Jul
03

Getting used to Alex Rodriguez, non-superstar

By

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Off the bat it looked like he’d tied it. On the first pitch in the bottom of the eighth, just after the Yankees had relinquished the lead, A-Rod nearly brought them back. Joel Perlta delivered a curveball that fell into the lower half of the strike zone, middle-away. That’s a pitch that Rodriguez has handled well in the past. Using his superhuman opposite field power, Rodriguez put a good swing on it and seemingly caught it on the at part of the bat. It was high, it was far…

But it was not gone. Instead it fell into Ben Zobrist’s glove just before it hit the top of the wall. You weren’t alone if your first thought was, “two years ago that would have been gone.” Despite the clarity of that thought, the reality took some time to sink in. The time of Alex Rodriguez as a premier hitter in the majors has seemingly passed. This is a particularly harrowing idea considering the future commitment the Yankees have made to him.

Heading into the season I retained guarded optimism for Rodriguez’s turnaround. His underperformance in 2011 was largely due to injuries. First the torn meniscus in his knee played a part in his waning power, and then it caused him to miss more than a month. September injuries further sapped his performance and his on-field time. After a winter spent getting platelet-rich plasma injections and working with Mike Clark to restore his bodily balance, there certainly remained the chance that he’d return to at least his 2010 form, if not his 2008-2009 form.

While Rodriguez has been healthy this year, playing in 76 of the Yankees 79 games, his production has shown no signs of improving. In fact, his power numbers are lower than they were last year, while his other numbers are seemingly in line. He has hit just nine doubles this year in his 76 games, down from 21 doubles in 99 games last year. Even at 150 games, A-Rod is on pace for only 17 or 18 doubles this year.

In the last two seasons combined, in which Rodriguez has played 175 games and has amassed 753 plate appearances, he’s hitting just .272/.360/.450. An .810 OPS isn’t all that bad; it ranks fourth among qualified third basemen in the last two seasons. But it’s a far cry from the .888 OPS he produced from 2009 through 2010. That mark ranked second in the majors among full-time third basemen, behind only Ryan Zimmerman. The most striking change from the 2009-2010 to the 2011-2012 period is Rodriguez’s power numbers. He went from a .241 ISO during those seasons to a .178 ISO in the last two.

The good news is that Rodriguez is still relatively productive among his peers. He ranks seventh in the majors in OPS among third basemen, and fourth in the AL. We can take solace in that when Rodriguez hits another single. Yet at his salary, and at his expectation level, the commendation falls a bit flat. The Yankees expected superstardom for a longer span than they realized. Those days, it appears, are in the past.

We’ve seen veteran players turn things around after slow first halves before. Jason Giambi got off to a slow start in 2005 before battering the competition in the second half. Just last year Derek Jeter exploded in the second half after hitting just .270/.330/.353 in the first half. There is hope, then, that Rodriguez can turn things around. But at this point it’s difficult to maintain even guarded optimism. The evidence of the last few years just doesn’t seem to point in that direction.

Categories : Offense

130 Comments»

  1. Rey22 says:

    Good thing we only have to pay him for another 5 years? 6 years? I lost count.

  2. Paul VuvuZuvella says:

    Sigh. This would have been the worst contract in professional sports history even if the Yankees weren’t only bidding against themselves.

  3. bartonbickle says:

    I am still holding out hope.

    I can’t shake the thought that he’s only got 13 HR after 3 months, though, when he had 14 in April of 2007 alone.

  4. Knoxvillain says:

    I have no problem with the way A-Rod has been playing. He is 36, not 26. I think a lot of people forget that, especially considering his contract.

    Oh, and here comes Stuart.

    • Murderers' Row Boat says:

      Yeah, because paying $29 million dollars for him this year is a steal at his age.

      • Knoxvillain says:

        I never said it was a steal. I said I didn’t have a problem with it. What do you expect? .315/40/140? This is how A-Rod is going to be for the next several years. I wish he wasn’t making 29 million dollars, but it is what it is.

        • jjyank says:

          That’s pretty much how I think of it too. It’s not ideal, but it could be worse for sure.

          • CountryClub says:

            But it’s going to get worse. Much, much worse.

            • jjyank says:

              Maybe. Or maybe he can still be a decent OBP/BA guy with dimished power going forward. I don’t have a crystal ball.

            • Knoxvillain says:

              I think he is going to be a a .270/28/90 guy for the next several years. Very good numbers, but not worth his money.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              We don’t know when, and we don’t know how steep that decline would be. He could concievably settle into what he is right now for the next three years or so.

              There’s nothing you can do about the salary. What’s done is done.

