Associated Press

Joe Girardi didn’t gamble and lose. He simply refused to gamble.


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.

Brewers won’t punish Josh Hader for offensive tweets

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Some old tweets of Josh Hader‘s surfaced during the All-Star Game on Tuesday, containing offensive and hateful language. Major League Baseball responded by ordering Hader to attend sensitivity training and attend diversity initiatives.

The Brewers won’t punish Hader themselves, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. GM David Stearns says the club is taking its lead from MLB, which has already handed down its punishment to Hader. Additionally, the Brewers’ lack of punishment has to do with the tweets occurring when Hader was younger — 17 years old — and not involved with professional baseball.

Stearns also said of Hader’s tweets, “I don’t think they’re representative of who he is. I think they’re offensive. I think they’re ill-informed and ignorant but I don’t think they represent who he is as a person right now.” Stearns added, “I don’t know how he’s going to work through it. The truth is he has put himself in this situation. And he’s going to have to work very hard to get through it.”

Hader apologized on Wednesday, saying, “I was 17 years old, and as a child I was immature, and obviously I said some things that were inexcusable. That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today.” Hader said, “I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve said. I’m ready for any consequences that happen for what happened seven years ago.”

Lorenzo Cain, a black outfielder and teammate of Hader’s, said, “I know Hader; he’s a great guy. I know he’s a great teammate. I’m fine. Everybody will be O.K. We’ll move on.” Cain further defended Hader, saying, “We’ve all said crazy stuff growing up, even when we were 17, 18 years old. If we could follow each other around with a recorder every day, I’m sure we all said some dumb stuff. We’re going to move on from this.”

First baseman Jesús Aguilar also came to Hader’s defense:

However, Aguilar also retweeted a tweet from Scott Wheeler of The Athletic which had screencaps of Royals 2B/OF Whit Merrifield and Angels outfielder Mike Trout using the word “gay” pejoratively in tweets. Merrifield also used the word “retard” pejoratively.

The “he was 17” defense rings hollow. At 17 years old, one is able to join the military, get a full driver’s license (in many states), apply for student loans, and get married (in some states). Additionally, one is not far off from being able to legally buy cigarettes and guns. Given all of these other responsibilities we give to teenagers, asking them not to use racial and homophobic slurs is not unreasonable. Punishing them when they do so is also not unreasonable.

A study from several years ago found that black boys are viewed as older and less innocent than white boys. A similar study from last year found that black girls are viewed as less innocent than white girls. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Cameron Tillman, among many others, never got the benefit of the doubt that Hader and countless other white kids have gotten and continue to get in our society. When we start giving the same benefit of the doubt to members of marginalized groups, then we can break out the “but he was only 17” defense for Hader.

We also need to ask ourselves what our inaction regarding Hader’s words will say to members of those marginalized communities. Will it tell them that we value the comfort of those in power above everyone else? Will it tell members of marginalized groups that they are not welcome? In this case, it absolutely will. It communicates the message that, as long as you are white and can perform athletic feats, there’s no level of bigotry the league won’t tolerate. Furthermore, as the league and its 30 individual teams make more efforts towards inclusiveness with events like “Pride Night,” the inaction comes off as two-faced and hypocritical. This is why Major League Baseball — and the Brewers — should have done more to respond to Hader’s tweets.