A-Rod’s All-Star Game snub and the Greater Good


For whatever reason MLB dragged the 2015 All-Star Game rosters announcement across two nights this year, with the starters announced Sunday and the rest of the rosters announced Monday. As expected, no Yankees were selected to start the game for the first time since 1998. All the fan voting updates made it clear that was going to happen.

The reserves announcement on Monday was a little more interesting because the Yankees had five players who were, at the very least, borderline All-Star Game candidates. Dellin Betances and Mark Teixeira were selected for the game, and Brett Gardner is one of five players on the Final Vote ballot (go vote!), but Brian McCann was not one of the two extra catchers selected. So it goes.

The other snub was Alex Rodriguez, who, on merit, belongs in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game. He’s hitting .284/.390/.513 (149 wRC+) with 16 home runs so far this year, and every single other healthy qualified hitter with at least an .890 OPS or a 142 wRC+ was selected to the Midsummer Classic. Not A-Rod though. The players didn’t vote him in and AL manager Ned Yost cited the desire for flexibility, as if he was building a roster for a postseason series and not a one-game exhibition. From Brendan Kuty:

“We talked about A-Rod a lot,” Yost said. “You look back at this five-man vote and we have three infielders, two outfielders, and we felt that it was important that we don’t — we have Brock Holt that can play anywhere in the infield, but any other position we have a starter and a backup. In the outfield we have three starters and three backups. So I just felt very strongly that if we could get another infielder or another outfielder out of that five-man vote it would help us. That’s what went in that decision.”

It’s no surprise the players didn’t vote Alex into the All-Star Game — he’s not exactly popular outside the Yankees clubhouse after his performance-enhancing drug issues and the fact that he, you know, sued the MLBPA last year, so I get it. Yost picked seven players for the roster according to Andy McCullough and opted for five pitchers plus Holt (token Red Sox player) and Russell Martin (third catcher), so he would have had to pick Alex over a pitcher.

Either way, Rodriguez is not going to the All-Star Game and that feels like a loss for everyone, including A-Rod himself. He said he hoped to be picked. MLB is going to miss the ratings boost because people watch this guy — his fans watch to see him mash taters and his haters watch to see him fail — and the AL team will miss having a huge right-handed bat off the bench late in the game. And spare me the PED moralization, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta were voted in as starters by the fans.

It’s disappointing Alex won’t be in the All-Star Game this year, he deserves to be there based on his performance, but it’s also for the best in the grand scheme of things. Remember, we are talking about a player with two surgically repaired hips (and a surgically repaired knee) who turns 40 later this month. Rodriguez is a full-time DH now yet he still admitted regular days off help him stay fresh. It shows in the numbers too: Alex is hitting .392/.517/.725 in games immediately following a day off and .259/.362/.464 in all other games this season.

“I never welcome days off. I love to play. But it worked pretty well for me in (during the two interleague games in Washington). After those two days off, I swung the bat pretty well at home,” said A-Rod to Wally Matthews a few weeks ago. Rodriguez has played a ton of baseball over the years — he averaged 153 games per season from 1996-2007! — and there’s a lot of wear on his body. That’s baseball. All those games catch up to you and extra rest is needed later in your career. That’s where A-Rod is right now. In need of extra rest. Not more games and travel.

The Yankees are currently atop the AL East but that doesn’t really matter at this point. The division is so tight they could be in fourth place and still be only two games out. A-Rod has gone from a total unknown in Spring Training to a core player this season. He’s at the center of the offense and the Yankees will need him to continue to produce like he has in the first half to have a shot at returning to the postseason. So yeah, Alex not being selected for the All-Star Game is a bummer. But those four days off his feet next week are the best thing for him and the Yankees.

Two Months of Alex

Coming into April of 2015, the range of expectations for Alex Rodriguez wasn’t all that wide. There were essentially two lines of thought regarding how he’d fare coming off of his suspension and various nagging injuries still leftover from 2013 and before. One line of thought was, at least nominally, optimistic: he’d probably do okay because of health and his immense talent as a baseball player. The other was damningly pessimistic: he’d probably embarrass himself because of rust and age. Suffice it to say, Rodriguez has surpassed those expectations. Aside from a few hot weeks by Brett Gardner, A-Rod has arguably been the team’s best and most consistent hitter for all of 2015. He went into yesterday’s games with a line of .284/.390/.508/.898 with 15 home runs, a total few would’ve guessed he’d have through July 4.

