The Erstwhile Catcher [2016 Season Review]


The Yankees are built around left-handed power and strong defense. That’s the plan, anyway. They want guys who can yank a ball into the short porch while adding value in the field. For the most part, no one fits that mold better than Brian McCann, the club’s starting catcher coming into 2016. He has that lefty pop and has long been a good defender.

After starting the season as the undisputed No. 1 catcher, McCann finished the 2016 season as the Yankees’ primary DH. And it wasn’t because he didn’t perform. The Yankees fell out of the race and focused on youth in the second half, which meant Gary Sanchez got priority at-bats behind the plate. McCann had his role reduced because, well, how else is Sanchez supposed to play?

The First Few Months as a Catcher

Prior to the trade deadline Carlos Beltran was the Yankees’ best hitter and Didi Gregorius was their best all-around player. McCann was probably their third best hitter and second best all around player. That’s as much an indictment of the rest of the lineup as it is praise for McCann.

In 324 plate appearances prior to the deadline, McCann hit .236/.336/.429 (107 wRC+) with 15 home runs. I know that doesn’t seem great, but keep in mind the league average catcher hit .242/.310/.391 (87 wRC+) in 2016. Catchers stink. They can’t hit, generally speaking. By catcher standards, McCann is still comfortably above-average at the plate.

McCann’s biggest hit of the season was also arguably the biggest hit of the season for the Yankees. On June 29th, he clubbed a game-tying three-run home run off Rangers closer Sam Dyson with one out in the ninth inning. The Yankees were down 7-3 to start the inning. They then went on to win 9-7 on Gregorius’ walk-off homer.

The Yankees had a really hard time scoring runs for the first four or so months of the season. The offense is the single biggest reason they missed the postseason. No doubt about it. McCann was not part of the problem. He performed as expected prior to the trade deadline. McCann had that 107 wRC+ in his first 324 plate appearances after having a 106 wRC+ last year. He held up his end of the bargain.

The Position Change

After trading Beltran and other veterans at the deadline, the Yankees turned things over to their young players, and that meant lots of playing time for Sanchez. The team wasn’t subtle about it either. Sanchez was called up on August 3rd, played two games at DH, then took over behind the plate. Starting August 5th, McCann started one of the next 16 games at catcher. He caught only eleven times in the final 54 games of 2016. That’s it.

Many veteran players would be upset about a young player taking their job at midseason, especially when playing well. Sanchez didn’t even take the job, really. The Yankees just gave it to him. It wasn’t until about a week after being installed as the starter that Sanchez’s home run barrage started. McCann had every reason and every right to be unhappy. If he was though, he never let it be known. He did nothing but praise Sanchez.

“He’s a stud. Know what I’m saying? This is the time where he’s going to play and he’s going to play a lot,” said McCann in early-August after it become clear Sanchez was the new No. 1 guy behind the plate. “I consider (Sanchez) one of the better — if not one of the best — young catchers I’ve seen since I’ve been in the big leagues.”

McCann’s numbers as a DH were actually better than his numbers as a catcher, though the shape of his production was different. He was a low batting average guy who hit for power as a catcher. As a DH, he hit for more average and less power, hence a .284/.373/.402 (114 wRC+) batting line. Only three of his 20 home runs came as the DH, but look at that batting average and on-base percentage!

In theory, McCann’s numbers should tick up as the DH because he’s free from the rigors of catching. At the same time, he had to make the adjustment to not playing as much. Sitting for 45 minutes or so between at-bats can be difficult when you’re used to playing defense. Especially for an ex-catcher who is used to being in on every pitch. McCann hit .174/.309/.261 (63 wRC+) in his first three weeks as the DH. It was .297/.356/.462 (121 wRC+) thereafter.

As well as McCann finished the season as the DH, we have to remember the bar has been raised. Catchers usually don’t hit. DHs only hit. As a catcher, McCann had a 103 wRC+ compared to the 87 wRC+ average. As a DH, McCann had a 114 wRC+ compared to the 115 wRC+ league average. He went from an above-average hitting catcher to an average hitting DH. That’s the downside of the move.

