Thoughts following Alex Rodriguez’s final game

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Last night Alex Rodriguez played the 1,509th and final game of his Yankees’ career. It’s hard to believe it’s over. I still remember exactly where I was when I found out the Yankees acquired him. What a ride this was, huh? A-Rod drove in a run and even played a little third base last night. I have some thoughts on all of this.

1. I think A-Rod is completely done. Forget the logistics of it all — who needs a DH who can’t H? — listening to Alex before and after the game yesterday, he truly sounded like someone at peace with his career being over. I do think he really wanted to become the fourth player to hit 700 home runs, but I also think he realizes being the fourth player to hit 696 home runs is pretty cool too. A-Rod talked about going home and spending time with his family, and basically staying away from baseball for a little while. I know his track record doesn’t exactly scream honesty, but I believed him. He sounded sincere yesterday.

2. Man did Joe Girardi hear it from the crowd yesterday. He was booed loudly during pregame introductions and again when he came out of the dugout to tell the umpires they were giving up the DH and putting Alex at third base in the ninth inning. Girardi said last weekend he would find a way to get A-Rod into as many games as he wanted this week, but it didn’t happen, and Alex admitted he was “disappointed” he didn’t get to start Tuesday and Wednesday. I was disappointed too because I wanted to see him play, and apparently I’m not alone. Girardi really wore it yesterday. Fans booed him like he was David Ortiz or something.

3. Now, that said, I’m becoming increasingly convinced the decision to sit Alex those two games earlier this week was made above Girardi. Girardi was asked about sitting A-Rod the last few weeks after yesterday’s game and he seemed genuinely upset about it. He got really emotional during his press conference. Here’s one little clip:

Later in the press conference Girardi said it was difficult for the organization to sit A-Rod, then corrected himself to say it was difficult for him to sit A-Rod, which is another indication that maybe there were some directives from above. Why? I dunno. Chances are I’m reading way too much into this anyway. I just don’t think Girardi is some evil person who set out to intentionally embarrass Alex the last few weeks.

4. This entire situation was very weird because it all happened so fast, and because it happened in the middle of the season. It was only last Sunday that the Yankees and A-Rod announced he would be playing his final game Friday, giving us less than a full week to prepare. Also, yesterday was August 12th. The Yankees have 47 games remaining. Almost one-third of a season. This was almost like a farewell tour crash course. With Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, we had the entire season to prepare for their retirements. With Alex, it happened very quickly, and it happened at a weird point in the season. The Yankees are going to show up for work today and suddenly A-Rod won’t be there. What a weird situation.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

5. I’m pretty happy Alex got to play third base one last time, even if it was only one batter and the ball wasn’t put in play. A-Rod got a huge ovation when he ran out of the dugout and simply making warm up throws before the inning had to be special for him. (Alex said after the game he was happy he got to make one last throw to Mark Teixeira at first base, even if it was a warm-up toss.) At this point of his career, being a full-time DH became necessary. I’m still going to remember A-Rod as a third baseman — he actually played more games at shortstop (1,272) than third base (1,194) in his career, which surprised me — and you could tell he wanted to get out there one more time. Remember when the Yankees were in San Diego a few weeks back and Alex almost got into a game at third because the Yankees had run out of players? He looked like a kid on Christmas morning when he went to get his glove in the clubhouse. I’m glad he got to go out to third base one last time, even if he all he did was stand on the field for a few pitches.

6. Now that A-Rod and Ivan Nova gone, the longest tenured player in the organization is Brett Gardner, who was drafted in 2005 and made his MLB debut in 2008. There are only two players on the roster right now who wore Yankee pinstripes and played a home game in the old Yankee Stadium: Gardner (28 games) and Tyler Clippard (three games). That’s it. And Clippard’s not even a long-tenured Yankee. He just rejoined the team after spending the 2008-15 seasons elsewhere. This really is the end of an era. Forget about the Core Four and A-Rod being gone and all that. We’re rapidly approaching the point where no players who played in the old Yankee Stadium will remain. I feel old now.

Yankees send off A-Rod with a 6-3 win over the Rays

And just like that, he is gone. Alex Rodriguez‘s time with the Yankees is officially over, and the team sent him out with a win. They beat the Rays 6-3 on Friday night, in front of a packed Yankee Stadium crowd that was decidedly pro-A-Rod. A pretty wild era of Yankees baseball is over.

