Sorry for the lack of intro, but I wanted to make sure I wrote this while it was still fresh in my head. I saw that Joe addressed it at his end-of-year presser last Friday, and I've seen it mentioned a few other times around the blogosphere and Twitter, and I really don't get it. Joe doesn't owe Jacoby Ellsbury anything. Not an apology, not an explanation, not a phone call, nothing.
Joe did what he thought gave his team the best chance to win by sitting Ellsbury in the Wild Card game. And he had every reason to do so given the way Ellsbury had hit in the second half and given Ellsbury's physical condition leading up to that game. Those two things were linked in some capacity this year, as Ellsbury was clearly not the same player post-knee injury. He and the team swore he was fine, but his contact rates, low slash line, and lack of steal attempts in the second half say otherwise. He hit .202/.254/.246 in September and October, and then he apparently dinged up his back crashing into the wall late in the regular season. Everybody mentioned that when talking about Ellsbury in the few days leading up to the game. So if he's hurt and not performing, what's the big deal in him being out of the lineup?
If it's about the money, that's a somewhat valid argument to make. It's not a good look for Ellsbury or the team to have the $153 million man riding the pine in a postseason game, especially after he put up the disappointing year he did in year 2 of a 7-year deal. But this wasn't a 7, 5, or even 3-game series, it was 1 game. In a 1-game situation like that all normal operating procedures go out the window. It's about what gives the team the best chance to win that game. That's why Rico Noel was on the roster, it's why Rob Refsnyder got the start after not being good enough to start over the first 150 games, it's why teams bring back pitchers on short rest for this game every year.
And in that respect, the money doesn't matter. Salary doesn't trump winning in a 1-game playoff, and neither do feelings. Winning matters. Winning one baseball game to keep your season going. That was the goal and Joe made what he thought were the best baseball decisions to help achieve that goal. Based on what he had seen from Ellsbury leading up to the decision and what he knew about Ellsbury's physical condition, he made the call that he's paid to make and he doesn't have to apologize for that, to Ellsbury or anybody. Ellsbury is paid a lot more than Joe to produce and he didn't do it this season. That's why he was sitting on the bench in the WC game and I'm sure he knows that. If he doesn't, and if he's still upset about the decision, then too bad. Be better next year and maybe Joe won't be forced to make that call.