The New York Jets head coach has the gut, but it was the New York Yankees manager who had the guts to pull slumping $29 million starter Alex Rodriguez and take a chance on pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez in the ninth-inning of last night's ALDS game with the Yankees trailing, 2-1.
If anyone thought Girardi didn't have it in him to substitute a future Hall of Famer for a 40-year-old journeyman player in such a critical situation, he proved them wrong.
We all know Ibanez saved the game by slugging a home run to tie the game but, things only got better in the 12th, after his walkoff homer gave the Yankees a 3-2 win and made Girardi's gutsy decision look like pure genius.
The Yankee manager has been known to pull strings according to the statistics from his notebook in the dugout. But pulling Rodriguez was a move born of instinct and nerve — knowing the risk.
Joe Torre had the onions to bat then-struggling A-Rod in the eighth spot during Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers and the slugger never forgave him. Coincidentally, shortly after, Torre was gone.
Rodriguez had already struck out twice in Wednesday night's game — making it seven times in the three games — and the chances of A-Rod breaking out of his funk facing the Orioles closer Jim Johnson — who had been successful on 51 of 54 saves this season — was slim.
"You're scuffling a little bit right now," Girardi told his third baseman before making the switch. "Raul has been a good pinch hitter for us, and I'm just going to take a shot."
"A gut move," Girardi said later.
Rodriguez took the move in stride and made no excuses.
When Girardi made the slow approach to his star player in the ninth, Rodriguez said it ended with a cordial and brief meeting.
"I said, 'Joe, you gotta do what you've gotta do'" said Rodriguez after the game. "And then I got up to the top step and started cheering. I'm Joe's biggest fan. Joe has always respected me to the utmost and I give it right back to him."
For now, Girardi's daring move looks like a win-win situation. There was no sulking from A-Rod and the manager's move saved the Yankees from what could have been an elimination game on Thursday.
Where Rodriguez and Ibanez end up on Girardi's lineup card tonight is any one's guess. My hunch is that the manager's statistical binder might be the one seeing less playing time.