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••• Don't Blame It On The G •••

Last night's game was, well, anticlimactic to say the least.

I don't know what to say about the game that hasn't already been said. A lot of things were shouted in the heat of the moment last night, which is understandable. I said a few things I wish I could take back, so I understand the passion from which last night's anger arose.

Now that we've all had the chance to calm down and get a good night's rest (or morning's rest in my situation), we can think about last night's game - and this series as a whole - more clearly. There are a few points I would like to address in this post, so bear with me.

Let me start off by saying that no one has criticized Joe Girardi's bullpen management more than I have this season. Like I've said time and time again (a few of my posts on this blog show it), he always seems a little too eager to show his Tony Larussa-esque nature. I was never a fan of "Bullpen Micromanagement", and the thought of "Lefty Specialists" makes me cringe. I was never one to enjoy mixing and matching pitchers to hitters, so Joe Girardi's "style" isn't adhering to my taste.

Having said all of that, let me get to the first point I'd like to address: Last night's loss was not Joe Girardi's fault.

I may criticize Girardi, but I'm also fair. In Game 5 of the 2009 American League Championship Series, Joe Girardi did everything right.

He was patient with A.J. Burnett, even after he gave up 4 runs in the 1st inning. Even I was calling for Burnett to be yanked out of the game (I am ashamed of this, but it was in the heat of the moment). He left A.J. in to work his way out of trouble, and rightfully so. From the 2nd inning onwards, Burnett was pure gold. He left him in until the 7th inning, and then removed him after the first two runners reached. The result? A.J. Burnett was in line for a win after our offense exploded. That, in itself, was a victory for Girardi last night.
We ended up losing the game, so Burnett obviously didn't get the win, but the fact that he had a realistic shot at it was testimony to Girardi's good management.

The pitching changes that followed were necessary. It was obvious that Girardi didn't particularly want to use several pitchers, but he was left with no choice after each pitcher failed him. In a championship series, you just can't leave your pitcher in too long. At the first sign of trouble, you need to remove him. As opposed to what he normally tends to do (removing pitchers from the game when they're cruising through hitters), he only removed pitchers last night when they began to struggle. After our bullpen struggled, he made the remarkable decision of bringing Mariano Rivera in to pitch the 8th, to give our hitters a decent shot at taking the game into extra innings.

The fact that our hitters couldn't get the job done was not Joe Girardi's fault at all.

The second point I'd like to address is last night's bullpen failure. Let's leave Damaso Marte out of this because, to be honest, who truly expected great things from Marte? He's been mediocre at best, so last night's performance wasn't out of character.

I would like to focus on Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain for a moment.

Joe Girardi brought in Phil Hughes to save the lead. He made the right decision, as Phil Hughes has more than shined in the set-up role. Like every Yankee fan, once I saw Hughes coming out of the bullpen my initial thought was "we're going to win this game". I was wrong. Phil Hughes let us down last night. He was the one who cost us the game.

I am disappointed in Phil's performance last night, but I'm not calling for his head to roll. I believe that our fanbase as a whole needs to realize that young pitchers need a little time to handle the pressure of big games. Need I remind you all that the great Mariano Rivera wasn't born this way? This isn't just in regards to Phil Hughes, but also in regards to our youth-filled bullpen as a whole.

While Hughes' lackluster pitching yesterday was discouraging, everyone needs to remember that Phil Hughes, and the rest of our young bullpen, are one of the main reasons we even made it to the playoffs. Our bullpen is full of bright talent with excellent potential, and they have done a lot of great work for us this year. Last night, they cracked under pressure. They have been good in the playoffs so far (Game 3 wasn't the bullpen's fault, it was Girardi's).

What we need to do is realize that young players need time to learn how to deal with the pressure of important games. Even when we give them the time, not every young pitcher will develop nerves of steel. Some pitchers will never learn how to pitch well under pressure, otherwise every team would have a Mariano Rivera. If, out of our entire bullpen, we eventually get a couple of relievers who consistently perform well under pressure, we'll be lucky.

I believe that Phil Hughes has what it takes to be our next great closer. He may never become Mariano Rivera, but closers like Mo come once in a lifetime. We just need to give him a little more time, and a little more postseason experience.

Now, let me move on to Joba Chamberlain. I have no idea where to even begin with this mess. Maybe I should begin by saying that I blame the Yankees Organization for what has happened to Joba. They killed the 2007 Joba Chamberlain. Murderers!