Rodriguez’s so far, so great season was largely aided by an absolutely stellar month of May, in which he hit .316/.369/.571 with six homers and five doubles. That power output–marked by a .255 ISO–was his best of the season so far (we’ll have to wait and see what July brings). While June was still successful–a .411 OBP with 18 walks as opposed to the seven free passes he got in May–it was his “worst” in terms of power, indicated by a .168 ISO. That number is definitely still good, but after what he did in May, June was a slight let down.

In terms of the way pitchers approached Alex, May and June were fairly similar. He faced about the same amount of fastballs and changeups, though there was an uptick in sinkers against him in June, which is actually where we can find some of the swooning power. Taking a look at his results, Rodriguez performed well against sinkers in May. While he had an ISO of just .105 against them, that stings a lot less when you’re hitting .316 against a given pitch type. In June, however, both of those numbers fell off the table. The increase in sliders–85 in May, 112 in June–led to a lower batting average, .208, and a nonexistent ISO of .000. A similar decrease occurred in the changeup category as well. During May, Rodriguez hit just .250 against the 41 changeups he saw, but he crushed the ones he did put in play to a .750 SLG and a .500 ISO. Once again in June, A-Rod hit .250 against changeups, but this time, his hits against the pitch only went for singles.

Anecdotally this year, we’ve watched A-Rod crush fastballs and hard stuff while struggling against breaking balls and other soft pitches. This runs contrary to what we may’ve thought coming into the year–time off could mean diminished bat speed, etc.–but it’s been fairly true and was fleshed out in both his best and “worst” power months. In both May (.375 AVG; .679 SLG; .304 ISO) and June (.333/.536/.222), he’s demolished fastballs and struggled a bit against breaking pitches–averages of .188 and .192 respectively, as well as SLGs/ISOs of .313/.125 and .308/.115. May saw Alex rip offspeed pitches (.400/.800/.400), but that didn’t happen in June: .222/.222/.000.

Regardless of the power drop-off from May to June, June was still a great month and Al from Miami has had a great season; there is little, if anything, to fret or complain about. He’s been a great hitter; he’s taken to the DH role well; he’s said and done all the right things. Here’s hoping he can continue this great year into the second half, and hopefully, into the playoffs.

Saturday Links: A-Rod, Sierra, High-Def, Benefits, Girardi


The Yankees and Rays continue their three-game series with an Independence Day matinee at Yankee Stadium later today. Here are some links to help you pass the time until the game.

A-Rod wants to make the All-Star team

The All-Star Game rosters will be announced soon — the starters will be announced tomorrow night, the rest of the rosters Monday night — and Alex Rodriguez told Andrew Marchand he hopes to be selected for the Midsummer Classic. “From where I came from just a year ago — I mean it’s every player’s dream to make the All-Star Game, I’m not exception to that, especially with all that I’ve been through — to be able to be included in something like that, it would be incredibly special,” said Alex.

As productive as he’s been this season, I don’t think A-Rod will be selected for the All-Star Game. Kendrys Morales is running away with the fan voting for the DH slot and both Nelson Cruz and Prince Fielder have better All-Star cases than Alex. (Cruz has actually played more outfield than DH this year.) You can only carry so many DH types on the roster. Oh well. A-Rod will turn 40 later this month and he could probably use the four days off to recharge his batteries. He’s been to 14 All-Star Games anyway.

Cuban RHP Yasiel Sierra threw for scouts

Time to meet the latest Cuban player the Yankees won’t sign. According to Kiley McDaniel, 23-year-old Cuban right-hander Yasiel Sierra threw for scouts yesterday and is generating positive buzz. McDaniel likens Sierra to Reds righty Raisel Iglesias, who signed a seven-year contract worth $30M last June. Sierra worked mostly as a reliever in Cuba and had a 3.74 ERA with 166/135 K/BB in 238 career innings before defecting. He is not subject to the international spending restrictions due to his age, so the Yankees can offer him any amount despite the penalties stemming from last year’s spending spree. I know nothing about Sierra beyond what’s in this post, but I suspect we’ll read his name a few more times in the coming weeks.

Yankees to be first team shot in 8K ultra-high def technology

I’m not a big technology guy, so I don’t quite know what this means, but Maury Brown reports the Yankees-Mariners game at Yankee Stadium on July 17th will be the first game shot in 8K ultra-high definition. Apparently 4K high-def is just making its way to consumers now. The 8K broadcast of the Yanks-Ms game won’t be available for fans though — Japanese public broadcaster NHK will install the cameras and show the broadcast to the media in a suite at the game. They’re testing the technology for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. (Might be time to take to advantage of my BBWAA membership!) Either way, I’m sure 8K will be available for fans soon enough, and it’ll blow all our minds.

