Alex Rodriguez, at age 37, is clearly on the decline in his lengthy career which has seen him be Major League Baseball's highest paid player, twice — once by the Texas Rangers and next by the New York Yankees are gave him a 10-year contract worth $275 million.
Raul Ibanez, who was signed to a 1-year deal by the Yankees is making $1.1 million this year. No, that's not $11 million, it's $1.1. Oh, and he is 40 years old.
Yet, in the bottom of the ninth inning of Wednesday's pivotal Game 3 of the Yankees' ALDS series against Baltimore, manager Joe Girardi inserted Ibanez into the batter's box and told Rodriguez to take a seat with the game on the line and the Yankees trailing by one, moments away from a 2-1 deficit in the series.
Instead, Ibanez sent a delivery from one of the game's best closers this season, Baltimore's Jim Johnson, into the right-field seats to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
“For a minute I just thought something was going on,” Ibanez told reporters. “I didn’t know what was happening, and then I just tried to put it behind me and get a good pitch to hit.”
The teams played to a stalemate for three innings before Ibanez (formerly Rodriguez) was due up again in the bottom of the 12th. That's when Ibanez went into Yankee legend when he sent another pitch to the right-field seats to win the game in walk-off fashion and give the Yankees the 2-1 series lead.
To be moved down in the order as low as No. 8 is one thing for an aging, declining half-billionaire, but to be pinch-hit for in a key situation by someone three years older is something completely different. Of course, A-Rod said all the right things following the game, but it had to eat at him a little bit.
Of course, Girardi tried to play it off like a simple baseball decision, but we all know there's more to it, like the Yankees are trying to figure out what to do with a guy who's seemingly spent but still has five years left on his mega-contract.
“You have to make some decisions sometimes that are tough decisions," Girardi said in his postgame press conference. "But I just had a gut feeling. You’ve got a left-handed hitter who’s a low-ball hitter [and] in a sense you’ve got a low-ball pitcher.”