        • Murderers' Row Boat says:

          Sure, it’s not that terrible now, but consider an above average career decline from here. Here’s what the team will be paying him for the five years.

          $28m 2013
          $25m 2014
          $21m 2015
          $20m 2016
          $20m 2017

          Do you really think come the end 2013 there won’t be massive pressure to deal with the situation to get under the $189m cap they want? How about in 2014? Especially if they miss out out a free agent target because A-Rod’s contract. Every year after that it will get progressively worse.

          The only redeeming factor is knowing in 2017, they will saying that the Pujols contact makes the A-Rod look like a steal.

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            ….and the solution to that is?

          • Knoxvillain says:

            I understand the monetary difficulties that A-Rod is going to cause this team. Hopefully it doesn’t get in the way of the 189m plan by the Yankees. He’s stuck here until he retires (unless he doesn’t retire at the end of the deal and ends up in Oakland or on the White Sox).

            On another note, I can’t wait to see Pujols’ career go down the drain. He’s lucky he never got caught cheating though.

    • Steve says:

      I think when your cleanup hitter, who is also the highest paid player in the history of professional sports, has to be defended with “he’s 36 not 26 and people forget that because of his contract” it vindicates the people who criticize him. You’re right, it is what it is, and what it is is arguably the worst contract ever. If you want to justify the $29 million singles machine, that’s fine but it’s a pretty weak defense.

      • Knoxvillain says:

        I’m not justifying his contract or trying to give him an excuse, but it doesn’t make sense for someone to get mad over A-Rod in 2012 not being like the A-Rod pre-2009. He is getting old and it is obviously showing. It doesn’t matter if people think he’s worth zero dollars or 30 million dollars, he is going to get paid that much, so everyone just has to deal with it, sadly.

        • Steve says:

          Fine, fair enough. But there’s a difference between deal with it and “I have no problem with the way A-Rod is playing.” The money is gone but if he can’t do anything but hit singles any more he shouldn’t be the cleanup hitter. Since he still is the cleanup hitter people are right to be upset about it.

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            I’d certainly agree with you that batting order is a completely different issue. I’m not a huge batting order guy, but it’s certainly a legit complaint.

            • Steve says:

              It’s a different complaint, but like AJ before him, the guy with all the money tied up is going to get every chance to succeed. Like Jeter and the people who want/wanted to drop him down, ARod will be batting 3rd or 4th long past his usefulness. If he was making a minimum salary he would have already dropped by now (in my opinion).

              • Robinson Tilapia says:

                I’m not inclined to agree that it’s tied to money alone, but more ego and respect. I don’t think he’s a clean-up hitter. The #2 suggestion is certainly interesting.

          • LK says:

            Point taken, but where do you want to bat him instead? He’s 4th on the team in wOBA right now, and one of the players ahead of him is Gardner. They can’t have Granderson and Cano take every at-bat. Those two are probably more suited to the cleanup spot than Alex is, but he’s still been one of their three best hitters this year, and exactly where he bats in the top few spots of the order is pretty trivial.

          • Knoxvillain says:

            I think A-Rod should be batting 2nd. He would be perfect there. He isn’t going to hit 40 home runs anymore, but he is still a good hitter I think.

            • jjyank says:

              I’m also on the “A-Rod, #2 hitter” bandwagon.

              • Knoxvillain says:

                I think Jeter, A-Rod, Granderson, Cano, Tex, Swisher should be the top six. The bottom three would depend on Ibanez, Chavez, Martin, Stewart, Jones, etc.

                • Robinson Tilapia says:

                  Again, not a huge lineup guy, but the K’s for Granderson would worry me at the 3 hole. Swap him and Cano?

                  • jjyank says:

                    I like it. Jeter – ARod – Cano – Granderson – Tex – Swisher, then bottom 3.

                    • Preston says:

                      I know that Cano and Granderson don’t have huge platoon splits but it still makes it more complicated for opposing managers when you split up the LHBs. For me Jeter, Granderson, Rodriguez, Cano, Tex is still the best lineup.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            That’s Girardi’s decision not ARod’s.

        • rogue says:

          It does make sense with that $189 mil tax threshold in 2014, looming and ARod is taking up a lot of that space.

          Question:

          If the team were to simply release ARod after the 2013 season, would his salary still count against the luxury tax?

      • Ted Nelson says:

        That’s not ARod’s fault, though, it’s ownership’s fault. Why are you criticizing ARod because ownership listened to Levine instead of Cashman?

  5. Paul VuvuZuvella says:

    … Then again, Big Papi was written off for dead by many a couple of years ago.

