|Yankees actively trying to alienate A-Rod||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on October 19, 2012
Photo by Keith Allision, used under creative commons license.
It’s hard to say that this year’s Yankees team has been a disappointment -- after all they did reach the League Championship Series. But for the Yankees the standards always seem to be a bit higher than for anyone else. New York fans seem to think that only championships matter, and to be fair the Yankees after the Orioles series and minus Jeter, pretty much stunk.
The Tigers outplayed them badly, outscoring the Yankees 19-6 and that looks more respectable than it really was since four of the Yankees runs came in the first game and at no time during the series did the Yankees lead.
The Yankees can’t blame the loss on bad pitching. With the exception of CC Sabathia who got shelled in game four (giving up six earned runs), the Yankees starters pitched reasonably well. But the Bombers were outpitched, outfielded and outhit every step of the way.
What killed them was the lack of hitting. In the playoffs Robinson Cano went 3 for 39, Curtis Granderson 3 for 29 with 15 Ks, and Alex Rodriguez went 3 for 23 with 12 strikeouts, all against right-handed pitchers. Nick Swisher wasn’t much better, hitting a mere .154, while Russell Martin managed a stellar .172.
Yet the media and the fans have come down on one guy, Rodriguez. And that’s the way the Yankees designed it to be.
It’s true that A-Rod isn’t the player he used to be. He showed vulnerabilities that never were there before. He was regularly outmatched by righties. No one pitched around him, and his in-season RBI totals were the lowest of his career despite a decent batting average (.272) and a home run total (18) that was quite respectable for a third baseman. In season the fans blamed him for the fact that the Yankees didn’t run away with the division.
In the playoffs the focus not surprisingly came back to A-Rod’s “failure” to hit in clutch situations, something that has dogged him before in the eyes of fans. That would have been a minor thing if the Yankees hadn’t been so outclassed by the Tigers in the ALCS and at times by the Orioles in the ALDS.
With no one hitting and A-Rod overmatched, the Yankees somewhere along the line seemed to make a decision. It was time to at least consider severing ties with the three-time MVP. Instead of sticking with their slugger and showing a vote of confidence in him, the front office sided with manager Joe Girardi and several times relegated A-Rod to the bench during the playoffs, emphasizing his struggles and causing the fans to focus on him, instead of others, when the team struggled.
Instead of hearing complaints about Cano (who at one point in the playoffs went 0 for 29), Granderson and Swisher, it cleverly diverted the focus to Rodriguez who is poised to earn $117 million over the next five years from the Yankees and has a no trade clause.
And the truth is that his skills are diminishing and are going to diminish a lot more before his contract expires in 2017. Yet even before the ALCS was over rumors were flying tying the Yankees and Marlins to trade discussions regarding Rodriguez.
There isn’t a lot of doubt that the Yankees would love to shed A-Rod and not have him tying up a valuable bench spot for the next five seasons. Even more, they’d love not to be on the hook for all of the money owed to him -- especially since expert opinion at this point places A-Rod’s value at roughly $5 million per year, with no one likely to offer him a multi-year deal. That’s because like many other players at age 37, the potential fall off from useful player to spectator is very real.
That would leave whoever owns A-Rod’s contract on the hook for whatever is left. Perhaps that’s why the Yankees seem to be focusing the blame on A-Rod and his struggles. By making him the scapegoat and making, the New York audience hostile to him he might well want to get out of New York. If it works they might have a chance at getting him to waive his no trade clause.
It’s a smart move, but only if it works. The All-Star skill set isn’t coming back for Rodriguez and New York fans will be complaining about the contract until 2017 if the Yankees can’t find a way to move him.