Even Joe Maddon received a torrent of criticism for his decision-making last year — after the Chicago Cubs won their first championship in 108 years.
“It’s the nature of the game today,” Girardi said before Tuesday’s game. “When you sign up for the job, you sign up for that.”
Though the Yankees have largely been playoff spectators the past four years, Girardi is no stranger to making calls that speak of October urgency. He benched and pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez during the 2012 playoffs — Raul Ibanez, pinch-hitting for Rodriguez, delivered a homer to beat the Baltimore Orioles in Game 3 of a division series — and sat Ellsbury, who has a $153 million contract, for a wild-card loss to Houston two years ago.
It took a clear-the-air meeting with Girardi the following spring for Ellsbury to get over the snub.
Girardi informed Headley after Monday’s workout that he would not be in the lineup. “I don’t think there’s anything he can say that can make you feel better at that moment,” Headley said.
Headley has been unfailingly accountable and available to the news media in his tenure in New York, be it last season when he was pilloried by fans during a dreadful April; or earlier this season, when he lost his job at third base to Todd Frazier and then his spot at first base to Greg Bird despite solid batting numbers.
But when Headley was approached while coming off the field after batting practice on Tuesday, he brushed off an interview request. “Not now,” he said, bouncing down the stairs toward the clubhouse.
After the game, in which Ellsbury went 0-for-4, Headley said, “There’s been a lot of adversity this year and I overcame a lot of it. I’ve played a long time and haven’t played in a lot of postseason games, so you really want these opportunities when they come.”
“Everybody wants to play, so I was disappointed,” he added. “I expected to be in there and I wasn’t. By the same token, you’ve got to move forward and be ready when they call you.”
That call will most likely come Thursday in the series opener against Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer, against whom Headley has a .278 career average.
It is less certain when Betances will pitch again. He has made the All-Star team in each of his four big-league seasons, but Girardi’s faith in him has all but evaporated despite Betances having seemingly emerged from an early-September slump. The manager who in past seasons was accused of overusing Betances is now reluctant to call on him.
“His issues this year have been walks,” Girardi said on Wednesday night, adding that he would use Betances in important situations in this series. “It seems when he gets on a roll, he doesn’t allow them. When he gets ahead in the count, he doesn’t allow them.”
Girardi called on Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman to get 26 outs in the win over the Twins after starter Luis Severino lasted for just one out — and Chasen Shreve got loose in the bullpen just in case. But Betances did not stir. This came four days after Betances was pulled after two hitters — a base hit and a walk —with a 4-0 lead, a disappointing setback that followed five consecutive hitless performances.
“Dellin’s always found a way to pitch even when he doesn’t have his stuff — he gets it done,” said Indians reliever Andrew Miller, who developed a close bond with Betances during his one-and-a-half seasons with the Yankees. “He’s always one minor adjustment away from being the guy that we’ve seen.”
Miller added: “He’s not anybody anyone on this team wants to face, anybody in this league wants to face. He’s as good as they come.”
Betances, who threw a bullpen session Wednesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland, said he had felt better the last week, though he acknowledged after getting pulled on Friday against Toronto that Girardi had “a short leash” with him.
Betances reiterated Wednesday night that he would be ready when his name was called and that he remained confident in his abilities.
As for the manager’s confidence in him? “I think that’s a better question for Joe,” he said.
The Yankees announced that Sonny Gray (10-12, 3.55 E.R.A. with Oakland and the Yankees) would start Game 1 of the division series, facing Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19) on Thursday night. In Game 2 on Friday, C. C. Sabathia will face Indians ace Corey Kluber. Kluber is not starting the opener so that if there is a Game 5, he would be on his usual four days rest.