Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Torre has done it again. He has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
- Top of the 7th: Yankees take a 3-2 lead on a Josh Phelps single. Phelps reaches second on a Johnny Damon single. Torre pinch-runs Melky Cabrera for Phelps. Miguel Cairo flies out to end the inning.
- Bottom of the 7th: Torre obviously feels comfortable with a 1-run lead, because Melky replaces Damon in CF, and Doug Mientkiewicz replaces Phelps at 1B. I am strongly suspicious that the Yankees will need more runs to win, and that Torre’s moves will come back to haunt the Yankees.
- Still bottom of the 7th: runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out. Joe Torre pulls Chien-Ming Wang, despite him only throwing 81 pitches. He replaces Wang with Jose Vizcaino, who has been bad and overworked. Vizcaino – per Torre’s instruction – intentionally walks the bases loaded in order to set up the inning-ending double play.
- Special K (that’s me) throws his microwave out of his 13th floor window, because Wang records the vast majority of his outs via the groundball. Furthermore, Wang was the best in baseball last year at inducing groundouts. This is why he gets away with striking no one out. Therefore, Torre has decided that a shaky, tired reliever who has trouble throwing strikes is a better bet to induce a double-play than the best pitcher in baseball in inducing groundballs.
- Vizcaino gives up a screaming liner to short that Cairo has to jump about two feet to get.
- Torre, satisfied with Vizcaino, puts in Mike Myers to get out Carl Crawford. Crawford hits a grand slam, 6-3 Tampa Bay.
- Top of the 8th: Yankees score a run, making it 6-4.
- Top of the 9th: Yankees attempt to score 2 runs with Cano, Cabrera, and Mientkiewicz coming up. Had Torre not unnecessarily pinch-run for Phelps and taken out Damon earlier, this would have been Cano, Phelps, and Damon. Guaranteed runs? Nope. Better chance? Yes.
Now, would leaving Wang in the game have gotten the Yankees out of this situation unscathed? Probably not. But if Torre’s whole freaking idea was to induce a double-play after loading the bases, then why in the world would you take out the best groundball pitcher in baseball who has only thrown 81 pitches. What kind of sense does that make? He does this (or some variation) every game too. It’s like he makes moves just because he can, or because he thinks he should.
Certainly, good pitching and good offense are more important than a good manager. It is possible to win in spite of bad coaching (have the Yankees been doing it since 1996?). But if a team is to have any hope of recovering or improving, it needs to master all of the little things that are under its control. In other words, don’t make stupid mistakes. But the Yankees’ manager is Joe Torre, and Torre is incapable of making a good decision or a sound judgment.
More to come, I’m sure.