  6. BigJoe says:

    AROD needs to go visit Big Papi and Jose Bautista’s pharmacist in the Dominican…

  7. Joe says:

    I still hold out the hope he gets on a tear with the power numbers. It may be a fools hope, but I believe in Arod much more than I believe in Teix who is purportedly healthy and has declined into Dave Kingman territory with the bat. I know it looks like Arod is cooked, but Jeter looked much more cooked than this and came back stronger.

    • Anthony says:

      Tex has dissapointed me too but remember he’s still dealing with that viral infection… its been rough, sleepless nights, messed up vocal cords, etc

  8. stuart b says:

    Where are you brother?

  9. jjyank says:

    Hopefully A-Rod can keep the OBP up. I’d consider that a win at this point.

  10. Robinson Tilapia says:

    We could possibly get to hear from everyone from stuart a through stuart z here.

    In all seriousness, I’ll take a guy who can hit .270-.280 and hit about 15 HRs a year while still playing solid defense at third. The salary was always going to be theater of the absolute absurd.

  11. Rocky Road Redemption says:

    It’s unfair to pin superstar expectations on A-Rod this year. Personally, I’m very happy with A-Rod. At his age, to be as productive as he is is a definite win for the Yankees. The contract we gave him sucked, but it’s not his fault, I’d have signed it too.

    A-Rod is still one of the best 3rd basemen in baseball. I’m very happy with that.

  12. Anthony says:

    I remember getting attacked after I made an angry post about Arod swinging and missing to end the ALDS last year. Yes, without him we would have not won in ’09, but its incredibly frustrating to see him strikeout and hit into routine double players given the amount we pay him. Finally, someone agrees with me. He is just not producing and the contract we signed with him is nothing short of scary.

    • Anthony says:

      double-plays*

    • Rocky Road Redemption says:

      Dude, striking out to end a game is not an A-Rod thing. It was one at-bat, he just had the bad luck to be the last out. It IS pretty ridiculous that you bashed him for that.

      • Anthony says:

        Sorry if you misunderstood. I didn’t criticize him for that ONE at-bat, that would be ignorant. It was the tipping point, though. I voiced my opinion that I was not fed-up with Alex (for the season in its entirety), but everyone just invoked ’09. I admit that he had a great postseason back then but that was then and this now. I understand that he is past his prime but his performance is not justifying the nice fat contract we gave him. I’ve watched nearly ever game this season… its either a pathetic ground ball, a strikeout, or a homerun when the Yanks are already up. His only clutch at-bat this season was the grand slam against the Braves.

    • TomH says:

      “We”? Who is this “we” of whom you speak?

  13. DJ4K&Monterowasdinero says:

    And what would his #’s be without Robbie batting behind him (mostly)? He plays on one of the best offenses in baseball the last few years. He can hide more in our lineup.

  14. RI$P FTW says:

    He’s at least a better GM than Jeter.
    Melky >>>>>>>>>> AJ (NL stats don’t count for pitchers…RAB rule #467)

  15. Reggie C. says:

    Alex Rodriguez is more of an Alex than an Arod. We should really retire the “Arod” nickname. Age was going to catch up, and while Alex does still make the occasional hard contact he’s going to need to get moved to the 2 spot permanently next season.

  16. Frank says:

    A-Rod is nowhere the player he was. He’s an “old” 37. Will he have a spurt here and there and produce in small doses? Perhaps. But moving forward, it’s highly doubtful. Be that as it may- the Yanks are stuck with this guy for the duration. I can accept that. What I can’t accept is continuing to hit him 3-4 in the lineup under the pretense he’s the A-Rod from ’05 whose “close” or who is “due to break out” and carry the team. It ain’t happening. I just wish the Yanks would acknowledge this, bat him down in the order and we’re done with it.

  17. LiterallyFigurative says:

    I’m pulling for Alex to turn it around. But more and more reality is setting in.

    It’s kind of weird, but I’d feel better about A-Rod if he were hitting .230 or something, where you could make the argument that he’s in a slump or has some mechanical thing.

    But he’s hitting .270-ish and not slugging, which speaks more to not having the power than just regular struggles.

    Now, obviously it’s not in his best interest, but I would rather him retire than just be another guy for years. I hate seeing legends and God-like ballplayers just being average and trying to hang on. It;s their right and their bodies, but from a fans perspective it’s cring-inducing.