In 2007, he was the next Mariano Rivera. Then, we saw his hot arsenal of pitches and a lot of fans (myself included) got excited about seeing him as a starting pitcher. Then, they came up with these ridiculous "Joba Rules". While I understand the reasons behind these rules, I believe they toyed with Joba mentally, and that outweighs any good that these rules may have brought. In 2008, Joba was mediocre. In 2009, Joba became borderline abysmal.

I don't blame Chamberlain for his decline, I blame management. In my opinion, Joba's problems are 100% mental. They have him convinced that he can't go deep into games, and it is obvious that he is constantly terrified of getting injured.

Joba pitched as a starter for the entire year. Then, after putting him in the starting rotation for the entire season, they put him back in the bullpen when the games mattered the most. Has anyone stopped to think, just once, about the implications of such a move? Why make him a starter when all you're going to do is put him back in the bullpen? I expect SOMEONE in Yankees Management to have a little better foresight than that. Either give the guy the chance to shine as a starter and work out his own troubles, or leave him in the bullpen. Going back and forth on this is hurting him.

I wasn't particularly excited about seeing Chamberlain in the postseason rotation, but this entire year has been one big managerial faux-pas in regards to Joba. If it wasn't for mismanagement, Joba would now be a solid starter in our rotation. We all saw his potential. We all saw the excellent command he had of 4 different pitches. Poor management killed Joba Chamberlain. Murderers!

Either keep him in the bullpen or make him a starter. Either way, pick a side and commit. Going back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen has messed him up mentally. I don't know if he will ever regain his confidence in himself, and I blame the Yankees for possibly ruining this young pitcher's future. While I love the Yankees organization, I don't think I will ever forgive them for what they have done if Joba doesn't bounce back from the circus freak-show they have made of his career thus far.

Let's move on to my third point. It's more of a question that a point, because I really have no answer for: "What the Hell is wrong with Nick Swisher?".

The main thing about Swisher, the thing that has brought him success all season, is the fact that he goes out onto the field and has fun. It's been clear to us all that Nick Swisher is passionate about the game of baseball. I've never seen any player have so much fun out on the field. He was never our best hitter, but he was always like a breath of fresh air. His attitude and passion is what won us games this year.

Where has this passion gone? Why does he look like he's not even having fun anymore? What happened to the Nick Swisher who took the mound and pitched in April, and had a blast doing so? Where is THAT Nick Swisher? I want him back.

Like Joba Chamberlain, Nick Swisher's woes this postseason must also be mental. Maybe he's cracking under pressure? Who knows. Whatever the reason, he better snap out of it soon. I'm not asking him to hit a home run every other game, I'm just asking that he goes back to having fun. When Nick Swisher has fun, Nick Swisher plays well. Bring back that SwisherSpark!

Having said ALL OF THAT, and having addressed the points I covered, let me now say that this series is far from over. Last night's loss was discouraging, but we can still win this. We definitely can.

We took one of the games in Anaheim. Let's face it, Anaheim has never been an easy stadium for us to win in. Taking one of the 3 games in L.A. is exactly what we needed to do to bring the series back home in a relatively more comfortable setting than it would have been to lose all 3 games.

I don't see us losing both games at home; I simply do not see it happening. I pray to Mo that I'm right. So fear not, my fellow Yankees, we still got this! Let's look forward to Game 6 in the Bronx: In Andy We Trust.

I will leave you with words of encouragement from my friend, a fellow Yankees fan and Yankee History Buff, Chris Morris, who sent me the following message on Facebook:

"Believe it or not, this series has been going exactly according to my predictions thus far (our ulcers and myocardial infarcti along the way notwithstanding).

To me, the real pivotal game of the Series was the second - we had to take the first two at home, because going west with a split would have meant having to take two out of three at the Anaheim House of Horrors in order to come back with the lead, and I knew that there was no way that that was going to happen. We took two at home and one on the road, and that was exactly what we needed to do.

I said Yanks in six, and I'm about 90% sure that it's going to come to pass. This isn't 2004, it's 1977, when the Dodgers blew us out in LA (both of our losses in Anaheim were nailbiters, which is a sort of encouragement by itself) to pull within 3-2, and then we headed back to the Stadium to Reggie Jackson's date with history.

I guarantee you that great things are going to happen this weekend... and if I turn out to be a game off, then we've got CC going in game 7 on full rest."

That's the BeeBz Effect. Can you feel it?


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