Joe Girardi has caught hell for many of his managerial decisions this postseason, but he doesn't deserve any for going with A.J. Burnett in Game 5 of the World Series. Burnett didn't look weak on Monday night, he looked wild and that's not because he pitched on short rest. It's because he's A.J. Burnett.
Like it or not, Burnett has nights where he takes the mound and doesn't seem to have any idea where the ball is going. That leads to falling behind hitters which leads to grooving fastballs over the middle of the plate which leads to Chase Utley putting as much bat on the ball as he puts gel in his hair. If you want to criticize Girardi for anything, why not the strategy of only throwing Utley fastballs over the plate. He's proven he handle them, let's try something else now.
Getting back on topic, Girardi didn't select Burnett because he was a perfect option but because he was the best available option. A lead argument against starting Burnett is that you were facing Cliff Lee so why not throw Chad Gaudin as a sacrificial lamb on Monday night. Mike Francesa, among others, was pushing that chestnut on Monday, which is surely the first time that anyone has suggested tanking a World Series game.
As we mentioned before, Burnett was just as likely to be a disaster on Wednesday and, as it happened, Lee didn't wind up pitching all that well. You don't give up games in a playoff series, not for a guy who has inspired enough confidence to pitch 1 inning in the playoffs, and not because you're thinking about potential pitching matchups in a Game 6 that might never happen. Baseball rarely follows the script you dream up in your head, which is why you try to win every game and not just some of them.
If you want to second-guess someone for the decision to have Burnett on the mound, you'd be more correct in lobbing some fire in Brian Cashman's direction. Gaudin and Sergio Mitre were Cashman's reactions to Chien-Ming Wang's miserable performance and subsquent injury, which never seemed like enough given the restrictions and concerns about Joba Chamberlain that existed all season. The Yankees have been lucky with the schedule in the first two rounds, but the lack of an extra off day in the World Series forced Girardi to make a tough call.
Do you have a better chance to win by starting Chad Gaudin on a month's rest more than Burnett and Andy Pettitte on three days rest? That's the criteria for making the decision, and it's hard to come up with much of an argument in favor of Gaudin.