My friend Mike Markowitz was at the 16-inning Yankee loss the other day and has this to say:
And I was there for every heartbreaking pitch.
Joe Torre has this maddening habit late in the game, with the Yankees behind, of pinch running for Giambi with Enrique Wilson (and usually when Giambi is the trailing runner, meaning Wilson can't pass the guy in front of him, so his speed is less valuable anyway). If Wilson scores, Joe obviously figures he's squeezed out another run (speed never slumps, don't you know) and will look really smart in the morning paper.
Problem is, I have yet to see this tactic really work, and using it means that if the Yanks merely tie the game instead of taking the lead, they run the risk that they will be playing extra innings with their best player on the bench.
Sure enough, this totally came back to bite Torre on the ass Friday night (and Saturday morning). Wilson gets thrown out at the plate on a relay from Tejada to end the inning and the Yankees end up in a 2-2 tie. Now we've got Giambi sitting on the bench for what would turn out to be EIGHT innings while Wilson does nothing at the plate and two fielders play out of position for the rest of the game: Wilson, installed at third, and Ventura, who shifted over to first because N. Johnson is hurt and they need Coomer to pinch hit (where have you gone Shane Spencer?).
As we all know, the Yankees lost. The guy sitting in front of me argued that it took a perfect peg from Tejada to nail Wilson, and if that hadn't happened, the Yankees would have taken the lead. Well, what happened to playing for a tie at home? Do the Yankees lead the league in runs because of their speed, or do they maybe possibly have guys who hit with men on base? Had Torre not been so quick to yank Giambi yet again, the score would have been 2-2 in the eighth and Posada would bat with two out and Jason at third (where he presumably would have been held). Even if Posada did not get the go-ahead the run in, they'd have still had Giambi in the game for overtime. But then, this isn't the first time we've seen Torre forget to plan for the possibility of extra innings (isn't that right Bud?).
Oddly, although Torre was deeply concerned about the wear-and-tear on his first baseman, he didn't seem to have a problem with letting his catcher squat behind the plate for 16 innings.
Every successful manager seems to have an odd player that he maddenly calls on at oddest times. Bobby Cox had Rafael Belliard and then Ozzie Guillen. Tony LaRussa had Lance Blankenship and Jamie Quirk. Earl Weaver seemed to start (and perfect) the trend with John Lowenstein, Benny Ayala, and Jim Dwyer. At least Weaver had a platoon system behind his moves. Torre has had Luis Sojo and his successor Enrique Wilson. These men are smart baseball managers but there seems to be some sort of arrogance that leads them to choose these men in situations in which common sense would dictate another choice. Either taking these chances is what made them great managers in the first place, or these choices are the product of these managers believing that they are invincible due to the "genius" tag that the press has hung on them. Or maybe a little of both.