Dugas. (MLB.com)
Dugas. (MLB.com)

Benefits to being on the MLB roster

A few days ago the Yankees surprisingly called up outfielder Taylor Dugas just so he could sit on the bench while Carlos Beltran was dealing with a sore ribcage. Sitting on the bench knowing you’re going to sent back down in a few days stinks — Dugas was sent down yesterday, sure enough — but being added to the 40-man roster and spending even one day in MLB comes with major perks, as MLBPA director of communications Greg Borris explained to Brendan Kuty.

First and foremost, the player gets the pro-rated portion of the $507,500 minimum salary, which works out to $2,773.22 per day during the regular season. Dugas was making approximately that per month in the minors. Players are also entitled to a portion of the MLBPA’s licensing program revenue (baseball cards, video games, etc.) and they start accruing service time towards pension benefits. And finally, the big thing is health care for them and their families. They get access to the league’s high-quality yet affordable health care program for life after just one day in the show. Getting called up for a day might sound disappointing, but man, the benefits are as good as it gets.

Cashman on long-term deals, scout on Girardi

Going to wrap this up with a pair of quotes that caught my eye earlier this week. First, here is Brian Cashman talking to Marchand about long-term contracts:

“Money doesn’t always equate to performance,” Cashman acknowledged. “In fact, most of the time it will never equate. That’s the cost of doing business. Signing a player to a long-term contract is like buying a car. They don’t tend to get better with age, and the ones that do are probably cheating.”

Ain’t that the truth. The Yankees have several bad long-term contracts on the books right now but it’s clear they’re willing to live with the ugly back end for the production up front, or at least they were at one point. These days it seems like teams get fewer high-end years early in long-term contracts though. They’re the Yankees though, they’re never going to not be involved with big name players, and Cashman understands they tend to be really bad investments.

Now here is an anonymous scout speaking to Jerry Crasnick about Joe Girardi:

“I don’t care what anybody says: It’s hard to manage [in New York]. It’s a zoo. You couldn’t pay me enough to manage there. I don’t know if he’s a top-five manager. But Girardi doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does.”

I think Girardi is an average-ish in-game manager. He’s very good at keeping his relievers fresh and putting them in positions to succeed, but he does slave to platoon matchups and is a little too rigid with his pitcher-inning assignments. That makes him no different than any other manager though.

Girardi really seems to do well with limiting distractions and running a healthy clubhouse, which is something we as outsiders can’t possibly understand or appreciate. The A-Rod stuff could have been a total fiasco for example, yet it’s blown over and been a non-factor. You never hear about players being unhappy — example: Adam Warren going to the bullpen — and stuff like that. On-field decisions are just a small part of a manager’s job. Most of their responsibility is in the clubhouse managing personalities, and the fact that things are so quite around the Yankees (the Yankees!) suggests Girardi is a great manager of people.

Yankees to donate $150,000 to charity in exchange for A-Rod’s 3,000th hit ball

(Photo via @zack_hample)
(Photo via @zack_hample)

Earlier today, the Yankees announced they have reached an agreement with noted ballhawk Zack Hample for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit ball. The team will donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity Hample has been involved with for years. There will be a press conference to present A-Rod with the ball this afternoon.

Hample has caught thousands of balls over the years and literally wrote a book on the best ways to catch baseballs at games. He’s caught a lot of grief the last few weeks for saying he wouldn’t give the ball to A-Rod, but give him props, Hample used the ball to get a ton of money for a good cause, not for personal gain like I would have.

Pitch In For Baseball is a charity that provides baseball and softball equipment to kids around the country. Here’s the website. The charity gets a ton of money and A-Rod gets his milestone baseball. Win-win. Nice job, everyone.

Yankees, A-Rod agree to donate 660th homer milestone bonus to charity

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees have reached a settlement for the $6M milestone bonus stemming from his 660th career home run, MLB and MLBPA announced in a joint statement. The union was handling the matter on A-Rod‘s behalf, and a few weeks ago we heard they requested a “hold” so they could continue to negotiate without filing a grievance before the deadline.

