ARLINGTON, Texas -- When a visiting pitcher gets into trouble in the Ballpark here, the Rangers like to play the
Girardi's a fidgety presence in the dugout. Sometimes his critics say that his decisions are too by-the-book -- or too by-the-binder, in reference to the three-ringed collection of stats to which he sometimes refers when making matchup decisions. Sometimes his critics say that his decisions are not by-the-book enough. He was criticized for leaving in
"You know, if you take A.J. out there and you give up a couple of runs, people say, why did you take A.J. out?" Girardi said after that game. "That's the nature of this business when you're a manager. If things go right, they say, well, you do the right thing. If things go wrong, they say, well, you made the mistake."
Things went wrong, again on Friday, and Girardi will again be criticized. He might be criticized for having
Girardi will definitely be criticized for calling for another intentional walk of Hamilton (to whom Girardi ended up giving an ALCS-record five free passes in the series, and who ended up the series' MVP) in the fifth inning, as chants of "M-V-P" rang out from the crowd, after the Yankees had tied the score at 1-1. The situation was the same:
There is yet more for which you can, if you so choose, blame Girardi. How, for example, he seemed to let his club coast into the postseason after the conclusion of an eight-game win streak on Sept. 4. They went 9-17 after that. Of course, it didn't seem to hurt them in their ALDS sweep of the Twins.
Over the next days and weeks, Girardi's decisions will be discussed, contemplated, picked apart. In reality, however, it is difficult to think that the ultimate outcome would have been much different, no matter the tactical moves made by the Yankees manager. The Rangers were simply the better team, in virtually every way.
"You just got to give them credit," said Yankees right fielder
"They got great pitching, they swung the bats well, they got big hits, they did everything you need to do to win playoff baseball games," said first baseman
The Rangers won 90 games in the regular season, but the club that defeated the Yankees was different from the one they fielded for most of the season, in that it was whole -- particularly at their lineup's heart. Manager
"Their lineup is complete," said Girardi, "and that's what makes it so hard."
Hughes did not question Girardi's decision to walk Hamilton, the most dangerous player in a dangerous lineup.
"My job isn't to speculate about moves -- that's Joe's decision," he said. "My job is to get the guy out. And I couldn't do it."
There was just one game during the regular season in which none of the Rangers' "Big 5," as it were, participated -- on Sept. 26, against a Cy Young candidate (
Just as the Rangers' offense was spearheaded by their lineup's heart, but ran deeper than that, their pitching staff was led by
"It's about pitching," a haggard
It's about pitching, it's about hitting, it's about fielding, it's about baserunning -- and the Yankees, in the end, had the advantage on the Rangers in none of those areas, leading to an ALCS loss in which they were outscored 38-19 cumulatively. It's about managing too, of course, and Girardi, whose contract just expired, will be vivisected up to and beyond the day on which he almost inevitably signs a new one. The course of this series, however, was set not by the moves Girardi made or didn't make, but by the fact that the Rangers simply outplayed the Yankees, and outplayed them badly. For the Yankees, that course was similar to the one described, to the blasting of those mariachi horns, by the Man in Black.