Better Decisionmaking Helps Tampa Bay Rays Get Past The New York Yankees In ALDS

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Tampa Bay Rays’ Michael Brosseau celebrates after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning … [+] in Game 5 of a baseball AL Division Series against the New York Yankees, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Technically a manager or the collaboration with the front office cannot win or a lose a ballgame because those parties are not taking the mound to throw a pitch, taking the field to make a defensive play or take an at-bat that can impact a game positively or negatively.

What the manager can do is make the decisions that can guide the success of a team which is what unfolded when Kevin Cash’s Tampa Bay Rays knocked off Aaron Boone’s New York Yankees in Game 5 of the American League Division Series Friday night.

It was the execution or lack of it by various players that led to the Rays advancing where most of America will hope they can knock off the Astros and their trip to their second ALCS came down the decisions succeeding extremely well.

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The series will be defined for the Yankees for what unfolded in Game 2 when Deivi Garcia started the game and by all accounts appeared to be a normal starter. Instead he was the opener and the move became infamous when J.A. Happ flopped as the bulk guy in a move that Boone said he was on board for after the idea was likely part of the collaborative process that often highlights modern managing

In Game 5, various decisions paid off handsomely for the Rays, who are just as analytical as the Yankees if not more, just with significantly less payroll ($29 million to $84 million based on the shortened season).

The decision that worked for the Yankees was starting Gerrit Cole on short rest. Cole did his part, allowing one hit in 5 1/3 innings. But can you make the case he was taken out too soon?

Cole was lifted after Randy Arozarena flied out to the warning track in left field, requiring Brett Gardner to make a similar catch to the one he did to end a game against Toronto’s Justin Smoak. That pitch was an 83 mph curveball and Cole’s last fastball was clocked at 98 in the fifth.

Boone went to Zack Britton, but if he kept Cole in a little longer or even let him finish the sixth, Chapman would not have been relied on for the final seven outs, which he ultimately did not get when Michael Brosseau triggered the revenge narrative with the deciding homer on a full count fastball that landed over the left field fence.

Brosseau’s entrance into the game came part of a matchup situation when he replaced Ji-Man Choi, the left-handed hitting first baseman who dominated Cole but hit .118 off left-handed pitching as opposed to Brosseau’s .333 (14-for-42) clip off southpaws. And that moved worked out twice with two hits, including the clinching homer.

It was the pitching moves that Cash shined, deploying Tyler Glasnow on two days rest in an opener role where he threw 37 pitches in 2 1/3 innings to the first nine hitters. That set up his high-leverage relievers Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo, who were not used in Game 4 when the Yankees deployed Britton and Chapman to close out a 5-1 win.

And one of the at-bats was to start the eighth with Mike Ford batting for Kyle Higashioka against Castillo. It would have been surprising to see Gary Sanchez batting there given how far his stock his dropped with the sudden questions about his Yankee future, but Clint Frazier could have been used there. Instead Ford struck out on a close full count pitch and the eighth came and went with the Yankees unable to score.

Boone will enter his fourth season with postseason losses to Tampa Bay, Boston and Houston, all formidable opponents. The division series losses will be the most frustrating because the Yankees could not execute some of the decisions he made.

In 2018, Alex Cora outmanaged Boone in a matchup of first-year managers with the Red Sox copping 16-1 and 4-3 wins at Yankee Stadium on their way to their fourth title since 2004.

In those games, Cora made moves that paid off, He inserted Brock Holt into Game 3 and all the utilityman did was hit for the cycle and in the clincher he used Chris Sale for three outs, which also worked out.

It was in Game 3 in 2018 where Boone stumbled by leaving Luis Severino in for too long, especially since a year earlier Joe Girardi showed he wasn’t messing around by pulling the Severino in the first inning when Minnesota took a 3-0 lead in the wild card game. In Game 3 against Boston, he stuck with Severino for too long when he was constantly allowing hard-hit balls and then allowed two singles on the first pitch and a four-pitch walk that forced a change. In that same game, Lance Lynn was the first reliever while high strikeout pitchers were saved for a game where they never appeared.

Playoff series ultimately come down to the players who get the job done, but they also are impacted by the managerial decisions and it is part of the reason why the Rays are staying in San Diego and the Yankees are flying back to New York, a fact punctuated by a number of Rays returning to the field back out to the field and dugout with beverages and while listening playing Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York,” and Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” featuring Alicia Keys, staples of the Yankee Stadium playlist.

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