Whitey Herzog once said, “The only thing bad about winning the pennant is that you have to manage the All-Star Game the next year. I’d rather go fishing for three days.” Last night, Yankees manager Joe Girardi looked like a man who would rather be fishing, and we sincerely doubt that Girardi, who has a degree in industrial engineering from Northwestern, does much fishing. Think about the plight of the poor All-Star Game manager. When you select the team, everyone rips your choices, even though you’re operating from a limiting (and shifting) set of rules and all the players whom you “snub” will end up making the team anyway. When you choose your own players for that last spot to make sure you have a happy clubhouse (which is, after all, your real job), everyone rips you for being a homer. When you actually manage the unwieldy, crazy roster, trying to win the game while still trying to make sure fans of each team get to watch their own players, everyone rips you for not knowing how to juggle a 35-man roster, as if that’s something you’ve ever done before, as if that’s something that’s even logical to try. We’d rather be fishing, too.
Girardi did two things wrong that are guaranteed to haunt him and the Yankees if they make the World Series in the ninth inning of the National League’s 3–1 win over the American League last night. (It was the first NL win since 1996, Derek Jeter’s rookie year. That was so long ago that the Mets’ representatives that game were Todd Hundley and Lance Johnson.) The first was not using a pinch-hitter for Ian Kinsler or Adrian Beltre with the tying run at the plate, or pinch-running for David Ortiz in a double-play situation. The other was the man Girardi left on the bench: Alex Rodriguez, one of the best hitters in baseball history and — oh yeah — the famously pouty third baseman for Girardi’s own Yankees. A-Rod left before reporters could ask him what he thought of Girardi’s move, but he’s still mopey about batting eighth in the 2006 playoffs, so you can suspect this will come up again.
It’s an impossible situation for Girardi: The madness of trying to balance the hundreds of different constituencies and opinions at an All-Star Game is a virtual invitation to be second-guessed. (Certainly Charlie Manuel, the man in the other dugout, made some odd decisions as well.) But Girardi is now the first American League manager to lose an All-Star Game since Mike Hargrove in ‘96, and now you have a 25 percent less chance of winning a World Series ticket in a Yankee Stadium fan lottery. And Girardi is being seen as the reason why. Again: Fishing sounds so much more fun.