Joe Girardi's bizarre bullpen move in the 11th inning tonight reminded me of something that Jerry Manuel did way back in April.
On April 29, the Mets were trailing the Marlins, 4-3, when they loaded the bases with two outs in the bottome of the ninth. Ramon Castro was coming up. Then Jerry Manuel pinch-hit Omir Santos for Castro.
A righthanded catcher pinch-hitting for another righthanded catcher. There was no matchup advantage - Castro had only faced Florida pitcher Matt Lindstrom a couple of times and Santos had never faced Lindstrom.
It did not make any sense, especially since Castro had gone 2-for-4 in the game. At the time, Santos had only been with the Mets for a few days. Santos flied out and the Mets lost.
Tonight, Joe Girardi's decision to replace righthander David Robertson with righthander Alfredo Aceves ended up costing the Yankees the game. As with Manuel's April move, the player replaced was doing well - Robertson had retired the first two batters - and the matchup history was almost non-existent between the two Yankee pitchers and the next batter, Howie Kendrick.
But when Manuel made the move, it seemed to come from his gut. Manuel is not too big on statistical analysis. It was one of the first times this season that Manuel's decision-making came into question. By the end of the year, many Met fans would have been happy to see him go.
The explanations for Girardi's strange move go in the opposite direction. Girardi was seen looking in a big book before making the pitching change. Many wonder if Girardi is too obsessed with data and is overmanaging as a result.
Girardi's eagerness to remove some of his sluggers with pinchrunners or defensive replacements also reminds me of what Manuel did with Gary Sheffield earlier in the year. It's hard to remember back when the Mets were actually taking leads into the late innings. Sheffield, batting cleanup, would be removed for defense. So if the game went into extra innings, suddenly Jeremy Reed would be in the middle of the lineup.
Tonight, Angel manager Mike Scioscia walked A-Rod in the ninth inning, realizing that Brett Gardner was now hitting behind A-Rod instead of Hideki Matsui. (Jerry Hairston Jr. pinch-hit for Gardner.) If Scioscia had done the same thing in the ninth inning of Game 2, when Matsui also had been removed, A-Rod would not have hit the tying homer.
One place Girardi is not channeling Manuel is in his record. Girardi won 33 more games than the beleaguered Met manager. And Girardi is still likely to bring home that 27th title. (Will he then change his uniform number to 28?) But maybe he should look at that big matchup book a little less often.