OK, OK, Joe Girardi didn't pick up a sledgehammer and shatter Derek Jeter's ankle in the dugout. But he might as well have. Because Girardi's incompetence led directly to Jeter's season-ending injury, and the ruination of the Yankees' season.
Granted, Jeter has been playing on an injured ankle for months, and the play on which he broke his ankle was fairly routine -- it's not like he was defending Allen Inverson on a crossover. But Jeter never should have been in that situation in the first place.
In an American League Championship Series game, when the Yankees stood just four wins from a World Series appearance, Girardi managed like the team was playing a meaningless mid-June game and he wanted to get his veterans some rest.
Down 2-0 in the 7th inning, Girardi gave the hook to Andy Pettitte, who had pitched well but looked as if he was tiring. So far, so good. But then in from the bullpen trotted Derek Lowe.
Lowe is perhaps the 11th best pitcher out of the 12 men they included on the ALCS roster, and that's being charitable. Despite the fact that CC Sabathia's complete game on Friday gave the entire bullpen a day of rest, Girardi elected to hand Detroit the game rather than use David Robertson, or even Joba Chamberlain.
Detroit scored twice off Lowe. Cut to Jeter face down in the infield dirt, his season and his team's season over.
Raul Ibanez's ninth-inning heroics should have won the game for the Yankees, not tied it. Girardi then compounded the problem by only letting Robertson and Rafael Soriano pitch one inning each in extras, saving them for a tomorrow that now appears increasingly irrelevant. Saving guns for the next day is the cardinal sin of managing in the postseason, and Girardi's lapse cost his captain his health.
As a Yankees fan in 2012, I didn't think it was possible to feel worse than I did seeing Mariano Rivera lay crumpled on the warning track this spring. I was wrong. Now we have to suffer through three more games of this inept offense (or maybe four, I can see Sabathia willing the Yankees to one victory in this series), now absent its most reliable hitter.