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Which manager — New York's Joe Girardi or Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel — made the right decision?

The Yankees’ CC Sabathia will start Game 4 tonight on three days’ rest. Did manager Joe Girardi make the right call?

Associated Press

The Yankees’ CC Sabathia will start Game 4 tonight on three days’ rest. Did manager Joe Girardi make the right call?

PHILADELPHIA

The manager standing near the rail of the dugout is a genius. History books will one day confirm this.

The trick today is figuring out exactly which manager that is. The svelte one with the military bearing and engineering degree from Northwestern? Or the rumpled guy with the folksy grin and tattered diction?

They have little in common, these World Series managers. New York's Joe Girardi is all business with a desk full of high-end statistics to shape his decisions. Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel is more laid-back with a gut that guides his sometimes unpredictable instincts.

So it figures they would arrive at opposing decisions for Game 4 this evening. Decisions that could go a long way toward determining whether the Yankees or Phillies are World Series champions by the end of the week.

Girardi has chosen to bring Game 1 starter CC Sabathia back on three days' rest to pitch tonight and, presumably, a Game 7 if needed. Manuel has decided not to use Game 1 starter Cliff Lee on short rest, which means the left-hander will get only two starts in this Series.

Which decision was correct? In a strange way, I think both were.

Though the managers were deciding the same thing, they were operating under different circumstances. Girardi has a workhorse of a pitcher who has had recent success pitching on short rest. Manuel has a pitcher with a smaller resume to draw from and more reasons to doubt.

But you know history has a way of forgetting subtleties and nuances. And years from now, it is possible the winning manager will get all the credit and the loser will shoulder much of the blame.

For Manuel, the critique might begin with a game the Phillies actually won. Because his choice for a starting pitcher in Game 4 was pretty much made by his decision to allow Lee to throw nine innings in Game 1.

Lee threw 122 pitches in that complete-game victory. Only once before in 194 big-league starts had he thrown more pitches. And Lee had never come back on three days' rest in his career, so it would have been an odd time to make that leap.

Did Manuel make a mistake? The Phillies had a 4-0 lead going into the eighth and a 6-0 lead in the ninth, but he declined to turn the game over to his bullpen. Should he have taken a small risk with a lead in Game 1 to have better options in Game 4?

"He doesn't go by the book all the time. Personally, I like that a lot. I like guys who have a feel for certain situations and knowing players and how they'll handle those situations," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said. "I mean. I've sat up there and thought, 'What the hell is he doing?' I've told him that. 'What the hell are you doing?' But I don't question him that much anymore because most of the time he's right."

While Manuel was worrying about one game at a time, Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland have been planning long term for quite some time. They eased Sabathia's workload in September, getting him five days of rest or more before his final four starts of the regular season. They used a similar formula for A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte.

"I've had enough rest the past two months to be able to feel comfortable enough to go out there and pitch on three days' rest," Sabathia said. "I told Joe that at the beginning of the playoffs, 'I'm here and available whenever you need me.' "

Sabathia's history suggests he can handle the workload and may even be more effective in small doses on short rest. He pitched on three days' rest the final two weeks of 2008 and was brilliant for the Brewers. For his career, he is 4-1 with a 1.04 ERA in five starts on short rest.

Now Girardi has to decide what to do with Burnett and Pettitte. If he goes with a three-man rotation, it means having a pitcher on three days' rest for Games 4, 5, 6 and 7. The other choice is slipping Chad Gaudin in for a start in Game 5 and using Burnett with full rest in Game 6.

You could certainly make a case for the three-man rotation. Burnett is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA on three days' rest in his career. Pettitte is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA on three days' rest in the postseason.

"This is the World Series. There is no baseball after the World Series for four or five months, so there will be plenty of time to rest," Girardi said. "It's not necessarily something that you want to do a lot during the course of a long season, but we're not in a long season anymore."

No, the season is nearly over.

Choices have been made, and fate is about to be played out.

Which means one of these managers is going to look a lot smarter than the other.

Which manager — New York's Joe Girardi or Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel — made the right decision? 10/31/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 1, 2009 12:50am]
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