As part of the settlement, the Yankees will donate a whole bunch of money to various charities. No money is going to A-Rod. Here are the details from the press release:

As part of this resolution, Mr. Rodriguez and the Yankees have agreed that a total of $3.5 million in charitable contributions will be made by the Club, with $1 million going to the following charities that have long enjoyed the support of one or both: the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa, and Pitch In For Baseball; and $2.5 million going to the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, which will use the money to further programs and initiatives aimed at increasing youth participation in baseball, particularly in urban areas. Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. will determine the initiatives to be supported by the $2.5 million contribution after consulting with Mr. Rodriguez, and taking into consideration the focus of Mr. Rodriguez’s past charitable contributions. 

On one hand, MLBPA caved and was unable to get the player the bonus in his marketing agreement with the team. On the other hand, hooray for money going to charity, even if it’s not the full $6M. The Yankees also save on the luxury tax — A-Rod’s bonus would have counted against the tax and cost the team even more cash. I’m sure Hal Steinbrenner likes that.

There are still four more $6M milestone bonuses left in A-Rod’s marketing contract with the team. He’s due a bonus for his 714th (tying Babe Ruth), 755th (tying Hank Aaron), 762nd (tying Barry Bonds), and 763rd (passing Bonds) career homers. Alex comes into today with 15 dingers on the season and 669 in his career. He’s signed through 2017 and needs 45 homers to catch Ruth and trigger the next bonus. That might be a close one. Catching Ruth and Bonds seems unlikely.

The Yankees refused to pay Rodriguez the $6M bonus claiming his past performance-enhancing drug ties had rendered the milestone unmarketable.

Saturday Links: Six-Man Rotations, A-Rod, Franco

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

I’m not sure if Andy Pettitte was hanging around the team last night or if he’ll be back this weekend, but he was in the clubhouse in full uniform on Thursday, and he tossed batting practice before the game. Pretty cool. Anyway, the Yankees and Astros continue their series later his afternoon. Here are some links to hold you over until game time.

Do six-man rotations work?

The Yankees are currently employing a six-man rotation but only temporarily — Joe Girardi said they are likely to go back to a normal five-man rotation once the road trip ends next week. The team has been talking about using a six-man rotation since before Spring Training and baseball as a whole seems to be heading in that direction. I don’t think it’ll be long before six-man rotations are the standard around MLB. Maybe ten years or so.

Russell Carleton did some research on six-man rotations to see if they are actually worth the trouble. Does it improve performance? Does it reduce injury? What happens if you have an ace like Clayton Kershaw and don’t want him to make five fewer starts in a season? After some gory math, Carleton found that most pitchers don’t see an uptick in performance with an extra day of rest and their injury risk isn’t reduced substantially. Unexpected!

That doesn’t mean a six-man rotation isn’t worth trying though. It just means historical data indicates the benefits may not be as great as they seem. Every pitcher is different though. Perhaps a six-man rotation greatly benefits Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Or maybe it helps Tanaka and does nothing for Pineda. Who knows? Carleton’s research just shows that a six-man rotation may not be as great everyone seems to think.

Yankees still negotiating for A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

It has now been one week and one day since Alex Rodriguez took Justin Verlander deep for his 3,000th career hit, and, according to Dan Martin and Brendan Kuty, the Yankees are still trying to get the ball from ballhawk Zack Hample. The two sides have made “significant progress” after the team initially offered a package of tickets and memorabilia.

Hample says he wants the Yankees to “perhaps make a large donation” to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity that provides baseball equipment to kids around the county. “I could sell the ball at an auction for a lot of money and then turn over the money to the charity. I’ve certainly been hearing from a lot of auction houses,” he said. “This is a big chance to do something extraordinary for (the charity).”

Using the milestone baseball to help charity rather than for personal gain is an honorable thing. Of course, Hample has spent the last few days trolling A-Rod on Twitter and going on a media tour, so he’s milking his 15 minutes for all they’re worth. Hopefully A-Rod gets the ball, a charity gets a lot of money, and Hample stops pushing kids out of the way for baseballs. That way everyone wins.

Maikel Franco: Almost a Yankee

Earlier this week Phillies infielder Maikel Franco made a bit of a name for himself by wrecking the Yankees, going 6-for-12 with three home runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium. I won’t dub him a Yankees Killer based on one series, but yeah, he crushed them. Impressive showing by the kid. The Phillies are really bad but Franco is a definite bright spot and a reason for fans to tune in every day.

As Dan Barbarisi writes, the Yankees tried to sign Franco as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010, but fell $5,000 short of Philadelphia’s offer. The Phillies offered $100,000 and the Yankees offered $95,000. “I was very close to signing with the team—my agent told me which teams wanted to sign me, and the Yankees were up in that group,” he said. Only if Hal Steinbrenner wasn’t so stupid and cheap Franco would have been a Yankee argh!!!