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

The Most A-Rod Ceremony Ever
That was the most appropriately awkward pregame ceremony in history. That could only happen to A-Rod. I mean really. The Yankees were in the middle of praising the guy and giving him some cool gifts, then BAM, a loud crack of thunder and the skies opened up. It literally rained on his parade. How ridiculous. Of course the baseball gods wouldn’t let this happen without a hitch.

The Yankees gave A-Rod a base signed by his teammates and something else. I’m not sure what. I was too busy being amazed by the rain and the ridiculousness of it all. A-Rod, his family, and a bunch of Steinbrenners were standing there in the rain as the ceremony continued. It was beyond absurd. Eventually everyone hustled off the field. They were already in the dugout before public address announcer Paul Olden finished talking. Only A-Rod.

You Are Now Tuned Into The Greatest
Alex has heard an awful lot of boos at Yankee Stadium over the years. He heard none on Friday. He was cheered during warm-ups, he was given a big Roll Call by the Bleacher Creatures, and he was received a huge ovation before his first at-bat. The cheers were even louder after he doubled in the game-tying run with a line drive into the right-center field gap. To the video:

That double is the 3,115th hit of A-Rod’s career and likely his last. Brett Gardner took a pitch to the foot earlier in the inning and he chugged all the way around from first base to score. Just like the old days, huh? A-Rod went out and gave the Yankees a quick first inning run. That tied the game 1-1 after Evan Longoria took CC Sabathia deep in the top of the first.

Castro Comes Through
Every so often Starlin Castro comes through with a huge game that reminds you exactly why he was in the big leagues at age 20 and so highly touted earlier in his career. He came through with the two biggest hits Friday night. The first came in the fourth inning, with runners at second and third following a single (Mark Teixeira) and a double (Didi Gregorius). Castro hit a two-strike chopper through the 5.5 hole and into left for a two-run single, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead.

Then, in the sixth, Castro gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead with a two-out, two-strike, two-run home run off Chris Archer. Teixeira singled and stole second (!) earlier in the inning to set the rally up. The pitch was an absolute hanger. The hangiest hanger that ever hanged. Archer’s reaction says it all:

Chris Archer

Following A-Rod’s first inning double, Castro drove in New York’s next four runs, and they were all meaningful. He gave the Yankees the lead twice. Good Starlin is mighty good. I hope we get to see more of him going forward.

Sabathia’s Solid Start
This was not an easy start for CC Sabathia, who had to pitch out of more jams than Tampa’s two at-bats with runners in scoring position would lead you to believe. He gave up the solo homer in the first, another run on a Longoria single against the shift in the third, then another run on a sac fly in the fifth after Tim Beckham doubled and moved up on a bunt. Only two of Sabathia’s six innings were 1-2-3 innings.

All told, the Rays hung three runs on Sabathia with four hits and three walks in six innings. He struck out seven, got nine ground ball outs against two in the air, and also benefited from a double play ball. It was nearly two double plays, but instant replay exists now, so the second double play was (correctly) overturned and only one out was given. Anyway, Sabathia had to grind through Friday’s start like he does most starts. The end result, three runs in six innings, is fine with me.

A-Rod Returns To The Hot Corner
Aaron Hicks‘ seventh inning solo home run was bigger than we realized. It was an opposite field job that landed in the very first row — if there is such a thing as a Yankee Stadium cheapie to left field, that was it — and it stretched the lead to 6-3. Still a save situation and all that, yeah, but that extra run is what pushed Joe Girardi to use Alex Rodriguez at third base in the ninth inning.

Girardi explained he did not want to use A-Rod at third with a two-run lead because if he doesn’t make a play — on a grounder or a bunt or whatever — then the tying run is immediately at the plate. With a three-run lead, the Yankees could afford one A-Rod screw up. So, with that three-run lead, Alex came out of the dugout in the ninth inning to play third base for the first time since May 5th of last year. The crowd loved it.

