Yankeemetrics: Stayin’ alive, against all odds [Sept. 8-11]

(AP)
(AP)

Another Baby Bomber earns his pinstripes
The surging, red-hot Yankees took another step towards making their once-laughable postseason dreams a reality as they celebrated yet another wild and crazy win on Thursday night against the Rays.

Their magical and improbable rise up the standings continued thanks to a dramatic two-out, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning by Tyler Austin, the latest Baby Bomber to deliver in the clutch for these never-say-die Yankees.

With the Yankees down to their last strike before extras, Austin crushed a 3-2 fastball into the right-field seats, etching his name on several pages in the franchise record books with that game-winning blast. He is the:

  • only Yankee first baseman to ever hit a walk-off homer against the Rays
  • second Yankee since 1988 (when pitch data is available) to hit a walk-off shot on a full count with two outs; the other was Brian McCann on Aug. 24, 2014 vs White Sox
  • first Yankee rookie with a walk-off homer since Melky Cabrera on July 18, 2006 vs Mariners
  • first Yankee rookie with two-out walk-off home run since Bobby Murcer on Aug. 5, 1969 vs Angels

Austin wasn’t the only player to clear the fences in this game as a late-season Home Run Derby broke out at Yankee Stadium. Brian McCann hit two ultra-important homers, giving the Yankees a lead in the second and fourth innings of this back-and-forth contest.

Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza both went deep twice for the Rays, becoming the first set of outfielders homer twice in a game against the Yankees since the Braves’ Andruw Jones and Ryan Klesko on July 16, 1999. The last AL outfield pair to pull off the feat was Carl Yastrzemski and Bernie Carbo for the Red Sox on June 18, 1977.

Overall, this was the 17th time since 1913 that teammates have each hit two homers in a nine-inning game versus the Yankees, but it was just the third time that the Yankees actually won the game. The only other times it happened in that span were July 21, 2002 against the Red Sox and June 21, 1990 against the Blue Jays.

Tex message slams Rays
And then there was one …

The Yankees youth brigade has fueled this incredible and improbable late-summer run, but it was an aging veteran who stole the spotlight on Friday night and provided the decisive blow in the 7-5 victory that brought the Yankees to within a single game of the final playoff spot.

Thirty-six-year-old Mark Teixeira broke open the game with a grand slam in the fourth inning, giving the Yankees a 7-2 cushion. It was Teixeira’s 11th career bases-loaded home run; among switch-hitters, only Eddie Murray (19) has more in baseball history.

The crucial hit was also a significant milestone blast for Teixeira, his 203rd homer as a Yankee, tying him with Roger Maris for 15th place on the franchise list. And it was his 406th career homer overall, one shy of matching Duke Snider for 54th place on the major-league all-time list.

tanaka cap tip
This is real, folks
The implausible has suddenly turned into the believable. Backed by a masterful and brilliant performance from their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees continued their out-of-nowhere push to the playoffs with another win on Saturday afternoon.

They’ve now won seven straight and 14 of the last 16 games started by Tanaka, and are 22-7 in his starts overall; no team in baseball this season has won more games behind a single starting pitcher than the Yankees when Tanaka is on the mound (22).

Tanaka delivered another gem, taking a shutout into the eighth inning and finishing with the first double-digit strikeout, no-walk game of his MLB career. He got a season-high 20 swings-and-misses among the 102 pitches thrown, including 18 (!) with his splitter and slider, the most he’s ever generated on those two pitches combined in a single start.

The game was a pitchers’ duel until Jacoby Ellsbury snapped a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the sixth inning off Chris Archer, which was perhaps the least shocking hit in the game. Ellsbury is now 19-for-34 (.559) versus Archer, his highest batting average against any pitcher he faced at least 15 times.

gary didi
(Getty)

The legend of Gary Sanchez kept growing on Saturday, too, when he crushed a 420-foot homer into the left-field bullpen, the 13th time he’s gone deep in the big leagues.

He tied the major-league record for the most homers in a player’s first 35 games (the others to do it are Wally Joyner, Mike Jacobs, Kevin Maas and Wally Berger), but Sanchez is the only one in that group that also had compiled at least nine other extra-base hits in those 35 games.

Yet that towering homer wasn’t even his most impressive feat. The Rays tried to intentionally walk him in the eighth, but Sanchez reached out and connected on a 52-mph pitch that he sent 407 feet to the warning track for a sac fly. It was easily the slowest pitch that anyone has hit at least 400 feet over the last two seasons (since Statcast began tracking distance/velocity).

The Sunday Letdown
The Rays finally cooled off the red-hot Yankees, who dropped the final game of the series, 4-2, snapping their seven-game win streak. Still, even with the loss, #TeamSell is 24-14 since August 1; in that span, only the Cubs and Royals have better records than the Yankees.

