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By Steve Silverman
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Joe Girardi must finish the job.
He must now leave him there as the Yankees prepare for Game 4 of the division series with the Baltimore Orioles.
It might be a bit easier for Girardi to go up to A-Rod and tell him man-to-man that he is making the move for the good of the team because of Ibanez’s spectacular two-homer game that allowed the Yankees to take the lead in the series.
A-Rod did not pout when Ibanez pinch-hit for him in the ninth. He seemed to welcome the move.
He was up on the top step, high-fiving with Mariano Rivera when Ibanez drove his game-tying home run into the lower deck.
He was relieved at not having to go up and fail one more time. Ibanez got him off the hook.
Girardi has nothing to explain. He made a brilliant managerial move, but it won’t help the Yankees get through this series if he goes back and puts A-Rod back in the lineup for Game 4.
Let A-Rod come off the bench and pinch-hit if you need him. The best move would be to put Eric Chavez in at third base, let Ibanez play the outfield in place of Nick Swisher (.200 in the series) and have Jayson Nix play shortstop while Derek Jeter mans the designated hitter spot.
Girardi would not be sending any message to the Orioles or his own players with such moves. He would just be trying to win the series.
The Yankees will continue to struggle and may not be able to shake the Orioles if he puts A-Rod and Swisher back in the lineup. Sitting them on the bench gives the Yankees their best lineup for the rest of this series.
Nobody is saying that Girardi can’t return to his regulars when they get to the American League Championship Series. Once the Yankees win their first playoff series this year, much of the pressure may be relieved, and A-Rod might be able to perform at the level that is expected. Give him a game or two, but not until they get to the next round.
You simply can’t take Ibanez out of the lineup. He’s a difference maker and he’s red hot. You have a much better chance to come out with a victory in Game 4 or Game 5 if Ibanez is in the lineup
It’s just about winning at this point. Thankfully, A-Rod seems to understand this, at least outwardly. He’s not pulling a Reggie Jackson, who never got over being benched in the 1977 playoffs against the Kansas City Royals by Billy Martin.
In Game 5 of that playoff series, Jackson was replaced in the starting lineup by Cliff “Wonder Dog” Johnson at the DH spot. Jackson would later pinch-hit for Johnson, but he could not understand why Martin would have the temerity to take the “straw” out of the Yankees’ drink.
Of course, Jackson would have his moment later in the postseason with a three-homer game in the decisive Game 6 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Benching Rodriguez for the rest of this series is a hard move for Girardi, but one he must make.
The Orioles are great and competitive. It will take the Yankees’ best game to beat them, and they can’t get their best game with A-Rod in the lineup.
Easy yes or no question, Yankees fans: Should Girardi sit A-Rod tonight? Let us know in the comments section below…