As the Yankees may recall, only one team has ever come back from down 0-3 in a playoff series in baseball history.
That won't happen again this year. New York's season is over.
In the coming days, once that finally does happen, blame will be passed around to just about everyone, from Yankees ownership down to the batboys.
One person who should escape blame and criticism, especially once the playoff obituary is written, is manager Joe Girardi.
Girardi is the keeper of what is supposed to be one of the best baseball teams on the planet. When you look strictly at dollars and cents, the Yankees should be the best, and they should be the best by far. However, baseball games aren't won with dollars and cents (ask the Red Sox), and they aren't won with stats, either.
They're won by actual human beings playing their best baseball at the right time of the year.
A manager's most important attribute is not necessarily looking at the matchups — the numbers — and making a decision off that. If that were the case, the Red Sox would be interviewing robots right now for their managerial vacancy. Stats play a roll, no doubt, but so too does feel. And there's no number to quantify that, no matter how hard you look for one.
That's why Raul Ibanez hit against Phil Coke on Tuesday night in Game 3. Some are wondering why Girardi didn't pinch hit for Ibanez with Alex Rodriguez or Nick Swisher, who had both been banished to the dugout bench. There's a reason those two All-Stars were on the bench.
Everyone wants to point to statistics as to why Girardi should have pinch hit in that situation. They say that the left-handed Coke's numbers against right-handers are worse than they are against left-handers (shocker!), and for that reason, Swisher or Rodriguez should have pinch hit.
OK, so the stats that really matter are Coke's lifetime numbers against right-handed hitters? On the other hand, though, it doesn't matter that Swisher and Rodriguez are hitting a combined .143 with 20 strikeouts in the playoffs. Are those not stats? Why don't those stats matter as much as the smart guys' stats? Are the stats I use too simple? What are we doing here?
The problem with stats is that they are numerical representations of averages. They can only tell you so much. But saying that Girardi should pinch hit for Ibanez because Coke's OPS is worse against right-handed hitters or whatever is way too simple. Have those people watched Rodriguez's at-bats?
Have they seen a Swisher plate appearance in any October ever? Does Swisher's career OPS in the playoffs (.584) mean anything? Which stats matter? I'm so confused.
And if we're going to pinch hit, why not pinch hit for Robinson Cano? Is 0-for-29 (Cano's playoff streak of futility heading into his ninth-inning at-bat) not a stat? Too simple? Which stats matter?!?!
All the while, the Yankees actually scored a run in the ninth (no small feat with the way things are going right now), and they put the tying and go-ahead runs on base before Coke made an absolutely nasty pitch to end the game. So it's not like the guys Girardi sent up went down without a fight.
Girardi can only get so much information from his stats. In fact, he's been criticized in the past for living by his binders. But those Trapper Keepers can only tell part of the story. Girardi actually watches the baseball games. He speaks with the players. He gets the temperature of the clubhouse.
Second-guessing a manager for not playing the averages in July is one thing, but when the season is on the line, pressure kicks in. And yes, pressure is real.
No one has handled that pressure better than Ibanez in these playoffs. Hell, no one in the New York lineup has handled opposing pitching better than Ibanez. This team is hitting .200 for the playoffs. They have a .582 OPS. Runners in scoring position? They're hitting at a .196 clip.
What is Girardi supposed to do with that? He's doing all he can, and he's shown some gumption in pinch-hitting for Rodriguez as well as benching him and Swisher in Game 3. Girardi has juggled the lineup every which way to find something that works. Nothing has worked, and that has to do with the fact that the Yankees are flat-out choking, not because Girardi is making questionable decisions.
The Yankees' season is just about over, and it has so much more to do with what the Yankees have done — or more specificially haven't done — on the field than it does with what Girardi is doing — or not doing — off of it.
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