Joe Girard’s decision to pinch hit Raul Ibanez for Alex Rodriguez in Game 3 of the ALDS was lauded as gutsy and genius. It was none of the above. It was pure selfishness. ARod’s miserable hitting from the third hole, was sinking the Yankees playoff ship. Girardi’s decision to ignore the fans and media’s requests to bench ARod or lower him in the order, was shaping up as “career disaster move” No. 1. If the Yanks lost last night’s game and ARod continued to suck, the backlash would have fallen on Girardi for years to come. And Girardi’s contract expires at the end of next season. He needs all of the leverage he can get, to negotiate a plush new deal for 2014.
Girardi has been taking incredible flak for riding with ARod, who has one hit and seven strikeouts in the series. But by the time that 9th inning rolled around – and the Yanks were on the verge of losing – pinch-hitting Ibanez was a no brainer. Girardi made the move with his Yankee legacy in the front of his mind. He wasn’t thinking about anybody but himself. A 2-1 series deficit meant a possible first round elimination for the second straight year. The Yanks missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993 in Girardi’s first season. They won the World Series in ‘09, lost in the 2010 ALDS to the Rangers and got bounced in the ALDS last season. A solid – but unspectacular – resume for a Yankee manager.
Making the playoffs and getting eliminated in the first-round is like not making the playoffs at all in Yankee world. Joe Torre won four rings with the Yankees, but he was not re-signed after failing to win one from 2001-2008. The hot joint in the Bronx is Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for me lately” and not Drake “Forever.”
Maybe with another organization, Girardi could let ARod rock and hope for the best. With the Yankees, you don’t get invited to breakfast if you act a fool at dinner. Girardi had an opportunity to save his own bacon and spare a prideful ARod some dignity. He took it. It didn’t require excruciating thought. ARod didn’t even mind. His dugout body language and post game comments project a guy who was elated to chill for the rest of the night. Thanks to Ibanez’ Reggie Jackson routine, it all worked out. Girardi’s Yankee legacy is intact and if he wins tonight, it’s on to the ALCS and another notch in his belt for future negotiations.