What was that noise? It sounded like relief, or perhaps a collective sigh of gratitude that 50,000 people make when they realize the manager finally heard their collective appeal.

Or maybe it was a poignant riptide beneath the sneering contempt they have for the guy Joe Girardi was finally taking out of the spotlight, the same guy he spared from another chorus of Bronx cheers when he sent a pinch-hitter up in that ninth inning.

Make no mistake: The former superstar known as A-Rod was not shown anything but the kind of respect afforded one of the greatest players every made last night. Alex Rodriguez even got to keep his No. 3 spot in the Yankees' lineup.

But when his manager had to maximize his microscopic chance of tying the game with a long ball in the 11th hour of Game 3, he let the world in on something they already knew:

A-Rod's time — at least his time as a guy you can trust in such a circumstance — has ended.

And what do you know? Joe Girardi finally went with his gut, instead of being dictated to by something his laptop spit out. Some say it was brave. We say it was a move that virtually nobody would wrangle over — not even Rodriguez, who demonstrated the final gong on his career as a relevant player by embracing a role he called "cheerleader."

If this was just another performance, he is a great loss to the theater. When Raul Ibanez hit that pinch-hit home run to force extra innings, Rodriguez was already on the top step of the dugout, leading the applause.