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The bugged game: Joe Girardi mismanages in Cleveland

When I think of Cleveland, I should think of LeBron James, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Drew Carey. Instead, the very first thing that comes to mind is the Bug Game. It happened exactly 10 years ago this week, on October 5, 2007, the date midges attacked Joba Chamberlain on the mound. And it is etched in my mind as one of my worst Yankee memories ever.

Back then I was working at the New York Daily News as an entertainment editor for the website. Since Friday was my busiest day of the week, and the game started at 5 p.m.,  I was watching the game at work.

Most Yankee fans know the rest: Midges attacked rookie phenom Joba Chamberlain, then-trainer Gene Monahan came out with bug spray (which had the opposite effect that it should have), and Derek Jeter used his hand to wave the bugs away from himself. Meanwhile, Joe (Green Tea) Torre snoozed in the dugout and left his team on the field while the Cleveland Indians came back to win the game, and the series.

After the Bug Game, I remember going for a long walk through midtown Manhattan later that evening with a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Losing because the manager doesn’t do what he’s paid to do absolutely enraged me. I had a very restless night of sleep. My Squawk then is lost to the annals of time, but suffice it to say it was a very angry one!

Torre ultimately lost his job the next week, and finally admitted he should have taken his team off the field during the bug invasion.

Exactly ten years later, the Yankees were in Cleveland for the ALDS, and Joe Girardi, Torre’s successor, mismanaged another game against the Indians. And I had the same awful feeling last night that I did a decade ago.

Last night, the Yankees improbably knocked out probable Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber by the third inning, and had an 8-3 lead in the sixth inning. But that lead was blown thanks to a series of Girardi blunders, starting with him taking out CC Sabathia too soon. The most egregious thing, of course, was him not challenging that hit by pitch call in the sixth inning which put Lonnie Chisenhall on first, even though catcher Gary Sanchez was making it clear that the ball did not hit Chisenhall (Brendan Kuty of NJ.com has the blow-by-blow here.)

I watched the game to the bitter end — through Francisco Lindor’s grand slam (I’ll never eat Lindor Truffles again!), and Jay Bruce’s homer (Squawker Jon is particularly enjoying seeing an ex-Met stick it to the Yankees — he texts me “Bruuuuuuce” after each hit!), to Ronald Torreyes (Squawker Jon calls him Torre-Yes to tick me off) getting picked off second, to the Indians rallying to win the game 9-8 in the 13th inning. And I went to bed with that same awful feeling in the pit of my stomach as I did exactly 10 years before. Actually worse, as I wasn’t having a good day to begin with!

Thanks to triathlon and marathon training that has taken up this entire season, I have simply not watched Yankee games the way I have in the past. Most weeknights after work, I go run, strength training, or cycle, and I usually don’t get home until 10 p.m. or later. And my weekends are taken up with long runs. When I finally get home, I basically collapse and go to bed. And I’ve had to skip the workouts I usually do at night to see these first two games of the ALDS.

But despite not watching games much this year, not to mention the low expectations for this season, a Yankee playoff loss still hurts me as much as it did 10 years ago. Especially when the manager again refuses to admit he screwed up.

I went to bed stewing last night, and didn’t have the stomach to watch the post-game presser. And I’m even angrier this morning after reading what Girardi said in the postgame. No wonder Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman — or whoever manages his social media accounts — “liked” an Instagram post calling the Yankee manager a “complete imbecile.”

Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan has a great breakdown of what his article calls the “ineptitude and arrogance” of the Yankee manager:

Sanchez immediately pointed to Girardi, certain the ball hit Chisenhall’s bat for a foul-tip third strike. Slo-mo replay proved Sanchez correct. Only Girardi, who two months ago made a public show of criticizing Sanchez’s bona fides behind the plate, didn’t heed the word of the player crouching a foot from Chisenhall. He waited for guidance from his replay team. It did not come within the 30 seconds to call for a replay challenge, Girardi said, so he passed on the opportunity. 

Passan notes why Girardi didn’t challenge the call (emphasis added):

Girardi’s explanation was … well, watch him bury himself with his own words.

“Being a catcher,” Girardi said, “my thought is I never want to break a pitcher’s rhythm. That’s how I think about it.”

Being a catcher. That ineffably damning clause really is paramount. That is Joe Girardi, New York Yankees manager, saying he knows best and anyone else can kick rocks. That is Joe Girardi literally appealing to authority – himself. That is Joe Girardi saying the moment that allowed the Indians to register the greatest come-from-behind postseason victory in franchise history exists explicitly because he’s the expert. That is Joe Girardi, the emperor, disrobing himself.

Passan brings up how Girardi publicly shamed Sanchez in August, with the sportswriter noting that “being a catcher, he should realize baseball problems are best solved in-house.” Then Passan issues this jab:

The worst sort of manager is the supercilious one – a man so caught up in what he knows that he can’t see the error of his ways. “There was nothing that told us that he was not hit on the pitch,” Girardi said.

Except Gary Sanchez.

Ten years ago, my “Joe must go” Squawks were even more impassioned after the Bug Game, and finally, even the Steinbrenner kids had had enough of Joe Torre. This year, Joe Girardi’s contract is up after the season, and as good a job as he did in much of this season, I think it’s time for a new voice. If the Yankees lose this series, and I expect they will, this Joe must go.

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