When I walked by the newstand on Saturday morning, the cover of the Daily News caught my eye. On Friday, one day after the Yanks’ crushing loss to an inferior Tigers’ team in Game 5 of the ALDS, the esteemed paper polled its reactionary readers about the future of the Yankees. Who should stay, who should go, who should bear the weight of the world — or at least the ALDS loss — on his shoulder?
The answer, of course, was A-Rod. It always is A-Rod. It always has been, and it always will be. As of now, 69 percent of poll respondents say the Yanks should dump A-Rod. That’s actually down from upwards of 75 percent earlier this weekend. Time heals all wounds or something.
This need to lay the blame on someone for the ALDS loss is both obviously New York and entirely frustrating. The Yankees lost the ALDS due to a confluence of factors. Joe Torre in the Commissioner’s Office couldn’t read a weather forecast on Friday before Game 1, the Yanks couldn’t score off of Max Scherzer in Game 2, CC couldn’t control the strike zone during Games 3 or 5, and the team failed to get that one big hit that would have put them over the top on Thursday. Along the way, their 4, 5 and 6 hitters did absolutely nothing with the bat, and despite hot series, Robinson Cano scored no runs via anything other than his own home runs and Jorge Posada had no RBIs despite going 6 for 14.
Still, it’s A-Rod the Choker, A-Rod the guy who did this rather than the guy who blasted a Joe Nathan offering deep into the night in October 2009. It was A-Rod who went just 2 for 18, offering up a close replica of his 1 for 14 showing in 2006 against the Tigers. He struck out with the bases loaded, and he struck out to end the Yanks’ season.
By no stretch do I think A-Rod had a good ALDS. He made a few nice plays in the field but couldn’t get his groove back at the plate. For Alex, in fact, that was a theme this August and September. After starting the year at .295/.366/.485 through mid-July, A-Rod found himself on a 27-home run pace when he had to undergo knee surgery. In his first game back in late August, he jammed his thumb, and played just 19 games the rest of the way. In 84 plate appearances, he hit just .191/.345/.353 with three long balls as he battled aches and pains.
Had Joe Girardi bumped him out of the four spot during the playoffs, he would have a legitimate reason for doing so. The A-Rod the Yanks had in October wasn’t the A-Rod the Yanks had in May or June. But Girardi was far more willing to be flexible — almost too flexible — with the bullpen and not flexible enough with the lineup. Brett Gardner and his hot bat were minimized in the nine spot, Jorge Posada knocked the ball around hitting behind some cold bats and A-Rod hit fourth as though it were inscribed on stone tablets as the 11th Commandment. Thou shalt bat A-Rod fourth no matter his health.
What makes the Daily News poll somewhat less outrageous though is the hidden nugget of truth in it. The Yanks probably can’t dump A-Rod; after all he has no-trade protection in his contract. But if the Yankees had their druthers, they wouldn’t have A-Rod under contract for the next six years and owed $143 million to boot. A-Rod will be a fine third baseman for the next three years or so, but after that, things could get ugly as his decline continues. Already, New York sports media folk write about Jesus Montero and the DH as though he’s hogging A-Rod’s eventual position and will have to be traded for it. Talk about shooting off your nose to spite your face.
Basically, then, we as Yankee fans are stuck with A-Rod. He’s our problem when he struggles; he’s our superstar when he drops A-bombs into the left field bleachers. Blemishes and all though, A-Rod ain’t going anywhere before 2017, no matter how hard the Yankees try. We can learn to like it or boo him for the next half a decade. We’re going to war with the A-Rod we have and not the A-Rod we might want or wish to have at a later time. No amount of ALDS struggles or reactionary polls will change that.