The Struggles Against Lefties

For the first time as a Yankee, McCann had a big platoon split this past season. He struggled against lefties while with the Braves, especially his final few years in Atlanta, but he figured them out a bit the last two years. This year … no luck. Here’s a quick graph of his left-right production:

Brian McCann splitsThe blue line, McCann’s wOBA against southpaws, made a nice jump from 2014-15. The 2016 season was much more in line with 2012-13, however. It’s entirely possible this is all sample size noise. McCann never batted more than 145 times against lefties in a single season from 2013-16, and that’s spread across 162 games. His batted ball profile didn’t change much either. The only big difference against lefties was a 19.2 HR/FB% from 2014-15 and a 12.0 HR/FB% in 2016.

McCann’s above-average production against southpaws during his first two years in pinstripes was a nice little surprise. He hadn’t hit lefties much in the years prior, then bam, he was suddenly doing real damage against them. That didn’t happen this year. Based on the rest of his career, 2014-15 are the outlier, not 2016. McCann figures to need a platoon partner going forward, and it just so happens the Yankees have a pretty good righty hitting catcher on their roster.

The Rebound on Defense

The Yankees moved McCann from catcher to DH to give Sanchez playing time. McCann didn’t force the move by playing poor defense. I actually thought his defense was better this year than last year, based on the eye test. Last season McCann let what seemed like a lot of blockable balls scoot by. That didn’t happen as much this past season. Here are some catcher defense numbers:

SB% Baseball Prospectus Framing StatCorner Framing FRAA
2013 24.2% +10.2 +9.9 +10.0
2014 37.2% +9.7 +11.4 +12.1
2015 35.9% -3.9 -2.5 -2.1
2016 23.0% +9.6 +5.7 +10.2

One of those years is not like the others. FRAA, which is Baseball Prospectus’ attempt at an all-encompassing catcher defense stat, has rated McCann’s glovework as excellent in three of the last four years. Last year was the outlier, which jibes with what I saw while watching the games. Players have down years in the field the same way they have down years at the plate. It’s entirely possible 2015 was a down defensive year for McCann and nothing more.

The caught stealing numbers are interesting and we might have an actual explanation for them: Gary Tuck. Tuck, a longtime catching guru, was New York’s bullpen coach from 2014-15 and McCann credited him with improving his throwing. “Gary Tuck. He’s changed the way I catch and throw,” said McCann two years ago. “We work on it every day together. I’m getting the ball out quick. No wasted movement … I’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on.”

The Yankees let Tuck go last offseason, reportedly because he was at odds with the front office over the way they use analytics, and replaced him with Mike Harkey. McCann worked with Tuck in 2014-15 and was awesome at throwing out runners. He did not have Tuck around prior to 2014 or in 2016 and his throwing suffered. Correlation does not equal causation, but when the player says “this coach fixed this,” you kinda have to believe him.

Overall, McCann had a fine season defensively. A bounceback season, really. His throwing wasn’t very good — the MLB average was a 28.3% caught stealing rate — but he was above-average at the other aspects of catching. The Yankees didn’t move McCann to DH because his defense was inadequate. They moved him because it’s time to build a new young core and Sanchez is the future behind the plate. It really is that simple.

Outlook for 2017


According to multiple reports, the Yankees listened to trade offers for McCann at the deadline, with the most serious interest coming from the Braves. Atlanta understandably did not want to take on much money or give up top prospects. The Yankees reportedly asked for Mike Foltynewicz and Ender Inciarte in return. No deal got done at the deadline but this definitely seems like something that will be revisited in the offseason.

McCann said he hopes to remain with the Yankees, for what it’s worth. And he does have complete control here. He has a full no-trade clause and if he wants to stay in New York, he will. Would he prefer to be a full-time catcher elsewhere or a part-time catcher and most-of-the-time DH with the Yankees? That’s a question we can’t answer and a question McCann probably can’t answer until he finds out where he might be going.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I think holding onto McCann next season would be a really good idea. Having two quality catchers* is a big plus, especially when they hit from opposite sides of the plate. At the same time, of course the Yankees should see what offers are out there. They’d be foolish not too. I just wouldn’t give McCann away though.

* Fun Fact: The 2016 Yankees were the third team in history with two catchers who each hit 20+ home runs. The 1961 Yankees (Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard) and 1965 Milwaukee Braves (Joe Torre and Gene Oliver) also did it. Nice work, Gary and Brian.

