A nice thing about baseball is that you usually don't have to wait long for a chance to redeem yourself. Strike out with the bases loaded in the sixth and you get another chance in the eighth to rewrite the story of your day. Just ask Alex Rodriguez how quickly things can change. Entering the World Series, there's no member of the Yankees more in need of changing the story than Joe Girardi.
Girardi did not have a good series against the Angels. Both of the team's losses were marked by crucial decisions that backfired on the manager, and in each case the decision hinged on Girardi trying for a scant statistical advantage over letting his best players play and seeing what happens. This Yankee team isn't one that needs to squeeze out runs by drips and drabs, they don't need to bunt very often and need to use pinch runners far less than Girardi seems to think they do. They are built on getting on-base and hitting for power, two things that happen without any machinations from the dugout.
That's the biggest problem with Girardi's approach. He has a need to impose himself on every game, instead of allowing talented players to win or lose on the field. Because the team is so good, it's easy to ignore those things in the regular season but the playoffs magnify every decision.
His work with the pitching staff belongs in a harsh spotlight, particularly his penchant for burning through two or three relievers in an inning. There was often a clear reason -- lefty vs. lefty, for example -- but in other times he seemed to be putting too much stock in a statistical breakdown of how a hitter fared against curveballs and not enough in seeing how well his current pitcher was throwing.
He can't do that against the Phillies. Their lefty hitters, outside of Ryan Howard, are no worse against southpaws than righthanders which means that Girardi needs to trust his pitchers to get them out without making a zillion changes everytime they face the middle of the lineup. If he's actually been paying attention to the games, that should mean a steady dose of David Robertson.
The young righty has been used only as a last resort in the postseason, but he's pitched much better than Joba Chamberlain down the stretch and in October. He's also done very well against lefthanders throughout the season, which makes him a perfect choice to stare down Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley in later innings. It seems like a no-brainer, but Girardi's infatuation with using Joba has shown no signs of stopping even as his performances have failed to justify the faith the team has in him.
The Yankees have such a talented team that they were able to overcome Girardi's missteps in the ALCS, but there's reason to believe they will get tripped up by them if they continue. Just think back to 2003 when Joe Torre's mistakes handed a crucial win to the Marlins en route to losing the series.
Will the leopard change his spots? It's not too likely that he will at this point in the season, and if the Yankees lose Girardi will likely be a big reason why.