In the words of Bill Raftery, “Onions!”
Of all the brass-balled coaching moves in sports history, Joe Girardi’s decision to pinch hit for his highest-paid player when trailing by a run in the ninth inning may well go down as one of the boldest — and most successful.
Yes, Alex Rodriguez has struggled mightily this postseason, seemingly striking out every other at-bat. (If George Steinbrenner thought Dave Winfield was Mr. May, Lord knows what he’d be calling A-Rod if he was still around.) But no matter how much sense it makes, you just don’t see a manager bench his star player for Raul Freaking Ibanez in these types of situations, ever.
OK, maybe there was once.
In Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals, Phil Jackson drew up a last-second shot for Toni Kukoc rather than the Bulls star that season, Scottie Pippen. Pippen was so incensed that he sat on the bench for the final 1.8 seconds, but Phil’s intuition proved correct as Kukoc nailed the shot.
These types of moments rarely happen in sports. Even in “Hoosiers” the entire team protests when Norman Dale suggests using Jimmy Chitwood as a decoy on the final shot. Of course, that isn’t such a fair comparison to the Girardi/A-Rod situation because Chitwood hadn’t missed every other shot he took in the game.
Girardi’s bold move paid off yet again in the 12th when Ibanez hit a walk-off homer, the first surrendered by the Orioles all season.
It’s a move that looks like it will end up winning this series for the Bronx Bombers, but it will also be interesting to see how it plays going forward.
Will A-Rod get the message that he can be replaced and snap out of his funk?
Will he become a moody, pouty diva who goes into a shell and makes things awkward in the clubhouse?
Or will none of that matter because Ibanez goes on a tear to become the greatest Yankee sub since Lou Gehrig for Wally Pipp?
OK, maybe that one’s a stretch. But as of right now, Joe Girardi looks to have made one of the great moves in playoff history.