Chances are you were watching the game last night so a full recap of Raul Ibanez’s heroics are probably unnecessary. Suffice to say the man who was, for most of last winter, an unwanted commodity came up big for the Yankees after his manager sent him up to hit for the highest paid player in the game and one of baseball’s all-time greats. The usual suspects, those commentators who profess to know that an actual baseball game isn’t Strat-o-matic but whose pronouncements tend to suggest otherwise, were all ready to tear into Joe Girardi for sending Raul Ibanez up to hit in the 9th inning and, incredibly, several continued to do so even after Ibanez hit his walkoff home run in the 12th.
You can argue process v outcome all you like, but the scorebook shows that Girardi’s call worked. For my money, and that of Yankees fans, that should be enough. If in the future he makes a similar call that doesn’t work then fine, hammer away. But this didn’t fail. It worked spectacularly well. Better than anyone could have hoped? Perhaps, but really, who cares?
It’s fine to wonder why Girardi hit for A-Rod and not, to take the most popular example, Russell Martin. It’s a reasonable question to ask and one that may not have a particularly satisfactory answer. It’s also fair to ask why, if Girardi was of a mind to hit for A-Rod that late in such a key game, he nonetheless pencilled the his third baseman into the 3 hole in the lineup. Understandable queries both, but let’s not stand on the sidelines forever making binder jokes and calling Girardi an idiot. I was unconvinced of his abilities when he first took the Yankees job but, even as a Red Sox fan, I’m happy to admit that I was probably wrong and that he’s grown into a pretty solid operator in the dug out all things considered.
Finally, a word on A-Rod. He get’s a lot of snark, abuse and vitriol fired at him, occasionally self-inflicted but also undeserved at times but he couldn’t have handled the aftermath of last night any better. He’s clearly aged as a player and while I wouldn’t argue he was done, he’s also not the force he was even a few years ago the way he’s hitting at the moment. That’s got to be a difficult situation for a player of his reputation and calibre to deal with but his response to the obvious questions about the situation was positively Jeter-esque:
“Maybe 10 years ago, I’d react a much different way, but I’m at a place in my career right now where team means everything, I don’t think there was anybody in the ballpark more excited for Raul than me.”