The decision to start A.J. Burnett tonight will define Joe Girardi’s managerial tenure will the Yankees -- for better or worse.
With the Yankees trailing the Rangers two games to one in the AlCS, Giradi will show blind faith in Burnett, a 10-15 pitcher who has been unreliable to a fault.
What transpires tonight could resonate beyond this game. It could alter Yankee history.
If Burnett pitches well, Girardi will be lauded for his decision as the Yankees tie the series and give the ball to CC Sabathia in Game 5.
If Burnett bombs out and the Yankees go on to lose the series, Girardi will be forever questioned in going against all reason and logic in starting a pitcher who been unstable on and off the mound.
Burnett injured himself during one bad start against Tampa Bay and showed up with a black eye before a game in Baltimore.
If Burnett implodes and if the Yankee bats, deadly silent, cannot bail him out, the Rangers will have a largely insurmountable lead in the best-of-seven series.
In 1995, Buck Showalter and the Yankees had a 5-0 lead against Seattle in Game 4 of the ALDS. Scott Kamieniecki gave up five runs in the bottom of the third inning, the Yankees lost that game and the next and Showalter was out of a job. That ushered in the highly successful Joe Torre era.
Of course, that was under George Steinbrenner’s watch.