That was a pretty cool moment. I doesn’t compare to Derek Jeter‘s walk-off hit or Jeter and Andy Pettitte taking Mariano Rivera out of the game, but as far as grand finales go, that was pretty awesome. A-Rod said after the game that playing third base was the best part of the night for him, and he thanked Girardi numerous times for the opportunity.

Rodriguez’s time at third base was short. One batter, in fact. Dellin Betances struck out Mikie Mahtook for the first out of the ninth, then Ronald Torreyes came out of the dugout to replace A-Rod. That was the plan. Girardi said he originally planned to let Alex play two outs in the field before removing him so he could get an ovation, but A-Rod said he only wanted one out in the field. He wasn’t all that comfortable out there.

A-Rod hugged his teammates as he walked off the field and waved to the crowd. It was pretty great. The television cameras caught him with tears in his eyes, and really, it was the first time Alex seemed human. He’s this kind of larger than life baseball playing robot who — let’s be honest here — comes off as a bit of a phony. A-Rod was very human in that moment. It was emotional and he couldn’t hold it back. What a way to go out.

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Leftovers
Alex finished the day 1-for-4 with the double and a strikeout. He went 1-for-4 with a double against the (Devil) Rays in his first ever game as a Yankee back in 2004, then went 1-for-4 with a double against the Rays in his final game as a Yankee in 2016. How about that? Baseball, man. It’s amazing.

Teixeira and Castro each had two hits while Gregorius, Hicks, and Chase Headley had one each. Every Yankee reached base at least once except Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, though, to their credit, they both hit line drives right at defenders. So it goes.

Tyler Clippard retired all three batters he faced in the seventh, Adam Warren pitched around a two-out walk in the eighth, and Betances struck out the side in a perfect ninth. Dellin was pitching for the third straight day, you know. Girardi usually doesn’t like to do that.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The post-A-Rod era is next. Writing that sentence made me sad. The Yankees will play their first game without Alex on Saturday afternoon. Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Andriese are the scheduled starters. RAB Tickets can still get you in the door if you want to catch that one live.

DotF: Judge and Puello homer in Scranton’s win

Triple-A Scranton (12-7 win over Rochester)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 K — guessing he’ll have to wait until September for his next call-up
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 4 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — the Yankees have a day game tomorrow, and the fact Judge played tonight and 1B Tyler Austin didn’t is a pretty good indication Austin will be called up to replace Alex Rodriguez
  • DH Cesar Puello: 4-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI
  • 1B Cito Culver: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — look at Cito out here hitting like a first baseman
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 8/3 GB/FB — 55 of 81 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/3 GB/FB — 24 of 37 pitches were strikes (65%) … he gave up a dinger to old buddy John Ryan Murphy

[Read more…]

Game 115: Goodbye, Al

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

I still remember exactly where I was when I found out the Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez. There aren’t many baseball moments I remember vividly, but that’s one of them. I was still in college and I was out at dinner with the girl I was dating at the time. We were at Applebee’s (classy!) and one of the televisions at the bar was on ESPN. The trade scrolled across the ticker. That’s how I found out A-Rod was a Yankee. (I’m pretty sure I’ve told that story before.)

Now, more than 12 eventful years and 1,500 games later, the A-Rod era is coming to an end. Alex will play his final game as a Yankee tonight — likely the final game of his career as well — after winning one World Series, two MVPs, and more regular season games than I care to count in pinstripes. This past calendar year is the first time Alex was something less than immensely productive as a Yankee.

This is a bittersweet day. A-Rod is one of my all-time favorite players and I’m sad to see him go. At the same time, he’s at the end of the line, and the Yankees are better off without him going forward. This goodbye had a chance to get really ugly. I wouldn’t call the last few days pleasant, but things have gone about as well as we could have hoped. Rodriguez is getting something of a grand send-off today.

The Yankees do indeed have a pre-game ceremony planned. They asked fans to be in their seats at 6:50pm ET, and tonight’s game is not scheduled to start until 7:35pm ET. I would be surprised if the Yankees announced they are retiring No. 13 — they haven’t even announced they’re retiring No. 2 yet — or giving Alex a plaque in Monument Park, but who knows. I’m sure it’ll be fun either way.

