Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wright in Game Four? You're Kidding, Right?

We’re being set up for a monumental disappointment. No, not the playoffs in general—you guys know I’m not one for doomsday predictions. But should the American League Division Series go to four games, the Yankees could be knee deep in dog shit.

Actually, allow me to rephrase. Wading in dog shit would imply that someone else left the load, and the Yanks are forced to trudge through it. However, this is not the case here, as the Yankees will be dealing with their own steaming pile of shit. His name is Jaret Wright, and he’s giving the coaching staff false hope for the playoffs.

Like most people with irrepressible opinions on the Yanks, I’ve been back and forth on Wright all year. After a shaky April, it appeared he had settled in. He was going five and six innings and only allowing a few runs, which is acceptable when your pitching staff is in shambles. But that type of performance in the playoffs is not only unacceptable, it’s potentially damning.

Imagine Wright pitching Game Four in the Metrodome with the Yanks down two games to one. How can this be justified? Where is the logic in trotting out a pitcher who hasn’t finished seven innings once this year? Up two games to one, this may be doable; if the bullpen needs to work a bit of overtime to lock down the series, so be it. Finishing in four games means two extra days off, anyway, so the extra tax on the pen can be compensated there.

I understand the lack of options Torre perceives. It will take more than one good start for Cory Lidle to regain his good graces, and it will take another year or so of pitching for Jeff Karstens or, more notably, Darrell Rasner to receive consideration. So, by process of elimination, Wright is the guy. And I suppose that announcing him as the Game Four starter may positively influence his confidence. But, by that token, how will his confidence be affected if he’s removed from his Game Four appearance before it even starts?

Let’s revisit the aforementioned scenario, in which Minnesota leads two games to one. Game Four would be played in the Metrodome, and the possible Game Six would be at Yankee Stadium. Given the circumstances of that scenario, I feel with 100 percent certainty that Johan Santana would start Game Four for the Twins. Three days rest is far from unheard of in the playoffs, and Ron Gardenhire undoubtedly would want to put the series away and avoid a return trip to the Bronx.

I now pose the question to you, the reader: would you start Jaret Wright opposite Johan Santana in an elimination situation? Excuse me, when reading that back it actually sounds rhetorical. If you have a valid reason for saying yes, I am open to hearing it. Otherwise, we’re going on the idea that it’s borderline insane. The Game One starter—ostensibly Wang at this point—would come back for a return match with Santana. Should the Yankees prevail there, Mike Mussina would start the decisive Game Five, especially so since they would get the extra travel day.

So, if you’re of the opinion that announcing J-Wright’s Game Four start will positively affect his confidence, then you have to recognize the possibility of that start not happening out of necessity, thusly negating all confidence gained and possibly killing it. Now what do you do?

Under the same scenario, let’s say that Moose has his act together and shuts down the Twins in Game Five. Now we’re onto the ALCS against Detroit. Randy Johnson would be in line to start Game One, and there surely wouldn’t be enough games in between to provide Wang adequate rest to start Game Two. That would now be Wright’s job. Think about the rollercoaster he’s been through over the course of roughly two weeks.

  • Pitches decently in Tampa Bay (though he still can’t finish seven innings, even with a ginormous lead), is announced as Game Four starter. Confidence is gained.

  • Yanks drop two of first three games; are forced to start Wang in Game Four out of the necessity of winning. Confidence gain is negated, possible detrimental confidence losses.

  • Yankees win series, less confident Wright is scheduled to pitch Game Two of ALCS at home.

  • Randy Johnson bombs, Yanks in 0-1 hole at home.

Now, once again, you run into the issue of necessity. You can’t lose Game Two at home in the ALCS; lightning rarely strikes twice, and the Yankees used up that opportunity 10 years ago in the World Series. How can you consciously send Wright out in such a pivotal game? You can’t trust him in a deciding game, so why should you trust him in a game that is all but deciding?

As you can see, announcing Wright as the Game Four starter is pointless at best, and detrimental at worst. No, I don’t honestly believe that the confidence factor will be as exaggerated as I set forth here. I do have to ask, however: what does Torre gain by making this announcement? For a guy who made his mark in the league by managing egos that wouldn’t fit in most locker rooms, I have a serious inquiry as to his reasoning here. Obviously, at this point in his career he does not need to explain himself to a jerkoff like me.