Brian Cashman made it clear he values McCann highly at his end-of-season press conference, so if the Yankees do trade their erstwhile catcher this offseason, they’ll probably going to get a nice return. Quality catchers are so hard to find these days, and while Sanchez is clearly the catcher of the future, keeping McCann as a mentor and backup plan makes a world of sense to me.

Fan Confidence Poll: October 17th, 2016

2016 Season Record: 84-78 (680 RS, 702 RA, 79-83 pythag. record), 5.0 GB of postseason spot

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Weekend Open Thread

Friday: How about that Dodgers-Cubs game last night? That was pretty awesome. This entire postseason has been really entertaining. Lots of nail-biters. I’m pretty sure this postseason would kill me if the Yankees were still playing. Anyway, the Blue Jays and Indians open the ALCS tonight (8pm ET on TBS), so that’s fun. Go team that employs Andrew Miller.

Here is tonight’s open thread. You’re pretty much on your own for entertainment aside from the ALCS. You folks know how these things work, so do what you do. Enjoy the game.

Saturday: Once again, here is today’s open thread. We’ve got two LCS games today, so that’s cool. Here is today’s schedule:

  • ALCS Game Two: Blue Jays at Indians (Happ vs. Tomlin), 4pm ET on TBS (Indians up 1-0)
  • NLCS Game One: Dodgers at Cubs (Maeda vs. Lester), 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1

There’s also a full slate of college football on as well. The three hockey locals are playing too. Talk about those games or whatever else is on your mind. Just not politics or religion.

Sunday: For one last time, this is today’s open thread. The Cubs and Dodgers will play Game Two of the NLCS at 8pm ET on FOX Sports 1. Kyle Hendricks and Clayton Kershaw are the scheduled starters. The Dodgers are getting their money’s worth out of Kershaw this October, huh? The Cubbies lead that series one game to one. Aside from the NLCS, you’ve also got all the day’s NFL action plus the Islanders later tonight. Go nuts.

Checking in on Didi’s Discipline

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

In January of last year, I wrote a piece about what room for improvement Didi Gregorius had after his modestly successful 2015 debut campaign with the Yankees. At the end, I suggested that Didi work on his plate discipline to become a better hitter:

Didi Gregorius is never going to be an elite hitter, and he doesn’t need to be, given his position and his defense at that position. Still, any improvement helps and since it’s unlikely that he starts popping homers over the short fence any time soon, Didi should focus on improving his discipline to round out his offensive game a little bit. He’s already given Yankee fans plenty to be happy about, so hopefully more is on the horizon.

Part of that concluding paragraph was right: Didi certainly gave us more to be happy about in 2016. Aside from his generally joyous attitude towards the game, he managed to reach a career high in homers with 20 as well as in wOBA (.319) and wRC+ (98). A shortstop who does those things in 2016 is pretty darn valuable and the Yankees seem to have picked the right guy for the job. Back to that conclusion, though, and the thing that didn’t happen. Sir Didi most definitely did not improve his plate discipline in 2016.

His walk rate dipped to a more-than-minuscule 3.2%, leading to just 19 unintentional walks, lower than his home run total. In the post last year, I mentioned his chase rate–his O-Swing%–and this year, that percentage went up to 38.3%, a jump of almost five percentage points. This was part of a trend, as his overall swing percentage jumped from 51.6 to 55.4%. In conjunction with the jump in O-Swing%, his contact rate on those pitches also jumped from 62% to 70.8%. I’ve often posited that O-Contact can be a double-edged sword: making contact is good, but if the pitches are out of the zone, you risk bad contact and fewer hits. Did, however, seems to have defined that.


Using Brooks as a guide, we see that in 2015, Didi had 50 hits outside the zone. In 2016, he was able to bring that up to 63. Granted, his batting average on these balls wasn’t great either year; he hit .219 on balls out of the zone that he put in play in 2015 and .235 in 2016. That improvement mirrored Didi’s overall improvement, though, as he raised his average to a career high (again) of .276.

