Let's play a round of "You Are Joe Girardi," shall we?
It's the bottom of the 11th inning and the score is tied at zero. CC Sabathia pitched a beauty, as did the ace of the other team, David Price. That other team, by the way, passes you for first place if they wind up winning the game. You haven't used Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson or Mariano Rivera yet and you've made it clear that settling for the Wild Card isn't good enough for the Yankees. Who do you put into the game to pitch?
Why, Sergio Mitre, of course. In one of the more predictable outcomes outside the romantic comedy genre, Mitre gave up a home run to the first batter he faced and the Rays leapfrogged the Yankees into first place. Girardi was, naturally, asked the question on everyone's mind after the game. Why would you use Mitre in such a spot when you have at least three better choices on your staff.
The answer is that Robertson and Chamberlain were unavailable while Rivera would only pitch in a save situation. The latter nonsense -- refusing to use your best reliever without the chance of getting a stat -- is an epidemic among big league managers that probably won't ever end, which makes the excuse for the other two guys even more galling. Robertson pitched on Friday and Saturday, so you could understand wanting to rest him but not in a game like the one that was being played on Monday night. Joba, on the other hand, hadn't pitched since Friday.
The refusal to use him makes it hard to believe that the Yankees aren't just fine with winning the Wild Card because you're saying that sticking with preordained notions is more important than winning baseball games. You'd hear no argument about that if they lost 3-1 or if this game took place in June, but if the Yankees are serious about not accepting anything less than the best than they handle Monday night much differently.
It's either that or Girardi's just a really bad manager. There was plenty of evidence to support that notion on Monday night. Girardi chose to have Curtis Granderson bunt in the 11th so that Colin Curtis got a chance to drive home Austin Kearns because, lord knows, you don't want to let your better hitter swing the bat with the game in the balance. That was still better than the mess made in the top of the 10th when Brett Gardner tried to steal third with two outs because the team's fastest player apparently can't score from second on a single.
You'll hear that Gardner has a green light to run, but that's simply a manager covering his own rear end. Gardner was a pinch runner and it would have taken Girardi two seconds to tell him that, under no circumstances, do you steal third base. We've been down this road with Girardi before and will surely travel down it again as he tries to do everything in his power to snatch defeats from the jaws of victories.
The final option, one supported by one run in the last 20 innings, is that this Yankee team is simply running out of gas. Price is fantastic, no doubt, but the Yankees are finding themselves befuddled a bit too often to feel good about things right now.
Three options and none of them is particularly inspiring at this point in the season.