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The View from the Cheap Seats by Eddie Mayrose

April 17, 2008 under Cheap Seats

Welcome back to New York, Joe Girardi.  If the Yankees’ new manager had somehow forgotten how closely each of his decisions would be scrutinized, he got a very sharp reminder last weekend when the Bombers invaded Fenway for the first time this season.  Girardi’s decision to pitch to Manny Ramirez with two outs and first base open during Saturday’s loss to the Beantowners turned out to be disastrous.  Manny drilled Mike Mussina’s first offering into the gap in right center for a two run double from which the New Yorkers never recovered.  Most fans were left scratching their heads when the skipper consulted his pitcher as to whether he wanted to face a career long Yankee killer like Ramirez instead of Kevin Youkilis, who has posted decent career numbers against Mussina but nothing close to the damage done by the future Hall of Famer.  While the results of the cumulative decision possibly cost them the game, the fact of the matter is that it was only game 11 of 162 and unlikely to have long lasting effects on the developing pennant race.  Lost in the rush to condemn, however, is the likely scenario that Girardi saw an opportunity to tell his new charges that he believes in them and took it.  Let’s face it.  This is a longtime Major League player renowned for his baseball intelligence who was named National League Manager of the Year just two seasons ago.   To think he suddenly had no idea that pitching to Ramirez was not the thing to do is silly.

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Girardi actually has much bigger problems on his hands than being second guessed by the New York media.  In a game in Kansas City that was likely to be delayed by rain last week, he pulled young starter, Ian Kennedy, deciding instead to use members of his bullpen to navigate the nine innings and spare Kennedy’s arm from the multiple warmup sessions that usually accompany bad weather games.  A prudent move but part of a larger issue.  With a full season consisting at least 1,450 innings, Girardi will be severely hindered by the organization’s decision to limit the pitch counts of Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.  Someone is going to have to account for their share of the workload.  If the Yankees continue to pull back on the reins of these young hurlers, the new skipper will be going to battle with an extremely overworked bullpen come September.

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So, the winds started blowing on Sunday at Augusta and managed to squash the Masters hopes of all but South African, Trevor Immelman, who carded a final round 75 on his way to his first major title.  It’s always interesting to watch the faint of heart struggle on Sunday, no matter how well they played in the first three rounds.  Immelman, buoyed by the encouragement of his idol and fellow countryman, Gary Player, was able to ride the momentum of an early eagle and take advantage of a six shot lead to eventually win by three.  Perennial favorite, Tiger Woods, scrambling all day, managed to post an even par 72 and finish second.  In one of sports’ most curious oddities, Woods, despite having won thirteen majors, has never come from behind to win any of them.  There is no question about Tiger’s ability to come roaring back in the final round of a tournament, as he has done so many times in his career. Inexplicably, however, never in one of the four majors.

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For some unknown reason, I found myself at Madison Square Garden last week for an uninspiring matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and the hometown Knicks.  As if the process of the two teams trying to decide which one cared the least wasn’t bad enough, a second quarter odyssey to the concession stand served as the low point of the evening.  After waiting twenty minutes on a line that consisted of only six customers, I missed ten minutes of the period.  Finally, having redeemed my pre-paid  food voucher and juggling peanuts and popcorn, I managed to sneak a ten dollar bill into the fingers of one free hand in order to purchase a beer from one of the vendors.  Imagine my surprise, standing there looking every one of my forty six years, when he ask me for ID to verify my age.  Have to hand it to the Knicks for providing such a fan friendly environment both on and off the court.

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As the Mets continue what has become a three year search for a fifth starter, it is somewhat unsettling to watch former Met, Brian Bannister, follow up his strong ’07 season in Kansas City with a 3-0 start in ’08.  Making matters worse is the fact that the pitcher he was traded for, Ambiorix Burgos, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, having yet to make any significant contributions to the cause.  Here’s hoping that Brooklyn born Nelson Figueroa follows up the gem he threw at the Brewers last week with a few more strong outings.

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That didn’t take long.  Johan Santana, the game’s best pitcher, needed only three starts to become the target of some Shea boo birds.  Seems the two home runs he surrendered to Milwaukee didn’t sit well with a few of the faithful even though they came in the middle of Johan’s third straight quality start.  Ease up, folks.  Santana led the majors in homers allowed last year and still won 15.  Always a slow starter, he has the best second half record in baseball over the last five years.  Now, if only we could be sure that the Mets will stay healthy enough for the second half to matter.

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Finally, hats off and good luck to the New York Rangers as they try and remind us how much fun the Garden can be in the springtime.


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