So last night, Joe Girardi pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez, one of the greatest hitters of all time, and put in 40-year-old Raul Ibanez, who then proceeded to hit the game-tying and game-winning home runs in his two at-bats in the game. Not only is this annoying because it's the Yankees, but it's annoying because it's something for the awful fans and sports writers who are narrative-mongers to latch on to about A-Rod. I'd just like to take this opportunity, before you read every single "A-Rod just can't get it done in the playoffs" article that will come out today, to tell you all the reasons why that's just wrong.
1. A-Rod is undoubtedly one of the best hitters of all time. I know steroids is a huge complicating factor in making this claim, but come on. Steroids might knock him down from being the, say, 4th-best hitter of all time to, like, at WORST 20th-best. This is in the billion years of baseball history, and he's at WORST 20th. Unless you're a complete steroid bonerkill, there's no way around this. Personally, the steroid thing bumps him down on my list to about #10-#12. Mickey Mantle/Stan Musial territory as a hitter.
2. His reputation for "not getting it done in the playoffs" is garbage. Are his statistics slightly worse in the playoffs? Yes, but it is truly only SLIGHTLY. He's gotten home runs in over 5% of his plate appearances in the regular season, and over 4% in the playoffs. His OBP in the playoffs is .008 lower than in the regular season, and he strikes out a little more in the playoffs (18.2% of the time in the regular season and 22.4% of the time in the playoffs). But doesn't it make sense that a player should perform worse in the postseason? You're going up against better competition, and you're not facing a team's 5th starter, and often not even their 4th starter. Similar slight drop-offs occur between Derek Jeter's regular season and postseason statistics (except Jeter hits slightly more home runs in the playoffs, Jesus, fine).
And for those who say A-Rod isn't "clutch" in the postseason, let me just make this argument. Let's assume that you're right, that A-Rod is not "clutch" in the postseason. But doesn't a home run in the 4th inning count as much as a home run in the 9th? If A-Rod did things that put you ahead earlier in the game so that no one has to be clutch at the end, isn't that just as good?
3. A-Rod is coming back from an injury that forced him to miss the entire month of August. He came back and had a meh September, and I wouldn't be surprised if the injury is still lingering. The point is, a player's performance when coming back from injury shouldn't define his legacy, especially such an all-time great like A-Rod.
4. A-Rod is older now than he ever has been, and if my calculations are correct, that statement will be true for the rest of his life. He's getting worse every year. One game at age 37 while coming back from injury should not go towards defining his legacy.
5. A-Rod playing this badly in a postseason series is not typical. 1 hit, 1 walk and 7 strikeouts so far. Abysmal. But this, like every postseason series, is such a small sample size. Every great hitter ever has put up a line like that in a 3-game stretch. It's a shame for A-Rod that it's happening in the playoffs, but if he came back the next game and went 2-3 with a walk and a double, that would drastically affect his numbers. The sample size of a playoff series is misleading.
6. On a different note, Joe Girardi is not a genius. Girardi said he had a "gut feeling" that he should pinch hit for A-Rod, which is fine. Maybe A-Rod's being bothered by injuries. Maybe there's something that we fans can't see that is actually hampering him. I'm absolutely willing to accept that, and to accept that pinch hitting for A-Rod was the right move, even though it doesn't make sense stats-wise. The fact that Raul ended up with the tying AND winning home runs makes Joe Girardi look like a genius to some, but let's be real: he got lucky. I'm willing to accept that A-Rod may have been likely to perform badly in his last at-bat for reasons that I can't measure, but I'm not willing to accept that replacing him with Raul Ibanez was genius. It may have been gutsy to bench A-Rod when Girardi thought he didn't give the Yankees the best chance to win, but it wasn't genius.
So if you're one of those Yankees fans that hates A-Rod, ice your boner. Also, you're unbelievably annoying if you're one of those Yankees fans. You're like the Red Sox fans who hated Manny. Just awful.