. It's adding fuel to the fire that he's not learning on the job, which could lead to a catastrophic gaffe in October that teamwide talent won't overcome.

  • Who's running the Rays' ship?

Would someone explain to me who's running the show in Tampa?

Does Joe Maddon have any control whatsoever over his players?

Or did he order the absurd steal of second base by Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 4-0?

With B.J Upton at the plate?

Ignore that Zobrist made it. Ignore that the Rays lost the game 10-0.

With the power in their lineup; with Upton at the plate; with hitters behind him who can hit the ball out of the park, what was the risk/reward of letting Zobrist steal?

Zobrist made it; even had Upton driven him in, it's still a bad play. The score would've been 4-1. So? If Zobrist was thrown out, the play was in no way worth the risk. It was another example of Maddon plainly and simply not knowing what he's doing as a manager; running games as if he's just sort of there as a minor inconvenience for the players to ignore at will; and if he ordered it? That's even worse.

One thing I don't want to hear by way of explanation is "that's how we always play". Such nonsense. It's how the Rays "always play" that cost them the World Series in 2008; and it let them stagger to barely over .500 last season despite the much ballyhooed early season run differential that implied they should've been in first place by a mile.

Maddon is a horrible manager; the players don't respect his game calling; don't listen to him; and his absent-minded professor routine is going to be the main thing that sabotages the Rays----again.

  • Who's that guy?!?

The Astros are off to a rotten start, but there's hope in Houston. Their starting rotation isn't that bad with Roy Oswalt; Wandy Rodriguez; Brett Myers...and Felipe Paulino.

The information I had on Paulino equated to his solid strikeout numbers throughout his professional career; his big league numbers have been a calamity up to now; and his minor league numbers show little aside from promise, but I saw him last night and was impressed.

Very impressed.

His fastball was close to 100 mph; and he showed a wicked off-speed curve. He has stuff that----if he can bridle it----show a potential big-time starter. He's still young (26) and if he can get it together, the talent is undeniable. The one thing missing from him appeared to be command, but he's got what's needed to win in the big leagues. Keep an eye on him.

  • That looked like a spring training drill:

People don't understand the mundane nature of spring training.

Pitchers do the same drills over-and-over again for the dual benefit of getting them some exercise and "doing" something under the auspices of repetition leading to proper execution.

Last night, during the Marlins 4-3 win over the Dodgers, I saw something I'd never seen before in my life.

In the top of the sixth inning, Russell Martin led off with a single off of Burke Badenhop; Ronnie Belliard grounded back to Badenhop, who threw off line to second base, causing Dan Uggla to lay out to catch the ball; he managed to keep his foot on the base to record the out.

Belliard was now on first with one out.

Rafael Furcal then grounded back to Badenhop, who again messed up the throw to second; and both runners were safe.

First and second, one out.

Implausibly, Garret Anderson then grounded....back to Badenhop!

This time, Badenhop fired a strike to Hanley Ramirez, who threw to first for the double play.

The most absurd thing about all this isn't that there were three straight grounders back to the mound----as absurd as that is----but that Badenhop and the Marlins kept screwing up such a fundamental play; and a play that is endlessly repeated in spring training drills!

There are numerous things that pitchers do during spring training workouts; they work on grounders to the right side with the pitcher covering first; they do run-downs; where to be during bunt situations; and...double play balls back to the mound.

On a grounder back to the mound with a runner on first, the pitcher is supposed to turn and fire it to the base whether the covering infielder is there or not. It's not his fault if the second baseman or shortstop isn't there; it's not his responsibility. His job is to turn and fire. Period. It looked like Badenhop was waiting for either Uggla or Ramirez to be standing on the base and that is the exact opposite of what he's supposed to do on the play.

This is supposed to be second nature for the pitcher; not something he has to even think about. The Marlins were lucky that it didn't cost them a crooked number in the inning and the game. There's no excuse. I'd have fined Badenhop even though he got out of the inning. Or at least screamed at him.

I got sca-reeeeeamed at once for messing up the same bunt play over and over again during drills. The whole team looked at me with death in their eyes (okay, more death in their eyes) because we had to stay until I got it right, which I eventually did. I deserved to get yelled at too.

It was a simple fundamental screwup for which there's no excuse.

  • Viewer Mail 4.11.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Javier Vazquez:

I don't think the issue is that Vazquez can't handle New York. I think - if his troubles continue - that he can't handle the AL East. He was cruising through the early innings, as you said, then couldn't pitch out of the stretch when he was afraid guys would steal on him. Maybe he needs a shrink.

I'm withholding judgment for now, but it's something I'd keep in the back of my mind. What's he going to do when he starts a game in Boston? There's no shame in a player not being able to handle New York, but it is something that the Yankees have not taken as seriously as they should've when making the decision to bring Vazquez back. They may have been better off with Bronson Arroyo. In fact, they definitely would've been and probably could've gotten him for less than they gave up for Vazquez.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the Blue Jays and a closer-by-committee:

Don't know if it's a good idea, but Cito Gaston said that when Jason Frasor, the named closer, has a day off (like yesterday), he will see the situation and split the saves amongst Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs. Maybe that's as close as anyone will get to the closer-by-committee evolution for now.

On another topic, what do you think of Vernon Wells? Is he going to be able to keep on his performance? Were his four homers in three days only abuse of the Rangers' pitchers?

Gregg's horrible; but there have to be hitters he's handled in the past for whom he'd be the smart option in the late innings. The Blue Jays have some good arms out there and nothing to lose by going with the best option based on matchups rather than the designated closer.

With Wells, I'd say his history proves that this is an aberration. Texas is a hitter's haven. I'd have to see at least another month of him mashing to believe in it and Wells hasn't been good since getting his big contract. He's on a hot streak. That's all.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Javier Vazquez and relief pitchers:

Memories..., from the corner of
2004's eyes. Misty watered colored memories of the way Vazquez was.

Wagner? - It's always been a little pet project of mine to look over closers with revisionist history. Examples are Roy Face, Perranoski, Rob Nenn and (Tom) Henke among others. Wagner kinda keeps the discussion of closers a little watered down in spite of his saves totals. Long live the Fireman.

Normally it'd be too early to start looking askance at a newcomer after one start, but Vazquez's history and reputation as a big game washout are not to be disregarded.

With closers, I look at the bottom line. The stat zombies are absolutely correct in one aspect of their theories about closers----you can find someone to rack up the save stat during the regular season. But it's at crunch time----September and October----where you determine whether or not a closer is money. Billy Wagner has proven time-and-time again that he isn't.

While Carlos Beltran's strikeout to end game 7 is repeatedly blamed for the Mets loss in the NLCS (and Babe Ruth couldn't have hit that pitch, as I repeat ad nauseam), it was Wagner gacking up game 2 that cost the Mets the series.

It's money saves that put Mariano Rivera at the top of the heap. Nothing else.

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1 comment:

She-Fan said...

I'm sticking up for Girardi. It was the second game in a season in which CC will be the workhorse of the staff. Even he looked relieved to come out of the game. Sure, it would have been fun to see a no-hitter, but not at the risk of injury to our ace.