The Rundown: Joe's Magic Book
Hate to lead with the Yankees AGAIN, but they keep having these crazy extra-inning games in the postseason, so...
NEW YORK YANKEES: "Conventional wisdom" is a dangerous thing. In sports, managers and coaches often forget the old adage that change is good and fervently stick to the script. The rise of statistics, analysis, statistical analysis and Bill James has only made it worse, with coaches often allowing even the smallest minutia of stats to influence an in-game decision.
So now we're left with Joe Girardi and his big black book.
The Yankee skipper has been good all year, keeping his machinations to a minimum and pretty much letting the most talented team in baseball do its thing. But in the ALCS, he has begun to (gulp) overmanage, pulling relievers after just one or two batters and inserting pinch runners faster than you can say Alfredo Aceves.
Speaking of Aceves, he has been overmatched by these Angels. Forget numbers and watch Game 2, where he gave up the potential game-winning run in the 11th inning only to be bailed out by Alex Rodriguez's game-tying homer. I know Girardi watched the game -- I saw him there on TV. He was in that dugout thing.
And yet there the Yankee skipper was, looking at a book the size of a family photo album and pulling David Robertson for Aceves with two outs and none on in the bottom of 11th in Game 3. All Robertson had done was win two postseason games, the same number as C.C. Sabathia, and get the first two batters of this inning on 11 pitches. You know, everything.
Aceves came in and promptly surrendered a single to Howie Kendrick and a triple to career .200 hitter Jeff Mathis. Game over.
Watching SportsCenter this morning, I learned what had been in that weighty tome of baseball stats that caused Girardi to bring in Aceves. Kendrick's a top 10 hitter in the league against fastballs, Robertson gets 71 percent of his outs on fastballs, while Aceves gets only 51 percent. Apparently, that justifies pulling a hot pitcher and bringing in a cold one when a single, double, or triple by Kendrick -- off a Robertson fastball, perhaps? -- still doesn't beat you.
Great book you got there, Joe. Can't wait for the sequel.
The Yanks are still up 2-1 in the series, and Girardi will undoubtedly get more chances to employ his heavy-handed managing. But since he went to Northwestern like I did and seems to be a pretty smart guy, I'm going to make a direct appeal. Destroy the book, Joe. Burn that thing Fahrenheit 451-style. Go with the action on the field, not the numbers that ultimately mean very little in the heat of a postseason series.
NEW YORK RANGERS: Screw the Giants and Jets. These Rangers have been far more impressive this month. Even a 7-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Monday shouldn't really blunt their momentum, since it came with backup goalie Steve Valiquette getting a rare start. When the chips are down, Henrik Lundqvist will always be the netminder, and he's been superb thus far.
Rangers' general manager Glen Sather is looking more and more like a genius for his decision to sign former Minnesota Wild right winger Marian Gaborik to a lucrative free-agent deal in the offseason. Gaborik is tied for fifth in points with 12 (six goals, six assists), best among right wingers, and he has provided an offensive catalyst for the Rangers, who have scored at least three goals in their last eight games and are averaging 3.9 goals per game for the season. The Blueshirts may not have come out of the blocks as fast as the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, but at 7-2 they are one of the elite teams in the NHL.
NEW YORK GIANTS: What can you say, really? The Giants had their first real test of the season after three "cupcake" games, facing the 4-0 Saints on the road. Big Blue got an F.
The Giants were thrashed, 48-27, in a game that was actually more lopsided than the final score. New Orleans scored touchdowns on five of its six first-half possessions, and a costly fumble by Eli Manning with 20 seconds left in the second quarter led to a Saints' TD, a 34-17 halftime deficit, and a swift push of the "Last Channel" button on the remote so I could watch Vikings-Ravens.
The G-Men play Arizona and Philadelphia the next two weeks. If they can get two W's, perhaps they will once again be considered a top team. Right now, though, they simply don't belong in the same discussion as the Saints or Vikings in the NFC.
NEW YORK JETS: It's not exactly earth-shattering that Mark Sanchez threw five interceptions. He is, after all, a rookie quarterback. What is amazing is the numbers in the Jets' 16-13 overtime loss to the Bills.
Gang Green racked up 318 -- 318! -- yards on the ground, the most by a losing team since 1944. I believe Bronko Nagurski may have been somehow involved in that game.
My question is why was Sanchez throwing the ball at all in overtime? The Jets had run over, around, and away from the Bills the entire game, and the rookie QB already had four picks. Just run the ball three times in a row every time. Odds of getting at least 10 yards: very high. Odds of a game-killing Sanchez INT: nonexistent.
NEW YORK KNICKS: Other than this insane scene in Sunday's preseason game, the biggest subplot of the Knicks' preseason has been the continued poor shooting of Danilo Gallinari. The Knicks' swingman and supposed sharpshooter has shot just 28 percent from the field in the preseason, and coach Mike D'Antoni has hinted the 21-year old Italian may start the season on the bench. It's too early to tell, but Gallinari may prove to be another Frederic Weis -- sorry, Maciej Lampe. You get the idea.