Saturday, July 4, 2009

How To Alienate Players And Look Bad Doing It

Yes, a bonus post today. ...

You know under Joe Torre, this would never have happened.

After declaring Brian Bruney his eighth-inning guy Tuesday, Joe Girardi apparently had a change of heart just three days later, removing Bruney from the role.

For the second consecutive game in which the Yankees have had a tight lead in the eighth, Girardi bypassed Bruney, electing to use Phil Coke and Phil Hughes in the Yankees' 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays Friday.

Wednesday Girardi used Alfredo Aceves and Phil Coke to bridge the game to Mariano Rivera, but it was assumed that was because Bruney had thrown a lot of pitches in blowing a two-run lead the night before.

Turns out there was more to it than that.

"We need to get [Bruney] going and we need to get him right and we'll get him right,'' Girardi said, "but Hughes is throwing the ball real well right now.''

Too bad Girardi didn't say that Tuesday.

Look, this is not about whether Bruney should be the eighth-inning guy, or Hughes, or whomever.

Burney has not pitched well since coming off the DL and is no position to complain about the move (and publicly he isn't). Hughes has been brilliant (so far) since moving to the bullpen, though 13-2/3 innings is still a small sample, so it's worth trying him as the bridge to Mo for the short-term.

This is about the way Girardi handles players and gives information to the media.

For 14 years Torre was the master of handling the New York media, while managing the egos of the 25 players on the roster. Rarely did we ever hear Torre making definitive statements about players' roles, especially right after games.

You know what Torre would have said Tuesday. You just know it would have sounded something like this:

Brian Bruney is an important part of this team and we need him to pitch well in the eighth. He hasn't pitched well since coming of the DL and we need to get him going, and we will. Fortunately we have Hughes and Coke and Aceves all throwing the ball well, which will help us get by until Bruney gets straighted out.

Nothing definitive. No public assigning of roles and then taking it away. No embarrassing players. No looking indecisive or looking like you don't know what you're doing.

Under Torre, this situation would have been a small note in all the beat writers' notebook. Under Girardi, it's getting headlines.

Girardi is fortunate the Bruney is a veteran and a pro.

Otherwise this could have become a real clubhouse mess.

And One More Thing...
Was it really necessary to use Coke and Hughes Friday?

Coke is more than just a left-handed specialist. He's shown he can get righthanders out, too.

With left-handed hitter Adam Lind leading off the eighth, Girardi brought in Coke. Coke got Lind to fly to left and Girardi then brought in Hughes, who finished the inning, allowing a single Scott Rolen.

But with another left-handed hitter, Lyle Overbay, due up third in the inning, why not just let Coke stay in? Like Hughes, Coke has been on a roll lately, allowing one run on five hits, while striking out 15 over his last 13-2/3 innings.

Here's the point: relievers can't pitch every day. They need days off. They need to rest. When you don't have to use multiple guys to get through an inning, then don't. Use one and keep the other guy fresh for the next day's game.

Friday Girardi should have used Coke or Hughes in the eighth, not both.


Subway Squawkers said...

If Girardi were to emulate Torre when it comes to relievers, he would work them until their arms fell off, then claim no personal responsibility for damaging them. (Scott Proctor, Tanyon Sturtze, Paul Quantrill, etc., etc.)

Aviv said...

So very disappointed in you Squakers.

Let me get this straight: From 1996-2003 and now in Los Angeles, Torre had no problem managing the bullpen, but from 2004-07 he, what, simply forgot?

Or maybe there was more to it than that, such as a starting staff that no longer logged as many innings and a bullpen that just didn't as many reliable, talented arms.

Consider this: In 2003 the starters averaged 6.58 innings/start. In '04 5.82, '05 5.96, '06 5.76, '07 5.69. Might not seem like a huge difference until you consider that's anywhere from 109 to about 144 more innings per year for the bullpen to eat up.

Meanwhile Torre was given a bullpen that featured collection of stiffs, such a Steve Karsay, Kyle Farnsworth, Tom Gordon, Gabe White, Felix Hernandez, Brett Prinz, Buddy Groom, Alan Embree, Felix Rodriguez, Sean Henn, Coulter Bean, Wayne Franklin, Ron Villone, Mike Myers, Octavio Dotel and Jim Brower.

That's not exactly Stanton, Nelson and Mendoza. And it's not exactly a shining example of quality bullpen depth that you need to get through a 162-game season.

So with a starting staff that was giving him fewer and fewer innings and a bullpen that lacked enough quality arms, what exactly was Torre supposed to do with the game on the line in the middle innings?

Yeah, let's just put Embree in there to face Big Papi and see what happens. Maybe Myers ... oh wait, Torre did do that and Papi crushed a couple of long homers.

No, you go with the guys who have shown they can get outs. And when have just a couple of guys who can do it and you're trying to win a division, well we saw the result.

Hardly Torre's fault.