If the Yankees find themselves playing a Game Seven in Atlanta, Cincinnati or San Diego later this year, Joe Girardi will only have to look in the mirror to find someone to blame for the predicament.
The official game story will tell you that the National League won the All-Star Game in Anaheim by a 3-1 count last night thanks to a bases loaded triple by Brian McCann. What it might not tell you is that Girardi more or less passed on a chance to even the score in the bottom of the ninth because he didn't want to play Alex Rodriguez.
He didn't pinch run him for the sloth-like David Ortiz who singled to lead off the inning. He didn't pinch hit for Adrian Beltre, having a fine season but hampered by a hamstring strain he suffered on Sunday, and he didn't pinch hit for John Buck, whose career OPS+ of 87 places him well below the average big league hitter. Beltre struck out and Buck actually flared a single to center, or what would have been a single if Ortiz didn't run like your broken-hipped grandmother and turn hits into fielders choices. That was it for the AL's chances.
The fact that Girardi played Beltre over A-Rod -- both were backups for Evan Longoria at third base -- in the first place is evidence that he had no plans on playing his Yankee charge during the game under any circumstances. That begs, in a loud and angry voice, the question of why A-Rod was in Anaheim in the first place. He wasn't voted into the game by the fans and wasn't voted into the game by his playing peers, he was selected by Girardi as a manager's choice even though the Yankees often talk about the need to find ways to rest him during the season.
Yankee fans would surely trade a healthy second half over one at-bat in a game that doesn't count in the standings, which is all the more reason why Michael Young or some other player should have been on the roster. A-Rod was a somewhat questionable choice for the game in the first place but if he wasn't going to play, he simply shouldn't have been there.
Charlie Manuel wasn't much better. He batted Ryan Howard cleanup to start the game even though he hits lefties like AL starter David Price about as well as Mel Gibson handles relationships with women. Manuel also pinch hit Chris Young for Andre Eithier against Matt Thornton even though Ethier hits lefties better than Young. You can throw in using Roy Halladay for less than an inning because he ran into the slightest bit of trouble if you like, although we were pleasantly surprised that Manuel used Halladay at all.
All of which gets back to the real problem which is neither Girardi nor Manuel. It is Bud Selig and his inane idea to tie home field advantage to the All-Star Game as a way of getting people off his back for calling a tie in the 2002 edition of the game and then doing nothing to ensure that the people in charge of the game treat it like it matters.
They expand the rosters to 34 players and throw in gimmick rules to put players back into the game, yet Girardi was still down to A-Rod only in the ninth inning because he treated the game like it didn't matter. Manuel was just throwing pinch hitters into the game so everybody could get a participation ribbon and not because it gave his team a better chance to win. The rosters should be smaller, not bigger, if they want the game to count because then managers wouldn't have any choice but to treat the game like a real one.
It's either an exhibition game or it isn't and baseball should make up its mind because all they've done is make it harder to care about the All-Star Game than ever before.