CLEVELAND — Joe Girardi should have started his postgame press conference after Game 2 of the American League Division Series with three simple words: “I screwed up.”
That wouldn’t have excused the manager’s failure to ask for an instant-replay review of the game-changing play in the sixth inning. But, at the very least, it would have softened some of the criticism from fans and media over his brain lock that likely has cost the Yankees a chance at advancing this postseason.
Girardi didn’t admit his mistake. Instead, his explanation for what happened with the play made no sense on multiple levels. Let’s shoot them all down, point by point.
First, the play:
The Indians had runners on second and third with two outs and the Yankees leading 8-3. Yankees reliever Chad Green’s seventh pitch to Indians pinch hitter Lonnie Chisenhall broke inside too far inside and nicked the knob of the bat.
Chisenhall didn’t even flinch, but home plate umpire Dan Iassogna ruled that the pitch brushed his hand and awarded him first base to load the bases. Sanchez — who caught the ball for what would’ve been foul-tip strike three — immediately turned to the dugout and told his manager to review the call.
“FOUL!” he said he yelled.
Girardi did nothing. Then, disaster: The next Indians batter, Francisco Lindor, hit a long fly ball that bounced off the right-field foul pole for a grand slam that cut the lead to 8-7, re-energized a glum Progressive Field crowd, and turned what should have been the best victory for this franchise in five years into a crushing defeat.
Explanation No. 1: He had no evidence.
“There was nothing that told us that he was not hit on the pitch,” Girardi said. “We did not have the replay that showed he was not hit.”
He might not have had the replay, but Girardi had plenty to tell him that Chisenhall wasn’t hit, starting with the reaction of the Indians batter himself and continuing with insistence of his catcher. Again: Sanchez had the best view of the play. He was yelling “FOUL” to the dugout. Girardi had to trust his player.
Explanation No. 2: He didn’t have enough time.
“By the time we got the super slow-mo, we are beyond a minute. It was way too late. They tell us we have the 30 seconds (to ask for a review).”
Girardi is right that major-league rules require that managers make a decision in 30 seconds. “I told them after 30 seconds we weren’t challenging,” he said, but why would Girardi not make the umps tell him when the time was up, stalling as long as he could to wait for the right replay.
But, really, this is irrelevant. He still had both of his challenges (and, from the seventh inning on, umps can look at any controversial play even if a manager is out of challenges). He had nothing to lose by using one in that situation and — if he was right — he gets his team out of a tough situation. He didn’t need to see a replay to know he needed to challenge that play.
Explanation No. 3: He didn’t want to rattle his pitcher.
“Probably being a catcher, my thought is I never want to break a pitcher’s rhythm. That’s how I think about it. … I guess, in hindsight, I could (have asked for the replay), but I think about rhythm and never want to take a pitcher out of rhythm and have them stand over there two minutes to tell me that he wasn’t hit.”
Wait. So now he’s interested in a pitcher’s “rhythm?” Girardi is notorious for making mound visits — he wasn’t concerned about rhythm, for example, when he went to talk to Dellin Betances in the 12th inning. Also, Green was hardly in a rhythm. If anything, you could make a strong case that, given his struggles to get swings and misses, Girardi should have taken him out entirely before Lindor came to the plate.
Besides, the game is five hours long with all sorts of interruptions. If pitchers aren’t used to disruptions in their rhythm, chances are, they’re toiling somewhere in Double A.