If you’re Joe Girardi, the answer couldn’t be more obvious; BUNT!
Yes, once again, the supposedly numbers-savvy manager of the Yankees, with his binder full of notes and numbers and so on, decided to give away an out in one of the most inopportune moments possible. For one thing, the Yankees gave the Athletics one of their three remaining outs at a point when it looked like their closer, Andrew Bailey, was really scuffling against the Yankees’ hitters. For another, because the Athletics pitched around Curtis Granderson, throwing a steady diet of pitches away and only challenging him once in eight pitches, Girardi’s decision effectively took the bat out of the Yankees’ two best hitters right now.
And sure enough, it didn’t pay off. Mark Teixeira weakly popped up a fastball to the third baseman (though to be fair, the outcome of that at bat may well have been different if the first pitch of the at bat had been called a ball instead of a strike), Robinson Cano walked to move the tying run to third and the winning run to second, but with two outs Nick Swisher‘s fly ball did them no good as Coco Crisp caught it to end the game, and the Yankees came up one out short of tying the game.
One out. It’s a running theme for the Yankees’ this season, as their manager proves over and over that he simply does not understand the value of an out. After the game, Girardi said the decision to bunt was based on “factors,” namely a desire to stay out of the double play. That sound you just heard was my keyboard being thrown through the wall. Aside from the problem with managing from a position of fear of a somewhat random outcome, once Granderson walks, the double play is back in order! So even on Girardi’s own terms this doesn’t make sense, and really makes even less sense, given that with Teixeira at the plate, the double play is set up with one out and a slower runner at the plate, with a batter who’s not hitting as well as Jeter right now.
Now obviously there’s no guarantee the Yankees come back to win that game in the counter-factual in which Jeter swings away, but in either event the decision to give away an out clearly cost the Yankees last night. It’s not at all unfair to say Girardi cost the team a game last night, and once again, his answers after the game raise as many, or more, questions about his decision making as the actual decisions do. Which is only logical, because there’s just no defense for that decision.