Raul Ibanez adds True Yankee plaque to mantel full of Tom Morello lookalike contest trophies

Years ago, one particularly incessant SNY.tv reader used to email me practically every time a player whose inclusion on the Mets’ roster I railed against did anything positive on a baseball field. If Marlon Anderson slapped a ground-ball single up the middle, seconds later I’d find in my inbox a subject-free message from this guy asking only, “What do you think of Marlon Anderson NOW!?” Stuff like that. Shawn Green makes a sliding catch, I get an email. Robinson Cancel somehow reaches first base safely, email. All the time. It was endlessly frustrating, but still somehow entertaining.

He gave it up around the time I started this blog; I suspect he just never joined me in the venture over from the network’s proper website, but I hope for his sake he found something more productive to do with his time. Maybe he fell in love. I don’t know. I kind of miss him.

Still, in the bottom of ninth inning of last night’s Yankees-Orioles tilt, when Raul Ibanez — a player frequently linked to the Mets during Omar Minaya’s hapless, years-long quest for capable corner outfielders and an option I frequently denounced — homered to tie the game while pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez against Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, I immediately checked my email to see if it was enough to prompt a comeback. I did so again after Ibanez hit a walk-off homer on the first pitch of the bottom of the 12th. No dice.

There are plenty of reminders of Ibanez’s unlikely heroics on the Internet and in the local newspapers this morning. Many of them — especially in the tabloids — focus on his production in A-Rod’s absence.

But despite the outcome, and leaving aside Rodriguez’s mostly baseless reputation for postseason struggles, Joe Girardi’s decision to pinch-hit Ibanez for Rodriguez against a right-hander with the game on the line should hardly seem indefensible.

Rodriguez is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, but Joe Girardi had to manage to win the game in a short postseason series. And Rodriguez, for as dominant a hitter as he was in his prime, has not been immune to the effects of aging. After posting a stellar 153 park- and league-adjusted OPS+ over a ten-season run from 2000 to 2009, A-Rod has sported an only pretty-good 118 number in the same stat since the start of the 2010 season as nagging injuries began to take their toll on his offense.

This season, Rodriguez especially struggled against right-handers, sporting only a .256/.326/.391 line for the season. Since Ibanez posted .248/.319/.492 marks in the same split and the Yankees’ next four hitters all batted left-handed or from both sides of the plate, Girardi had pretty strong justification for the substitution beyond Rodriguez’s reputation for October choke-jobs. Maybe it was even in the much-reviled binder somewhere.

That’s what seems too often lost in discussions of whether the Yankees should drop Rodriguez from his third spot in the batting order this postseason (beyond, of course, research showing that the effects of batting order are wildly overrated): He’s not their best hitter anymore. Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira all outperformed A-Rod at the plate this season. Certainly Rodriguez should earn some benefit of the doubt for the 647 home runs on his resume, but time could hardly care less, and seems more bent on debilitating A-Rod than it is Jeter or Ibanez.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the next five years of Rodriguez’s contract.

We’ve just witnessed 25 percent of history’s worst 40-home run seasons

Per baseball-reference’s spectacular play index, there have only been eight times in baseball history that a player hit at least 40 home runs but posted a park- and league-adjusted OPS+ below 120. Two of them were this season. Here’s the full list:

[sny-table rowheader=true columnheader=true]
Player;HR;OPS+;Year;Tm;BA;OBP;SLG
Jose Canseco;46;114;1998;TOR;.237;.318;.518
Greg Vaughn;45;117;1999;CIN;.245;.347;.535
Curtis Granderson;43;116;2012;NYY;.232;.319;.492
Adam Dunn;41;112;2012;CHW;.204;.333;.468
Tony Batista;41;102;2000;TOR;.263;.307;.519
Adam Dunn;40;114;2006;CIN;.234;.365;.490
Vinny Castilla;40;115;1997;COL;.304;.356;.547
Vinny Castilla;40;112;1996;COL;.304;.343;.548
[/sny-table]

Obviously the park adjustment plays a big role in most cases. Kudos to open-stance hero Tony Batista.

Hiroki Kuroda is not having fun

I’ve never enjoyed playing baseball; never enjoyed pitching, to be honest with you…. I’m not saying this because I’m with the Yankees. This has been all throughout my professional career. There’s a lot of responsibility as a starting pitcher, so rather than enjoy myself out there, I feel like I have to fulfill my responsibilities and that’s my priority.

Hiroki Kuroda.

I suspect there are some subtleties being lost in translation and delivery here, and nothing Kuroda said should really concern Yankee fans all that much — he’s more concerned with being a good pitcher (which he is) than with enjoying himself. It’s just kind of funny to hear any athlete come out and be all, “honestly, bro — this isn’t any fun at all. This is really hard!”

Rock bottom

I don’t typically cover celebrity news here and I especially shy away from the basest form of celebrity gossip — that which deals with addiction, messy divorces, custody cases and the like — because though I realize it comes with the territory for celebrities, reveling in it feels a bit too much like celebrating bloodsport for my tastes*. So Lindsay Lohan’s slow, public fall from the heights of Mean Girls to the depths of her current state of being famous mostly thanks to some high-profile arrests and fame perpetuating fame has gone entirely uncovered by this site.

But now that LiLo’s plunge has, for perhaps the first time, taken her down into the world that this blog inhabits — both physically and thematically — I feel obligated to note the following news. And I hope for Ms. Lohan’s sake that she stumbles upon it and is somehow able to step back and take stock of exactly what it implies for her career and her life:

Late last week, Lindsay Lohan was spotted partying at an Upper East Side bar with Shane Spencer and Pat Kelly.

That the bar was four blocks from my home is funny only to me. That she was partying with Shane Spencer and Pat Kelly is universally funny.

Shane Spencer and Pat Kelly. Shane Spencer and Pat Kelly.

Oof, Lindsay Lohan.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be surveying my local pizza-delivery men and making sure they survived the evening OK.

*- So, increasingly, does watching football. But that’s not going to change anytime soon, so I rationalize it by saying that I use up my personal allocation of barbaric entertainment watching football and try to avoid everything on TLC.