Joe Girardi took a page out of a 31-year-old playbook from former Mets manager Davey Johnson when Girardi opted to give the Yankees the day off Sunday.
Despite trailing the Astros two games to none in the American League Championship Series and amassing a collective batting average of .159, Girardi did not think practice would make perfect before Monday’s night’s Game 3 at Yankee Stadium.
A similar decision caused quite a stir in the 1986 World Series after the Mets lost the first two games at home to the Red Sox. Johnson was vilified by the media when he canceled a workout at Fenway Park on the off day before Game 3.
Johnson was very calculated in his thinking. He did not want his players pelted with questions about their uphill climb after entering the Series as heavy favorites.
Former Mets lefthander Bobby Ojeda reflected on Johnson’s tactic years later in “Kings of Queens,’’ author Erik Sherman’s book on the 1986 Mets:
“There was a sense that you can take all the batting practice you want at this point of the season, but it comes down to . . . what’s in the left side of your chest. It’s not about more swings. It’s not about BP. It’s not about a couple of more tosses in the bullpen. This came down to who you are. Are you going to accept this? Are you going to roll over? Are you going to accept this for the rest of your life? So Davey knew that. He’s like, ‘You know what? I don’t give a [darn] about how much you hit today [in BP],’ they’ve gotta hit when the bell rings tomorrow.’’
The Mets, of course, went on to win the World Series in seven games.
Girardi, who also skipped a practice at home during the ALDS, had no grandiose designs behind his decision.
“Just physical rest,’’ he said Sunday. “A lot of times you work out on the road because it’s not a field that you’re on 81 times a year. We know what our park presents. We know the angles, we know all that. We know the infield, so I think it’s a physical and mental rest, which I think guys can use at this time.’’