After the ceremony, the Yankees will play the first of three games against the Rays. A-Rod played his first ever game as a Yankee against the (Devil) Rays, you know. That was back in 2004, during that two-game trip to Japan. He went 1-for-4 with a double. That was a long, long time ago. Here is tonight’s Rays’ lineup and tonight’s Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    LHP CC Sabathia

The weather in New York positively sucks today. It is disgustingly hot and humid, and there’s some rain in the forecast pretty much all night. Hopefully it holds off for A-Rod’s final game the way it did for Derek Jeter‘s final game two years ago. The game will air on YES locally and FOX nationally. Enjoy.

8/12 to 8/14 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

We’ve reached the final series of Alex Rodriguez‘s career. The final day, really. He will be in the lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Rays before being released and heading home to Miami. Bummer. A-Rod will be back as a special advisor/instructor next season, but this is still the end of a very complicated yet very entertaining era. The Yankees are 4-5 against Tampa Bay so far this season, by the way.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays have been in absolute free fall since mid-June. They’ve lost four of their last six games and are 15-35 in their last 50 games. Tampa was 31-32 on June 15th. Now they’re 46-67 with a -44 run differential overall. Only the Twins (46-69) and Braves (43-72) have worst records this season. Of course, that didn’t stop the Rays from sweeping the Yankees at Tropicana Field two weeks ago. That was the series that reportedly pushed ownership to sell at the trade deadline.

Offense & Defense

The Rays aren’t in last place by accident. They’re averaging only 4.02 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+, and that’s no good. (The Yankees are at 4.12 and 88, respectively.) The Rays are without three not very good players due to injury: OF Oswaldo Arcia (elbow), OF Desmond Jennings (knee), and 1B Logan Morrison (back). Arcia (89 wRC+) might be back this weekend. The other two were just placed on the DL this week.

Kiermaier. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Kiermaier. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Skipper Kevin Cash changed up his lineup recently, albeit slightly. 2B Logan Forsythe (124 wRC+) and 3B Evan Longoria (129 wRC+) still bat first and third, respectively, but now CF Kevin Kiermaier (93 wRC+) hits second and 1B Brad Miller (119 wRC+) cleans up. Yes, Miller is a first baseman now. He’d been the shortstop up until last weekend. OF Mikie Mahtook (27 wRC+), DH Corey Dickerson (89 wRC+), and RF Steven Souza Jr. (92 wRC+) are lineup regulars as well.

The Rays added SS Matt Duffy (88 wRC+) in the Matt Moore trade with the Giants and he was activated off the DL today. He’s been out since mid-June with a heel injury. Duffy played third with the Giants but is a natural shortstop, and Tampa is moving him back to that position. C Luke Maille (19 wRC+) and C Bobby Wilson (58 wRC+) are the catchers, and IF Tim Beckham (82 wRC+) and UTIL Nick Franklin (106 wRC+) are the other bench players.

Tampa is a good club defensively and they’ll be better going forward with Duffy at short and Miller at first. Miller was a mess at short. He’s inexperienced at first, but at least he’ll do less damage there. Forsythe, Souza, and Mahtook are solid at their positions, Longoria moreso, and Kiermaier even moreso than that. The Yankees should be able to run on Maille and Wilson.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Man, what a rough year for Archer, who finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting last season. He’s had to string together four straight quality starts to get his numbers down to 4.26 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 24 starts and 143.2 innings. His strikeout (27.3%) and grounder (47.1%) numbers are very good and right in with with last year, but he’s walking more people (8.9%) and giving up way more homers (1.38 HR/9). Thanks to his very improved upper-80s changeup, the 27-year-old Archer has closed up his platoon split. He still sits in the mid-90s with his heater and his upper-80s slider is vicious. It might be the best slider in baseball, at least among right-handers. The Yankees saw Archer back in May, and he allowed four runs in eight innings.

Saturday (1:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Matt Andriese (vs. NYY)
Andriese, 26, has moved into the rotation full-time thanks to the Moore trade. He has a 2.90 ERA (3.10 FIP) in 80.2 innings spread across ten starts and ten relief appearances this year, and he does it by limiting walks (5.6%) and homers (0.56 HR/9). His strikeout (19.4%) and grounder (46.0%) numbers are average-ish, and his platoon split has been tiny this year after being huge last year. Andriese is a low-90s fastball guy as a starter, and he also uses a mid-80s cutter. The cutter is a big pitch for him. A mid-80s changeup and low-80s curve are his two secondary pitches. The Yankees saw Andriese as a reliever late last month; he allowed one run in two innings.

