Key Moves for Today’s MLB Playoff Games

Prior to the 1962 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded pitcher Stan Williams to the Yankees for Bill Skowron. For close to a decade, the then 32-year-old Skowron had been a power-hitting mainstay of the Yankees’ lineup, and the Dodgers expected similar production from him through the 1963 season. Instead, he had the worst season of his career, hitting .203 with his power totals dropping from 23 home runs to four and his RBI total from 80 to 19. In his stead, Ron Fairly played much of the latter part of the season at Skowron’s first base position, delivering much of his 12 home run, 77 RBI and .271 avg. production in Showron’s stead.

The Dodgers at that time were blessed with the finest manager in their history, one Walter Alston, and Walt knew that in the World Series (1963 was years before any expanded playoffs – the only post season MLB games were World Series games) you go with the guys who have been there and delivered in the past, and Fairly sat while Skowron played, and he delivered a .385 avg. and drove in five runs in the Dodgers’ four-game sweep of the Yankees.

Why am I re-hashing all this? For two reasons that directly relate to my picks of the Tigers and Giants to meet in this year’s World Series.

In San Francisco, Manager Bruce Bochy guided his team to a decisive division title despite a horrible season from his ace starter, two-time Cy Young winner TIm Lincecum. Bochy decided to not use Lincecum as a playoff starter until now, instead going with the medicore Barry Zito, who had his best regular season in years, but who so far has stunk up the field in the playoffs. We said before the playoffs began that Bochy needed to start Lincecum, and now, after being dominating once more in relief, Bochy has picked Lincecum to start today, in the most important Giants’ game of the year. Down two-to-one to St, Louis, SF needs to win today, and the right guy to start is Lincecum. With all deference to Matt Cain, he should also be the Giants’ World Series game one starter. You go with the experienced guy who has been through it all and knows how to win.

Then there is the Yankees’ situation. Slightly different “rules” apply here, but the bottom line is the same – you go with the guys who have produced in the past, do-or-die playoff games are not the time to experiment.

Let me digress for a moment to say that a few years ago, I thought that Joe Girardi was a great young manager, proven in part by his early success in Florida. His tenure in New York has caused to to totally re-assess that opinion, and I now feel he is at the bottom of the list of major league managers, and I thus hope he has a long tenure in NY.

Girardi’s benching of Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher in game three against Detroit was awful, because of the following. First he should not have used Brett Gardner over Swisher. Don’t get me wrong – Gardner is a far better all around player than Swisher, and everything being even, Gardner should be playing, adding speed and defense to a team that is sorely lacking in those areas. But Gardner spent the year on the DL, had 31 at bats all season, and had not started a game since April. Besides, Swisher’s .250 avg. against Detroit in the first two ALCS games was near the top of the team’s stats. Second is the Rodriguez situation. While there are numerous compelling reasons to sit him, the only third base alternative, Eric Chavez, is no choice at all. Chavez is far, far, over the hill, and his defense a significant liability, as proved in game five when his error on a relatively easy play led to the losing run. If the team had any viable replacement at third, then maybe sitting Rodriguez makes sense. Playing Chavez over him does not. There also is the fact that he IS Alex Rodriguez, and on any play at third, and on any at bat, he could turn the game, his season, the Yankees’ season, and his career, around. He needs to play.

Finally, word now, a half hour before game-time, is that Girardi has decided to also sit Curtis Granderson, his top power guy and run producer all season long.

Yea, I hope Girardi has a long, long tenure in New York.

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