Didi didn’t quite follow my “advice” in 2016, but it didn’t really seem to matter, did it? He showed that he can be a productive player even without a traditional sense of plate discipline. He did swing at more pitches in the zone than he did last year, too, so perhaps it was a matter of Didi just getting the right pitches to hit and doing something with them.

DotF: Wade begins center field experiment in AzFL

(Clint Frazier on Twitter)
(Clint Frazier on Twitter)

Instructional League is over now, but as you can see in the photo above, the Yankees had their top prospects mingle with some big time guest instructors the last few weeks. That’s SS Jorge Mateo on the left, and OF Clint Frazier and OF Billy McKinney on the right. Tino Martinez, Reggie Jackson, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Swisher, Orlando Hernandez, and Alex Rodriguez were among the guest instructors to stop by. Jim Callis has a great article on Instructs up that I recommend checking out. Here are some other minor league notes.

  • Both Josh Norris and Eric Longenhagen have reports up on RHP James Kaprielian‘s first Arizona Fall League outing earlier this week. He struck out six in three scoreless innings. The links include video and some notes on other Yankees in the AzFL, including SS Gleyber Torres.
  • Following the regular season, the Yankees sent RHP Bryan Mitchell to Instructs to log more innings, according to Chad Jennings. He missed most of the season after breaking his toe covering first base in Spring Training. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild was in Tampa to work with Mitchell.
  • Brian Cashman told Dan Martin he’s glad Yankees prospects are getting to play with Tim Tebow in the AzFL. “I know he’s known for great leadership qualities and that’s a good thing for our guys to be around. And he’s gonna have a lot of media and fan attention and that will benefit the entire team,” said the GM.
  • Kaprielian and 1B Greg Bird both made the first Prospect Hot Sheet of the AzFL. Kaprielian was second and Bird was sixth. “(Bird is) back in the AFL rehabbing that injury, and so far has shown the same smooth, powerful stroke that has him firmly embedded in the Yankees’ long-term plans,” said the write-up.
  • Not surprisingly, C Gary Sanchez and RHP Chance Adams were named’s Yankees Prospects of the Year. Sanchez was also the catcher for Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team. The write-up says Gary “looks like a perennial all-star catcher.” That’ll do.
  • 1B Chris Parmelee elected free agency after Triple-A season, according to Matt Eddy. No surprise. The Yankees signed Parmelee following Bird’s shoulder surgery and he ended up appearing in six games with New York. He went 4-for-8 with two dingers. Go figure.
  • Couple articles to check out: Brendan Kuty on Mateo, Kevin Kernan on Frazier, and Sam Dykstra on C Kyle Higashioka. Higashioka talked about changing his swing plane this year in an effort to hit more fly balls, leading to the power spike.
  • And finally, Amanda Farinacci writes Staten Island officials are worried about the potential new names for the Staten Island Yankees. They don’t like the idea of the “Pizza Rats” or “Rock Pigeons” representing Staten Island, apparently.

Arizona Fall League

  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 3 G, 4-10, 3 R, 1 3B, 1 BB, 1 K (.300/.455/.600)
  • 1B Greg Bird: 3 G, 4-13, 2 R, 4 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K (.308/.357/.615) — so far, so good following shoulder surgery … I wonder if he can become the first two-time MVP in AzFL history
  • SS Gleyber Torres: 2 G, 3-8, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K (.375/.444/.875) — played second base yesterday … he also had an opposite field double (video) and a walk-off single (video, video) … Keith Law, who hates every Yankees prospect, says Gleyber’s going to be a star, so that’s cool
  • SS/CF Tyler Wade: 2 G, 0-8, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 SB (.000/.111/.000) — played center field for the first time yesterday
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (9.00 ERA, 2.50 WHIP) — Josh Norris says he sat 94-96 mph in one of his appearances … I didn’t realize he threw that hard
  • RHP James Kaprielian: 1 G, 1 G, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP) — the results are nice but they don’t really matter … is he healthy? has his stuff returned following his injury? that’s most important
  • RHP Brody Koerner: 1 G, 1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K (6.20 ERA, 4.20 WHIP) — rough start to the AzFL season
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2 HR (12.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) — Keith Law had him at 93-95 mph with a good slider and changeup, so that’s another report that his stuff is getting back to where it was last year, when he was the fourth overall pick in the country

The Dominican Winter League season begins today, though the rosters still have not been announced. A couple Yankee farmhands will play in the league this year, inevitably. There’s always a few.

