With a championship on his resume as a manager, on top of his three as a player for the Yankees in the late-Nineties, he had every right to bench Alex Rodriguez, baseball's highest paid player, in a decisive Game 5 against the Tigers last night. It was a bold move, even after having pinch hit for A-Rod in the previous two games. And it was not without historical precedence. Billy Martin benched Reggie Jackson, 1977's highest paid player, in another decisive Game 5 of the ALCS against Kansas City because he had trouble hitting southpaw Paul Splittorff.
The benching of A-Rod also instilled Girardi as the true leader of a clubhouse of aging veteran stars with egos as big as their past production. But it did yet another thing, too. It has perhaps changed A-Rod's role on the Yankees from middle-of-the-lineup slugger to a part-time player. This, despite the Yankees still owing A-Rod over $120 million over the next five seasons.
A-Rod, in part because he's 37 and has clearly seen the affects of his past steroid use, just can't catch up with fastballs coming from right handed pitchers any longer. It's tough to watch because, steroids or not, he is easily one of the top 10 players in the modern baseball era. Had he stayed at shortstop, he would have been considered the greatest ever at that position--yes, better than Ernie Banks.
Hey, at least we know he's off the "juice." But that is little consolation for the very serious issue of having a contract too big to move and Yankee fans having to anticipate what many of us saw in the great Willie Mays' final season with the Mets, but only this time for another five years.
2012 will be forever seen as the last year of the long-term contract. Never again will we see another ridiculous deal like the one A-Rod got in the hopes they can stay around long enough to break the all-time home run record.
Random Thoughts: I've said it before and I'll say it again, the extra wild card, while diminishing its value to one game, was genius. Commissioner Selig finally got one right...This is the most exciting post-season since '04...Nats' GM Rizzo needs to be held accountable for benching Stephen Strasburg which, as it turned out, likely cost the Nats the series against the Cardinals. No way they lose last night if they had the big right hander ready to go, even out of the bullpen...Kudos to the SF Giants for not activating Melky Cabrera for the NLCS now that his 50 game suspension is over...If Raul Ibanez had hit those two home runs in a World Series game, it would have been every bit as historic as Reggie's three home runs back in Game 6 of the '77 Series...Any doubt the Cardinals don't make it to the World Series?