  18. Jonathan says:

    I really wonder how his lower half is doing and considering Chavez’s exceptional year so far if giving him more rest is the right move. His balance and weight distribution are completely shot. That could have to do with having to start earlier than usual to compensate for a lack of bat speed or his knee/hip are still affecting his performance (or both). It also doesn’t seem that he has a clue how pitchers are pitching him which doesn’t make sense with his history of being a cage and video rat. I believe he has .285/.375/.475 or so talent with 25+ HR’s and above average defense talent left in him without needing a miracle but lately he’s fallen off.

    Of course he rebounded pretty well after his poor start and had his average up to .300 and OBP around .370-.380 so maybe he’s in for another run. Regardless I’d like to get him a little more rest and 1/2 days, especially with finally having a suitable backup. The guy hasn’t been the nicest person in the world in my limited encounters with him but I still root for him as a player and when he’s right there aren’t many players more fun to watch play. Had Hank not gone fucking insane people would realize for his age and position he’s still a very good player.

    • jim p says:

      On the rest: absolutely. And by “rest” I’m not thinking “DH/half-rest.” Full days off 3 or 4 times a month. Especially while we have Chavez healthy.

      And it does look to me like he’s just guessing wrong a lot at the plate. Like you say, he’s been very savvy his whole career, but he just looks continually puzzled out there this year.

  19. vin says:

    His numbers are certainly in decline… there’s no doubt about that. Players don’t get better when they’re in their late 30s (Barry Bonds being one of the few exceptions).

    However, I’m curious to see how his decline matches up with the league-wide drop in offensive production.

    • TomH says:

      Players don’t get better when they’re in their late 30s (Barry Bonds being one of the few exceptions</b).

      Ha ha.

  20. Al in Houston says:

    I have never seen soooo many bloop hits in my life. It seems to me that A-Rat has lost some of his swagger……

  21. eephus_pitch says:

    Alex Rodriguez is an average baseball player now. That’s what he is. It’s sad, it’s annoying, his salary’s a joke, but there’s really nothing any of us can do about it.

    We all hoped he’d be a star longer than this, even though everyone knew there’d be significant decline phase in that contract. Unfortunately for all of us, it started less than halfway into a 10-year deal.
    In other words, try batting him leadoff. He has a decent OBP and can still pop one if he gets the right pitch. Move Jeter back to the two-hole, his patience has disappeared.

  22. kenthadley says:

    I can’t get over the fact that Arod negotiated this contract based on his being the “clean” pursuer of all the big time offesive power goals in baseball history…when all along he was the ONLY ONE who knew he was lying. Now he’s content to eat up what will be close to 15% of the payroll for several 189M years. Yes you can’t blame him for taking the money from dummy Hank, but you can blame him for negotiating it while covering up his lie. For that reason, it’s easy to get down on this guy over the next few years for average performance. Had he admitted the juice before the negotiations, his contract and “real” performance would have been more in line, and fans would not have the angst as much over his decline years. If the payroll had grown to 250mil, like it appeared to be before the Steinbros took over and the rules changed, his contract and performance wouldn’t be so onerous. But 25m out of 189m for this performance is not going to sit will with many fans. It may be old news, but it will be there for 5 more years. I watched Mantle decline, and it was nothing like this. The fans still loved him.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Lying about what? He was just as elite a player when not taking steroids as a member of the Yankees. Come on.

      • kenthadley says:

        So you think he’d have gotten the same contract had the news come out before he signed that he’d done the juice?

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          I think it’s much more complicated than that.

          Steroids, no steroids, admission, no admission, it was always going to be bigger probability that he wouldn’t live up to that massive contract.

          • kenthadley says:

            I guess my take is his prior admission would have meant he’d have gotten a much smaller contract, and consequently we wouldn’t be paying 25-30 mil out of 189M for what may amount to Scott Brosius performance in the coming years, if that. Watching Arod decline at 10-15 mil obviously wouldn’t have hurt the next 5 years as it will now..it will cost us resigning one or two of Nick, Grandy, and Cano. When folks start to realize that, and he declines further, it will get ugly.

          • eephus_pitch says:

            A big part of the lure of having him on the team was going to be his “clean” breaking of the homerun record. Bonds had just set the tainted record that season, the Yanks wanted to capitalize on A-Rod doing it for real, the right way.
            Then the truth came out…

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              Some people would feel that way. Some cared about the record, period. I don’t think that’s accurate across the entire fanbase.

        • jjyank says:

          He was juicing in Texas right? So was he juicing when he won the MVP in 2007? Because if he wasn’t, then he might have stil gotten the contract (or something close). I don’t think it’s that simple.

          • jim p says:

            But it was the selling point — the milestone homeruns on the way to being the all-time homerun leader, and done while clean — which accounts for at least part of the reason they so desperately wanted to sign him.