The Mexican Pacific League season started last weekend. The only Yankee prospect on the rosters is C Sebastian Valle, who a) isn’t really a prospect, and b) will become a minor league free agent soon.

The Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) season starts in two weeks. The rosters have only been partially released, and there are no Yankees.

The Venezuelan Winter League season began last weekend. RHP Mark Montgomery, LHP Miguel Sulbaran, C Francisco Diaz, RHP Daniel Alvarez, 3B Daniel Barrios, RHP Luis Cedeno, RHP David Kubiak, RHP Alex Mejias, 3B Andres Chaparro, OF Andres Fernandez, and C David Vergel are all on rosters. Montgomery and Sulbaran are the big names there. Montgomery has allowed two runs in 1.1 innings so far. That’s about it.

McCann hopes to remain with Yankees despite Sanchez’s emergence as the No. 1 catcher


I can’t imagine the 2016 season was easy for Brian McCann. He had a good year statistically, hitting .242/.335/.413 (103 wRC+) with 20 home runs, but he also lost his starting catching job to Gary Sanchez. McCann had been a full-time big league catcher since he was 21, then bam, he was the full-time DH. That couldn’t have been an easy pill to swallow.

To McCann’s credit, he never complained about his playing time, and in fact he went out of his way to praise Sanchez. That’s not surprising. By all accounts McCann is a good dude and a leader in the clubhouse. He knows what’s up. He saw Carlos Beltran get traded away and Alex Rodriguez get cut loose. McCann knows the Yankees are going young and Sanchez is the future behind the plate.

“Listen. Gary is the starting catcher here. He’s going to be that for a long, long time,” said McCann to Chad Jennings at the end of the season. “Just have to kind of see where my role fits in; see where everything fits … I hope I’m back. I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, but the future is extremely bright here. … I love it here. I love everything about it. Bright future. And I hope I’m a part of it.”

The Yankees listed to trade offers for McCann at the deadline and Buster Olney (subs. req’d) says the expectation is the team is “far more likely” to move their erstwhile catcher than keep him for next season. The free agent catching market is thin, especially following Wilson Ramos’ knee injury, and the Yankees have a chance to take advantage, the same way they took advantage of the bullpen market at the trade deadline.

Brian Cashman made it clear during his end-of-season press conference that he values McCann highly. I believe a) that is completely true, and b) Cashman was making sure not to tip his hand going into the offseason. Having two starting caliber catchers sure is a nice luxury, especially when they hit from opposite sides of the plate. At the same time, the Yankees are going young, and McCann doesn’t fit.

One other thing to keep in mind: the option year in McCann’s contract. Right now it’s a $15M club option for 2019 with no buyout. McCann can turn it into a player option by meeting the following criteria:

  • Rack up 1,000 plate appearances from 2017-18;
  • Play 90 games at catcher in 2018;
  • Do not end 2018 on the DL.

McCann has to meet all of that criteria to turn the club option into a vesting option. It’s not one of the three like CC Sabathia‘s vesting option. It’s all three. With Sanchez entrenched as the new No. 1 catcher, McCann’s going to have a hard time meeting that playing time criteria with the Yankees. The option could make him more receptive to waiving his no-trade clause.

Then again, maybe McCann doesn’t care about the option. He’s signed over $110M worth of contracts in his career. His priority may be winning a World Series, and with young talent the Yankees have coming up, McCann may see New York as his best chance to win a ring. At least compared to other possible landing spots, like the Braves or Astros. He genuinely seems to like New York too.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I think keeping McCann makes a lot of sense. He can mentor Sanchez, provide left-handed pop, and serve as one heck of a Plan B behind the plate. I like Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka. They’re no McCann though. That said, if a trade comes up that makes sense, preferably something involving a young pitcher, then go for it. There’s always a point where the price is right.

For now, the Yankees are in the driver’s seat. They don’t have to trade McCann. The free agent catching market stinks and the Yankees are in position to let the trade market come to them. The same was true at the deadline with Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees controlled the market and got themselves big returns. With any luck, the McCann trade market will play out the same way.

