There was a big, big call in yesterday’s Yankees-Indians game that, if made correctly, would’ve ended an Indians rally and, in all likelihood, would’ve allowed the Yankees to beat the Indians. The call was not made correctly on the field however, and Joe Girardi did not challenge it. Hours later, he still didn’t have a good answer as to why he didn’t.
The call came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Chad Green threw a two-strike, two-out pitch to Lonnie Chisenhall. The ball grazed the knob of Chisenhall’s bat, but home plate umpire Dan Iassogna called it a hit-by-pitch. Catcher Gary Sanchez held on to the ball, by the way, so if it was correctly called a foul tip, it would’ve been out number three. The call was wrong, however, as you can see here:
Despite this, Joe Girardi did not ask for a replay challenge. Chisenhall took first base, Francisco Lindor came to the plate and hit the grand slam that gave the Indians new life. They, of course, came back to win the game.
There were several hours in between that grand slam and Girardi’s postgame interview in which he had time to gather his thoughts about it all. His answer when he was asked about the non-challenge started out well enough:
“There was nothing that told us that he was not hit by the pitch . . . By the time we got the super slow-mo, we are beyond a minute. It was too late. They tell us we have 30 seconds.”
Partially understandable in the abstract, but that doesn’t hold up in context. It doesn’t because his catcher, Sanchez, was a foot away from the ball when it hit the knob of the bat — he had literally the best seat in the house — and was clearly imploring Girardi to challenge the call. You don’t always listen to your players when they tell you to challenge a call — no baserunner has ever been out in their mind in the replay era — but you have to believe your catcher in that situation, based both on his proximity and on the gravity of the game situation.
More broadly, of course, Girardi had almost nothing to lose: if he was wrong about the challenge and thus lost the ability to challenge again, fine. He was only an inning away from the umpires being given the authority to initiate challenges on their own. On the off chance, in Girardi’s mind at the time anyway, that he was right, an Indians rally and an inning would’ve come to an end. The risk-reward calculus at the time clearly demanded a challenge be mounted.
Girardi expanded on his answer, though, and in doing so really ticked off Yankees fans:
“I think about the rhythm and never want to take a pitcher out of rhythm and have them stand over there to tell me he wasn’t hit”
Without repeating myself about the gravity of the game situation and the risk-reward calculus in play, can we talk about how insane it is for a manager — especially a Yankees manager — to talk about pitcher “rhythm” in 2017? Between the long pauses after each pitch and the Yankees seeming fetish for pitcher-catcher mound visits, there IS no pitcher rhythm these days. And even if it is a valid consideration, it isn’t one that stands up at all to the chance to get that pitcher out of the inning. Chad Green was diplomatic about it all after the game, but I guarantee you that he’d rather have his rhythm momentarily disrupted than have to face Francisco Lindor with the bases loaded if it could be at all avoided.
Whatever the case, there is no reason not to take a chance with a replay challenge in a playoff game. Especially when you’re already down 0-1 and the opposing team has proven itself more than capable of inflicting major damage in a short period of time. Joe Girardi had the chance to end an inning before it got out of hand and to squelch a rally by baseball’s best team and he didn’t take that chance. He didn’t gamble and lose: he simply refused to even gamble.
It’s not hyperbole to say that it’s a decision that ended up costing the Yankees the game. It’s one that, when the Yankees are eliminated, as I presume they will be in the next couple of days, Girardi will have to live with all winter long.