Thanks to the World Cup and my desire to enjoy my pre-graduate school vacation, I have not posted in quite a while. With school starting next week, I have no idea how often I’ll be posting in the near future. I posted quite frequently last time I was in school, but the quality of those posts was awful and I had lots of free time because, well, I didn’t take my undergraduate education seriously. So really, anything could happen. I’m going to try and keep the ball rolling, though.
When you last heard from me, I was doing what I always seem to do – complaining about closer usage in the modern era. But I’m proud to announce that I’m going to be relentlessly positive for a moment, and even prouder to point out Joe Girardi’s decision-making during last night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. If you look closely at the box score – as I did – you’ll notice that Girardi did something that I can’t remember seeing him do before, something that makes me swell with pride and joy.
Yes, Girardi used his closer in a tied game on the road. I can’t believe it either. With the score 5-5, he sent Mariano Rivera to the mound in the bottom of the 9th inning. Apparently and finally recognizing that if the opposing team scores in this situation, the game ends and the Yankees receive a loss, Girardi took no chances and deployed his best reliever to prolong the game instead of trying to earn Rivera an arbitrarily constructed statistic (the “save”). Rivera subsequently retired the side in order. In the top of the 10th inning, Curtis Granderson hit a solo home run, giving the Yankees a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the 10th. With the heart of Arizona’s order due up, Girardi left Rivera in to, in a rare moment of semantic accuracy for the statistic, save the game. Sure, Rivera loaded the bases with nobody out only to get out of it and prevail, but this is almost totally irrelevant to me. Girardi did what every manager in baseball should do: ask their best reliever to get the most important outs (as dictated by situation, not inning number) late in ballgames. And, to my tremendous delight, he was rewarded for his choice.
Now, there’s a reason I said I was going to be relentlessly positive, and that’s because there’s evidence suggesting that Girardi’s decision didn’t represent a sudden and profound mastery of baseball tactics. Rivera hadn’t pitched in two days and only threw 13 pitches during his last appearance. He was well-rested. The Yankees also have an off-day today, so Rivera could be extended without fear of impending unavailability. Lastly, the Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays had all lost earlier in the day, presenting a rare opportunity to gain a game on all three division rivals simultaneously. There’s no way that all three of these circumstances didn’t occur to Girardi, spurring him on to finally pull the trigger on an obvious decision. But for now, I’m choosing to ignore these factors. For now, I’m going to applaud Girardi for using his closer intelligently.