DETROIT – The New York Yankees made an extremely controversial decision Thursday in their game against the Detroit Tigers, intentionally walking Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning, even though he was sitting at 2,999 career hits.
Fans were outraged with Manager Aaron Boone’s decision because, well, they wanted to see Cabrera reach 3,000 hits. Social media also blew up with criticism for Boone and the Yankees.
But was it actually the wrong decision?
“It’s a baseball call all the way, but there’s no doubt there’s a little more feeling to it when you’re understanding the situation,” Boone told Bally Sports Detroit after the game. “But in the end, you’ve got to go with what you think is right within the context of the game.”
The Tigers had runners on second and third with two outs and a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Left-handed pitcher Lucas Luetge was on the mound, and left-hander Austin Meadows was on deck.
In his career, Meadows is a .240 hitter against lefties. He owns a career OPS of .873 against right-handers, and a .711 OPS against left-handers.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Meadows, too, behind him, but the left-on-left, the matchup, I just liked it a little bit better,” Boone said.
Cabrera has been lethal against all pitchers throughout his career, but his .963 OPS against lefties is significantly higher than his .906 OPS against righties.
Also, Cabrera was coming off a three-hit performance against the Yankees on Wednesday night. He came into Thursday’s game hitting .333 this season, including .444 (8-for-18) over his last five games.
Meadows, meanwhile, was 0-for-14 in his last four games leading up to that point, including Thursday. All three of his previous at-bats during the afternoon ended in strikeouts.
Guys, Boone’s job is to try to win baseball games. With a 1-0 score in the bottom of the eighth inning, it was absolutely in the Yankees’ best interest to walk Cabrera -- even considering Meadows’ 74.3 mph blooper (which had a .190 expected batting average) dropped for a double.
“Boone’s obligation is to his own team,” Tigers Manager A.J. Hinch said. “I totally get it.”
“Certainly understand (the boos from the crowd),” Boone said. “You don’t necessarily like being in that position, but it’s part of it.”
Boone said it was a little more gut-wrenching than usual to issue that intentional walk, but he wanted to give Luetge the best possible chance to get out of the inning unscathed.
“Tough call, but one I had to make.”
Cabrera was just happy the Tigers won the game. When asked if he had any problem with being intentionally walked in that situation, he laughed and said, “No, my on-base percentage is going up!”