The End of the Summer of Al [2016 Series Review]

Now that the 2016 season is complete and the dust has settled, it’s time to begin our annual season review series. This year was a complicated one. That’s for sure.


A year ago at this time, Alex Rodriguez had just wrapped up a memorable comeback season, one that earned him an MVP vote (!) and an unquestioned place in the middle of the 2016 lineup. Thirty-three homers and a 130 wRC+ will do that. No, he couldn’t play the field anymore, but A-Rod could still hit, and that was awfully cool. At least for those of us who remain unabashed fans of dingers and fun.

Fast forward to today, and the Alex Rodriguez era in New York is over. He didn’t even make it through the 2016 season. Skills can erode quickly in this game, even with all-time greats like A-Rod. I still remember the day the Yankees acquired Rodriguez in that trade with the Rangers. It’s one of my most vivid memories as a baseball fan. Hard to believe it’s all over now, isn’t it?

An April to Forget

For a veteran player like A-Rod, Spring Training performance is pretty meaningless. Guys like him know exactly what they have to do to prepare for the regular season. They use their spring at-bats to work on things — track the ball, go the other way, whatever — because they know their spot in the lineup is secure. Alex hit .245/.302/.306 with one home run in 18 Grapefruit League games and I don’t think anyone blinked an eye.

Once the regular season started, it took A-Rod more than a month to get off the interstate. He went 12-for-65 (.185) with 19 strikeouts in his first 18 games, though the four home runs were nice. Rodriguez did start to show some signs of life three weeks into the regular season, when he went 6-for-14 (.429) with three home runs in a four-game span at the end of April. See? Everything was fine. Just a slow start for the veteran.

That little hot streak came to an abrupt end on May 3rd, when Alex pulled his hamstring running out a ground ball. That sent him to the disabled list for a little more than three weeks and opened up the DH spot for Carlos Beltran.

At the time of the injury, A-Rod as hitting .194/.275/.444 (90 wRC+) with five home runs in 80 plate appearances. The Yankees were 8-16 at the time because they were completely unable to generate any consistent offense. Rodriguez, who had spent most of the season hitting in the middle of the order up to that point, was a big part of the problem.

The Beginning of the End

Alex returned from his hamstring injury on May 26th and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. There were a lot of hitless games after that. In fact, Rodriguez went 1-for-16 (.063) with nine strikeouts in his first four games back from the injury. It was bad. Bad bad bad. Average fastballs were chewing him up, and because he had to start his bat early to handle good velocity, breaking balls were fooling him consistently. Yuck.

Joe Girardi, who has always been patient with his veterans, kept running A-Rod out there. An early-June hot streak (12-for-34, .353) didn’t last very long; Alex closed the month in a 9-for-40 (.225) rut. Come the end of June, with his batting line sitting at .219/.257/.382 (66 wRC+), Rodriguez’s lack of production became too much to bear. He sat three straight games from July 1-3 because the Yankees were in San Diego, and when they returned to AL parks, A-Rod remained on the bench.

Including that series against the Padres, A-Rod started only one of the team’s final ten games of the first half. Beltran was getting regular DH at-bats with Aaron Hicks and Rob Refsnyder splitting time in right field. They gave the Yankees a better chance to win at that point. We all came into the season hoping Alex would again be a middle of the force. Instead, he was a liability.

The End of the Road

To Girardi’s credit, he gave A-Rod one last chance to show he belonged in the lineup. Rodriguez started seven of the first eight games after the All-Star break, and in those seven games he went 2-for-23 (.087). So much for that. Those seven games were Alex’s last hurrah. His last attempt at a hurrah, really. He started only one of the next 17 games. One of the next 17! The Yankees were playing with a 24-man roster, essentially.

Beltran was traded at the deadline, and rather than put A-Rod back into the lineup at DH, the Yankees called up Gary Sanchez and gave him Beltran’s at-bats. The Yankees were pretty much out of the race at this point, and I figured they would suck it up and bench Alex until rosters expanded on September 1st, when it would be easier to carry the dead roster spot. They could then reevaluate things in the offseason.

The Yankees did not do that. Instead, they called a press conference on September 7th. That could only mean one thing: A-Rod’s career was coming to an end. Was he retiring? Did the Yankees release him? Was he getting suspended again? The mechanics were unclear. But it was over. We all knew it. That Sunday morning, A-Rod and the Yankees announced he would be released the following Friday, after one last game at home.

