If I’m not the biggest Joe Girardi critic, I’m definitely in the conversation for the title. But in a season in which the Yankees are currently 18-22, even I have no problem with how he has managed so far this season for the most part. And I definitely don’t have have a problem with how he managed the bullpen the last two nights.
The decision to take Nathan Eovaldi out after 85 pitches with a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning against the Diamondbacks wasn’t the right decision, it was the only one. The decision to take Ivan Nova out after 62 pitches with 2-1 lead in the seventh inning wasn’t the right decision, it was the only one.
I don’t care that Eovaldi had allowed just one hit or that Nova had retired seven in a row. I wouldn’t have cared if they both were throwing a n0-hitter in their respective start. They are still Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova and a few good innings doesn’t change that.
It’s not just Eovaldi and Nova either even though I have as little trust in them as I did for A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes. This line of thinking goes for the entire Yankees rotation. Even though Girardi would have left Masahiro Tanaka 2.0 (post-elbow tear) in in both situations, I would have pulled him. There are only a handful of pitchers in the league that would veto a decision to go to Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in a close games and none of them are on the Yankees.
Somehow Girardi’s decision is being questioned. Apparently there are people that would rather roll the dice with the inconsistent and untrustworthy Eovaldi and Nova than go the closest thing to a sure-thing for the last nine outs of a game in the history of baseball. Are the Yankees not four games under .500? Are they not 6.5 games back? For one of the few times in Joe Girardi’s Yankees tenure he’s managing with urgency if the regular season and people are upset. Once again, he took out Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova for Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
There’s this idea that Girardi is abusing the Big Three. Prior to Wednesday’s game, none of them had pitched in three days. In Wednesday’s game, Betances threw 15 pitches, Miller threw 13 and Chapman threw 13. That means in four days, Betances had thrown 15 pitches, Miller had thrown 13 and Chapman had thrown 13. But because of Girardi’s bullpen rules about not using relievers three days in a row, there are those that are worried about what would happen on Saturday with all three technically unavailable. The answer to that is that it doesn’t matter. You can’t manage one game because you’re worried about what might happen in the next game. The Yankees could blow out or get blown out on Friday and it won’t matter. Or maybe Girardi does need to use one of two or three of them again and breaks his own rule, which he should. The Yankees have to win the games that are there for them to win and so far this season there haven’t been many of them.
And if you’re worried about overusing the Big Three in May, why? What are you saving them for? Meaningless games in the summer because you gave away games early in the season because you were too worried about overuse? Are you saving Chapman’s arm, so you can trade him at the deadline to go be used when needed by a team in contention? Or are you saving his arm to hit free agency, so he can close out games for another team next year?
The one thing I have learned with Girardi over his now eight-plus seasons as Yankees manager is that there are plenty of times to be upset with his decisions. Get upset when he gives players unnecessary days off or when he bats Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner first and second against a right-handed pitcher even if they both have been cold for a month. Get upset when he plays station-to-station baseball waiting for a home run from Mark Teixeira that never comes or when he asks players to bunt that don’t know how to or have no business doing so. Get upset when he plays his “B” team in the final game of a three-game series if the Yankees have won the first two games of the series or when he bats Chase Headley anywhere but ninth in the order. Get upset about all of these things, but don’t get upset when he takes the ball from a pitcher with a career 1.382 WHIP and from a pitcher with a 5.15 ERA over his last 145 innings in favor of the best bullpen ever created.
The idea that “it’s early” or “it’s not even the All-Star break” always makes me laugh. Opening Day is as important as Game 39 and games in April count just as much as games in July. If you fuck around in April and May, there won’t be anything left to play for in August and September. And for the first time in a long time, Girardi isn’t fucking around in the regular season, and with Betances, Miller and Chapman, he shouldn’t be.