Except that’s not really how this works. For starters, no one cares about this if Franco does 2-for-12 in the series. Second, we can’t assume he would have signed with the Yankees had they simply matched the offer. Franco might not have liked the idea of joining a team with a first baseman and third baseman signed until the end of time. Third, every team falls a few grand short of signing players every year. And sometimes those players get good. That’s baseball.

Saturday Links: Miller, Bailey, Hall of Fame, Security

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

The Yankees and Tigers continue their series later today, after the 69th annual Old Timers’ Day. All the fun starts at 4pm ET. Here are some stray links to keep you busy until then.

Miller Still Shut Down

Ten days ago the Yankees placed Andrew Miller on the 15-day DL with a forearm muscle strain, and, as of Thursday, the left-hander still has not resumed throwing according to Dan Martin. “I’m still resting,” said Miller. The Yankees said Miller would be shut down 10-14 days after being placed on the DL and he’s still within the window, obviously. Miller’s not behind schedule or anything. He’s right on schedule, I guess. Hopefully he can resume throwing sometime in the next few days and get back to the team before the All-Star break. The bullpen without Miller has a totally different dynamic.

Bailey returns to the mound

Remember Andrew Bailey? The magic of Spring Training had us all thinking Bailey could actually help the Yankees this season, but instead he suffered a setback a few weeks into the season as he worked his way back from shoulder capsule surgery. Bailey was shut down in April with a shoulder strain and was scheduled to start a throwing program in May, though I guess that was delayed.

Earlier this week, Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty that Bailey has indeed returned to the mound, throwing an inning in an Extended Spring Training game on Wednesday. I’m not sure what the plan is now — ExST is over (or will be very soon) now that the short season leagues are starting — but it sounds like Bailey is on the mend. The Yankees are going to want to see him pitch in minor league games, including back-to-back days before bringing him up. If Bailey can help at some point, great, the Yankees can use another reliever, but obviously the odds are quite long right now.

A-Rod‘s bat going to the Hall of Fame

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

There’s no word on what will happen with his 3,000th hit bat, but Alex Rodriguez has already donated his 2,000th RBI bat to the Hall of Fame, writes Ryan Hatch. “We extend our gratitude to Alex for donating the bat he used to record his 2,000th RBI to the Museum,” said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson. The bat will be displayed as part of the “Today’s Game” exhibit at the museum. A-Rod has some other stuff in the Hall of Fame, including the helmet from his 500th homer and his spikes from Game Six of the 2009 World Series.

Alex became the second player in history with 2,000 RBI officially, joining Hank Aaron (2,297). It’s a weird situation though. RBI did not become an official stat until 1920, and MLB ignores everything that happened before then. Baseball Reference has retroactively calculated RBI totals and both Babe Ruth (2,214) and Cap Anson (2,075) have 2,000+ RBI, but MLB does not recognized their pre-1920 totals. It’s like they don’t exist. It’s so silly. Either way, A-Rod is in the 2,000 RBI club. Whether he’s the second member or the fourth member is immaterial. It’s an extremely exclusive club.

Yankees beef up security after Astros hack

Earlier this week word got out the FBI and Justice Department are investigating the Cardinals for hacking into the Astros’ proprietary database, which is a crime. Like an actual crime with legal implications. Last June some trade information was leaked from Houston’s system, at which point the Yankees beefed up their security system. Here’s what Brian Cashman told Christian De Nicola:

“We certainly added some more measures, spent more money to protect what’s privileged,” Cashman said. “It’s more inconvenient now for us to access our stuff, but we did it — again — to look for where those vulnerabilities were and made some adjustments and spent some more money to upgrade the process.”

“There were some extra steps. Were they necessary? We’ll never know, but we’re more secure by doing so. We felt secure before, but we made it more difficult now. It’s a little more inconvenience when we’re accessing our system ourselves, but we spent some more money to add some further measures, regardless. There were grumblings by employees at the front end of it, because to access our system it’s more difficult now for all of us to do so, but we’re better protected by the way we went about it.”

Every team has their own internal information system these days and, of course, all their scouting reports and statistical data are different. They all use stats differently and they all have different scouting reports, so the need to protect that information is obvious. I’m guessing the Yankees were not the only team to improve their security after the Astros’ leaks last year. Twenty-nine other clubs probably improved their security as well.