It has come down to the final day of the season, with the (or as they are known in these parts, MY) Boston Red Sox tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the final spot in the American League playoffs. The Yankees have been dominated by the Red Sox, their long-time rivals, most of the season, while the Rays have been easier pickings. Lo and behold, it is the Yankees playing the Rays, in a game that could determine who will be the Yankees’ opponents in the League Championship series.
The game is otherwise meaningless to New York, which has already clinched a play-off berth. At this point, a play-off bound manager’s job is to decide which marginal players will be on the post-season roster, to line up his pitching, and to steer clear of injury. Asked if he was bothered that Yankee manager Joe Girardi was surely not going to oppose the Rays with his best team, Boston Manager Terry Francona shrugged. He had earned the right to use the game to prepare for the play-offs, Francona answered.
Yet here was Girardi, starting a team made up of most of his regulars, replacing his pitchers as soon as they were in peril, and generally managing the game against the Rays as if it were the final game of the World Series. And his Yankees, as I write this, are throttling the Rays, 7-1. There is no way to tell what the incorrigibly unpredictable Red Sox will do against the Baltimore Orioles—they are currently one run ahead in a rain delay—but the Yankees have done their duty, and then some,
The essence of ethics is when one does the right thing when there are no personal benefits to be derived from it, when there are no expectations that it be done, and no criticism or sanction will come one’s way by taking an easier course. Girardi and his team had every excuse to allow the Rays to have an easy win, but they fought hard instead—not to help the Boston Red Sox, but to uphold the duties of sportsmanship, and the integrity of the game.
UPDATE: As I posted this, the Rays staged a rally and the score is now 7-6. My opinion stands. Unless, of course, Girardi doesn’t let Mariano Rivera close out the game. Then I’m retracting the whole thing.
UPDATE #2: Well, Girardi didn’t bring in Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher of all time, but the pitcher he did bring in, Cory Wade, has been awfully relieble all season Too bad that he gave up a two-out, two-strike, pinch-hit home run to Dan Johnson, a .108 hitter, who tied the score and saved the Rays season in story-book fashion. I’m not going to blame Joe. Sometimes, you just have to give credit where it’s due, and it is certainly due the Rays.