“I’m at peace with the organization’s decision,” said A-Rod, making it clear this was not his call. To the team’s credit, they handled this as graciously as possible. The Yankees could have simply released Alex and been done with him. Instead, they gave him that final home game and a chance to say goodbye to the fans. And vice versa. Lots of people still love A-Rod.

The farewell tour was short and not sweet. Girardi kept Rodriguez on the bench following his retirement press conference. He did play one final road game, fittingly at Fenway Park, where he played his first career game. Many fans, myself included, were pretty bummed A-Rod was not playing that final week. The Yankees weren’t going anywhere at the time and these were our last days with Alex. We wanted to see him play! Alas.

Goodbye, Al

August 12th. The date of A-Rod’s final game with the Yankees. He was in the lineup, batting third as the DH. The Yankees were playing the Rays, the same team they played in A-Rod’s first game in pinstripes. The night started with a pregame ceremony that was so perfectly awkward. It literally rained on A-Rod’s parade.

Amazing. Only A-Rod. The Bleacher Creatures gave Alex an extra long (and extra loud) Roll Call in the first inning, and several Yankees wore high socks to honor Rodriguez, including Chase Headley, the guy who replaced A-Rod at third base two years ago. Yankee Stadium was never louder this season than it was that night.

Given his recent lack of production, there was a chance Rodriguez’s final game would be ugly, especially against a strikeout pitcher like Chris Archer. Alex instead went out with a bang, lining a run-scoring double into the right-center field gap to give the Yankees their first run of the night.

The double was the final hit of A-Rod’s career. He grounded out, struck out, and grounded out in his next three at-bats to close out the game. Alex went 1-for-4 with a double against the (Devil) Rays in his first game with the Yankees and 1-for-4 with a double against the Rays in his last game with the Yankees. Baseball.

With the Yankees staked to a three-run lead, Girardi gave A-Rod one last goodbye moment by sending him out to play third base in the ninth inning. The Yankees Stadium crowd went wild.

It had been 447 days since Rodriguez last played the field. At one point he was one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, and early in his time with the Yankees he was one of the better fielding third basemen as well. Now, at age 41, he was playing one last inning at third base. It wasn’t even a full inning. A-Rod came out of the game after one out. It was his idea.

“I’m very grateful that Joe gave me the opportunity to play third for one out. I was actually excited,” he said after the game. “I was also stressed because once Joe made me the full-time DH, I retired my cup. So then I was very stressed. I screamed to [Dellin Betances] — the same thing Cal Ripken screamed to Roger Clemens in the All-Star Game in 2001, when we switched, he said, ‘Strike him out Roger’ — and I said exactly the same thing.”

Following the final out, A-Rod went back out onto the field to wave goodbye to the fans one last time. He walked over to third base, scooped up some dirt, stuffed it in his pocket, then descended into the clubhouse. His playing career was over, four home runs shy of becoming the fourth player in history with 700 home runs.

“It’s going to be tough to top that. That’s a memory that I will own forever,” said A-Rod after the game. “With all the things that I’ve been through, and to have an ending like tonight, I don’t know what else a man can ask for. I’m extremely thankful for everything the Steinbrenners — and especially the fans — did for me tonight.”

Outlook for 2017

As planned, A-Rod was released the following day — that opened a roster spot for Aaron Judge — and he finished the season with a .200/.247/.351 (56 wRC+) batting line and nine home runs in 243 plate appearances. The Yankees still owe him the balance of his contract, so they’re keeping him aboard as a special advisor. He’ll primarily work with prospects in the minors, and Alex has already spent time in Instructional League working with players.

Despite being a special advisor, Rodriguez is free to sign with another team, though he did seem to close the door on that following his final game. Also, teams aren’t exactly interested in a 41-year-old DH who can’t hit anymore. Maybe someone will sign him. I seriously doubt it. For now, A-Rod is going to his analyst work on FOX — he’s awesome, by the way — and continue working with the team’s prospects. Love him or hate him, the Yankees were never boring during A-Rod’s time in pinstripes. This truly is the end of an era.