Andriese. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Andriese. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Sunday (1:05pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
Odorizzi is quickly becoming one of those guys the Yankees can’t escape. He seems to start against them every time these two teams meet. So far this season the 26-year-old righty has a 3.69 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 24 starts and 136.2 innings, and his underlying numbers are a mixed bag: 22.1% strikeouts, 7.1% walks, 37.2% grounders, and 1.25 HR/9. Odorizzi’s had a reverse split throughout his career because his best pitch is a nasty mid-80s splitter. He sets it up with low-90s four-seamers. A low-80s cutter/slider is his third pitch, and he’ll also flip a few low-70s curves per start to mess with hitters. The Yankees have seen Odorizzi twice this year: two runs in seven innings in May, and 6.2 scoreless innings in July.

As for the Yankees, they need to come up with starters for Sunday and Monday thanks to Nathan Eovaldi‘s injury. Both Severino and Chad Green are lined up to start Sunday, so chances are they will start those two games in some order. I’d throw Luis Cessa into that mix too.

Bullpen Status

The Rays are carrying eight relievers these days, which many teams seem to do. That’s becoming a thing now. Here is Cash’s collection of relievers:

Closer: RHP Alex Colome (2.03 ERA/2.67 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Boxberger (3.38/5.95), LHP Xavier Cedeno (4.33/2.91)
Middle: RHP Danny Farquhar (6.28/7.74), RHP Ryan Garton (5.14/3.70), RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.12/5.12), RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3.91/4.61)
Long: RHP Dylan Floro (4.50/2.20)

Colome has had a fine season and was Tampa’s token All-Star this year. Boxberger has missed a ton of time this season with abdominal problems and is just now starting to settle in. Cedeno has left-on-left matchup guy stuff, but Cash uses him for full innings for whatever reason. Erasmo fills the Adam Warren role. I think you know what I mean.

The Rays had an off-day yesterday even though they only had to travel from Toronto to New York. Their bullpen is relatively fresh. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen.

Update: Yankees place Eovaldi on DL, call up Cessa, Heller, Severino

(Getty)
(Getty)

Friday: The Yankees have placed Eovaldi on the 15-day DL with a “right elbow tendon injury,” the team announced today. A tendon injury isn’t exactly good news, but it’s better than a ligament injury. Luis Severino has been called to fill the roster spot. It’s like Severino never left.

Thursday: As expected, the Yankees made a series of roster moves this afternoon. One of them was not placing Nathan Eovaldi on the DL, however. His elbow was examined in New York today, and team doctor Dr. Ahmad “recommended Eovaldi receive further evaluation and consultation, which he will do in the coming days.” That doesn’t sound good, though the fact Eovaldi was not immediately placed on the DL could mean they didn’t find anything. Who knows.

As for the roster moves, both Luis Cessa and Ben Heller were called up while Nick Goody and Rob Refsnyder were sent down. The Yankees burned through their bullpen last night after Eovaldi’s elbow injury forced him out of action after one inning. They desperately needed fresh arms. Cessa was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, so he’s available for super long relief, if necessary.

Heller, 25, is one of the prospects who came over from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade. He has a 1.60 ERA (2.73 FIP) with a 29.6% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate in 45 total innings this year. That’s split between Double-A and Triple-A, Indians and Yankees. Heller has a big mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a slider. He’s a pure reliever and was expected to come up reasonably soon.

It’s safe to say Eovaldi will not make his scheduled start next Monday. The Yankees did just send Luis Severino down yesterday, but once Eovaldi is placed on the DL, they’ll be able to bring Severino right back up. The ten-day rule no longer applies. My guess is that’s exactly what will happen. Chad Green is lined up to start Sunday. He’s taking Severino’s spot and Severino is taking Eovaldi’s spot. Got it?

The Yankees had one open 40-man roster spot and that is going to Heller. Cessa was already on the 40-man, so no other move is required. Heller was going to be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, so he was going to get added to the 40-man soon anyway. He’s been mentioned as a call-up candidate since the day the Yankees acquired him.