            Then there’s the fact that steroid users often develop joint problems and decline precipitously.

            If the Steinbrenner’s had known, he likely still would have gotten a great deal, but maybe it would have been for 7 or 8 years and for $4-5M less a year. So I think there’s some value in the point raised.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              It was the selling point to some. It wasn’t the selling point to everyone. Not everyone draws their lines the same way. Mine, for example? Quite squiggly.

              • jim p says:

                It was the selling point to the Steinbrenners, and those would be the relevant people in the issue of offering money to ARod.

        • mike says:

          IDK – while im inclined to think that he would have gotten a lesser deal, he was still producing at a high level when the contract was signed, and Im hard pressed to find anyone else who is not getting paid alot even if they were named in the report IF they are still producing.

          Only hope would have been for a lesser length, but the $ would have still been high, and likely have been another year or two left either way

          • kenthadley says:

            He wouldn’t have gotten the length if they didn’t think he would be the “clean” Barry Bonds. Look at Big Papi….one or two year contracts now, based on performance. You could live with that with Arod right now. I just think in another 2 years you could have him hitting 15/70/.245 and soaking a large part of the payroll, making it not only prohibitive to hold onto to better players, but killing us offensively. It has already started, based on current numbers, but not on the payroll yet.

    • Brian S. says:

      Well he will be making 26 mil in 2014 but just 21 mil after that the next few years. And isn’t 2014 the only year we have to be below 189?

  23. jim p says:

    Do we wait until next year to move him out of the 3-4-5 spots, then? Or never? Seems like he’d be better for us in the 2 or 6-7 spots in the current lineup.

  24. Brian S. says:

    He hasn’t been a ‘superstar’ since 2009. 2010 was the year his production fell off. Still a good player though so I’m not going to complain.

  25. Greg says:

    AROD to the Angels for Vernon Wells and Callespo. Callespo can play 3rd and Wells is just the contractual baggage to make up for AROD’s contract. Who hangs up first?

  26. Stuart a is reading this article in a dark room with the mouse in his left hand, a bottle of lotion and a package of kleenex.

    Seriously though, everything I want to say about Alex I’ve said and has been said here. His contract is a joke, but I would’ve come out and called him an idiot if he had turned it down when Hank offered it to him. His numbers aren’t great when judged against Arod in the 2000s, but when judged against his peers he’s more than capable. Complaining about the contract and blaming Alex for it might help you sleep better at night, I’m sorry, but there’s really not much we can do as fans or the team can do. All we can do is wait this out, and if you really want to get rid of Alex, give us a good replacement for him, don’t just say well dump him because he’s not who he used to be. Nobody in baseball is what A-Rod used to be and will be for the next ten years. That is a .300/40/130 guy with some speed and good/great defense.

    • eephus_pitch says:

      I agree with all of this, except I’d just call him “capable” not “more than capable.”
      I think he’s just an average ballplayer now. Maybe if he was at least the best 3rd baseman in the game it would be different. I know he’s never going to be the best player in the whole game, but I’d like him to be better than middle of the pack at his position.

      Not that we have any realistic options.

    • eephus_pitch says:

      And that image of stuart, while entirely accurate, is still going to give me nightmares.

  27. MUIDATS EEKNAY says:

    This reminds me of an Onion headline I just made up: “Fans Upset About Steroid Use Upset at Players Aging Naturally”

  28. Tyrone Sharpton says:

    Not my money, so I dont give a fuck. He’s still a useful player

  29. Betty Lizard says:

    I’m pretty sure that Stuart has a handful of steel balls and is muttering under his breath about his missing strawberries, er, A-Rod.

    As for me, Alex Rodriquez isn’t even on my list of things to worry about. He’s not playing like a superstar, but he’s “fine.” I’m just grateful when he’s healthy and always hopeful he’ll go on a tear.

  30. Sean Serritella says:

    The obvious reason is steroids. He had to stop taking them so his power numbers disappeared. A-Rod should of never been a power hitter in his entire career actually. He owes every thing he did to steroids.

    • Brian S. says:

      lol no. It’s age.

    • eephus_pitch says:

      That’s idiotic. You know that, right?
      How much do you really think PEDs do for a player?

      Maybe you take 50 of his homers away. Hell, take 100 of them away. That’s almost certainly on the high side, but I’ll give it to you. I’ll pretend that A-Rod’s hit more than 100 homers than he “would” have hit without PEDs. So take them away from his career totals.
      He’s still a shortstop/third baseman with over 500 homers. That doesn’t sound like a power hitter to you?

  31. dalelama says:

    Too many people have been making too many excuses for Old Purple Lips for too long.

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