Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Ruin of David Robertson (By Joe Girardi)

When Mariano Rivera went down with an injury on May 3, Yankee manager Joe Girardi moved "8th inning man" David Robertson into the closer role, and the next man down the line, Rafael Soriano, into the 8th inning role. Based on Robertson's performance over the preceding year, this was the right thing to do.

Robertson pitched 4 times, notching 1 save, blowing another, and finishing off 2 other wins that were not save situations.

Then, on May 15, Robertson also got hurt. Girardi moved Soriano into the closer role. Based on the fact that no other reliever then on the Yankee roster had proven remotely capable of handling the closer job, this was really the only move that Girardi could make.

This seemed to work. Soriano pitched 12 times, collecting 10 saves and blowing 1 (albeit against the Mets, which would tend to stand out).

In the NFL, there's an old saying: "A quarterback should never lose his job due to an injury." Yeah, tell that to Drew Bledsoe.

When Robertson came off the Disabled List, the right thing to do would have been to restore him to the closer's role that he had earned.

Instead, Girardi sent him back to the 8th inning role, and kept Soriano as the closer.

Mark the date: June 15, 2012. This, even more than Rivera's injury, or any other injury, may have been the day when the Joe Girardi blew the American League Eastern Division Title, and possibly more.

Since then, Soriano has notched 25 saves, blown 2, and lost 1 game. But this isn't so much about whether Soriano should still be the closer, as it is about what Girardi's metaphorical slap in the face did to D-Rob.

By telling him, "You are no longer my closer," Girardi was effectively telling Robertson, "You are not good enough to be my closer" -- when he had proven that he was at least good enough to get a fair shot at it, something he hadn't gotten, because he'd only had the job for 12 days.

Since coming off the DL, Robertson has pitched 38 times. He has won 1 game, blown 2 leads, and lost 6 games -- including 2 in the last week.

If the Yankees miss the AL East title by 1 game -- or even the 2nd Wild Card by 1 game, which is still very much possible -- Girardi will have blown the race in many ways, but the way in which he mishandled the closer question will be the biggest. Imagine: Joe Girardi could have done something Joe Torre never did, with any team: Win a Pennant without Mariano Rivera as his closer... and may have blown that chance.


Last night, the Yankees went into Boston to start a 3-game series against the Red Sox. With the meltdown the Red Sox have had over the last year (plus a few days), they are doomed to their 1st losing record since 1997 -- 15 years. But the series still has meaning for the Yankees, who went into it 1 game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and 2 ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, who started a series against each other in Baltimore.

Hiroki Kuroda started for the Yankees, but did not pitch his best: He got into the 7th inning, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits -- albeit with no walks. Boone Logan pitched to 1 batter in the 7th and did not get him out. Then Girardi sent in Joba Chamberlain, a risk these days, but Joba ended the threat.

The Yankee bats could have done better. Runs were scored on a Robinson Cano groundout in the 1st, and on a Derek Jeter ground-rule double in the 6th. The Yankees led, 3-2. But Kuroda allowed a home run to the very annoying Dustin Pedroia in the bottom of the 6th.

Robertson pitched a scoreless 8th. The game was still tied in the bottom of the 9th, and Girardi kept Robertson in. He got Ryan Kalish to pop up for the 1st out.

But then came 3 straight singles to lose the game: Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Aviles, and the contemptible Jacoby Ellsbury. Red Sox 4, Yankees 3. (UPDATE: This was before Ellsbury became a Yankee. Whether he is still contemptible is a matter of debate.)

WP: Andrew Bailey (1-0). No save. LP: Robertson (1-7).

That's right: One and seven.

Girardi, what have you done to the man who, more than any other, looked like he might be the long-term successor to the great Mariano?

If the Yankees' last game this season is any earlier than the World Series, Girardi's mishandling of Robertson will stand out, and he will have to go.

To make matters worse, the Orioles beat the Rays, so the AL East is tied with 21 games to go.

The Yanks-Sox series continues tonight, with David Phelps starting against Aaron Cook.  This matchup suggests that this could be one of those games in which Fenway Park turns into a pinball machine. It could be a 10-9 game.  Or worse.

Or better, in the event that the Yankees pull it out. But expect both bullpens to be drained.

And if Girardi puts Robertson in, I hope Robertson can get the job done, no matter what Girardi has done to his confidence.

At least the U.S. soccer team won last night, beating Jamaica 2-1 in Columbus, on a goal by Herculez Gomez.

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