The Sunday Letdown was in full effect as the Bronx Bombers’ offense stalled and the homer-prone Luis Cessa couldn’t contain the Rays’ bats. This was the Yankees’ 51st game this season scoring two or fewer runs; that’s the most among all American League teams this season, and the Yankees’ most at the 142-game mark since 1990.

The Rays had just five hits off Cessa in 5⅔ innings, but three of them went over the fence, increasing his total to 13 home runs served up in 47⅔ innings this season. Of the 25 runs he’s surrendered this season, 20 have come via the longball. His rate of 2.45 homers allowed per nine innings would be the second-highest in a single season in franchise history among guys that pitched at least 40 innings, behind only Hideki Irabu’s 2.53 in 1997.

Game 135: The Most Important Game of the Season

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

This afternoon’s series finale is the most important game of the season. Those are Joe Girardi‘s words, not mine. He called it that following last night’s loss. The Yankees have been shut out the last two days, and if you go back to last weekend’s series, they’ve been shut out three straight times by the Orioles. Yikes.

The back-to-back shutout losses dropped the Yankees to 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot. They haven’t been that far back in almost two weeks, believe it or not. Today’s game is the difference between 6-6 and 7-5 during this 12-game stretch against wildcard competitors. Either way, it’s not good enough. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Rob Refsnyder
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. DH Austin Romine
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. 1B Tyler Austin
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s again cool and cloudy in Baltimore, though the sun is supposed to be make an appearance later on. This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:35pm ET and you can watch on YES. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Didi Gregorius (arm) is still sore after being hit by a pitch yesterday. He was originally scheduled to be in today’s lineup … Mark Teixeira (neck) is out with some soreness. His neck has been giving him problems on and off all season.

The Yankee offense has come to life in August, and it’s not all Gary Sanchez

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

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees were shut out by the Orioles and Kevin Gausman, which, unfortunately, has been all too common this season. They have no answer for Gausman at all. The young right-hander has made four starts against the Yankees this season and he’s held them to three runs in 27.2 innings. That’s a 0.98 ERA. He has a 4.41 ERA against all other teams. Sigh.

Thankfully, games like that, in which the offense no-shows, have been rare this month. Very rare, in fact. Yesterday’s loss snapped the Yankees’ five-game streak of scoring at least five runs, the team’s longest such streak in three years. The Yankees scored 14 runs Friday night and another 13 runs Saturday. They scored 10+ runs six times in the first 126 games of the season, then did it back-to-back days this weekend.

Even with yesterday’s shutout loss, the Yankees have scored 133 runs in August, making it their highest scoring month of the season. There’s still three more games to play before September arrives too. Here is the Yankees’ month-by-month runs scored ranks among the 30 MLB clubs:

April: 74 (30th)
May: 119 (22nd)
June: 129 (13th)
July: 97 (23rd)
August: 133 (4th)

Not surprisingly, power has played a big role in the Yankees’ sudden run-scoring ability. They’ve hit 40 homers so far this month, ten more than any other month this season. (They hit 30 in both May and June.) Obviously the arrival of Gary Sanchez has played a huge role in the improved offense. He’s hitting .425/.489/.938 (274 wRC+) with eleven homers in 21 games this season since being recalled after the trade deadline.

Sanchez is not the only reason the offense has been much improved this month though. Remember, the Yankees traded away Carlos Beltran at the deadline, and he was their best hitter for much of the season. It’s not like they simply added Sanchez on top of what they already had. Several players have improved their performance this month as well. Three others in particular have mashed in August:

April to July August
Starlin Castro .256/.292/.395 (81 wRC+) .309/.337/.557 (135 wRC+)
Aaron Hicks .187/.251/.287 (41 wRC+)  .307/.342/.480 (121 wRC+)
Mark Teixeira .192/.269/.322 (58 wRC+)  .254/.359/.433 (116 wRC+)

That doesn’t include the red hot Ronald Torreyes, who has gone 14-for-26 (.538) with six doubles, a homer, a walk, and no strikeouts over the last week. He’s exactly the kind of high-contact hitter who can go on an insane BABIP-fueled run like this. Torreyes replaced Chase Headley at third for a few games while Headley nursed an Achilles injury, and he’s stayed in the lineup because he’s been so hot.

There are reasons to believe this is all legit too. Castro has always been a second half hitter; he has a career 86 wRC+ in the first half and 105 in the second half. Hicks is playing everyday again, something he wasn’t able to do for much of the first half. I know no one wants to hear it, but I truly believe the regular at-bats help get him on track. Teixeira? Well, he couldn’t possibly be that bad all season, right? I hope so. We have to hope and pray a little more with Teixeira than we do Castro and Hicks.

It hasn’t all been good news this month. That’s just the way it goes. Brett Gardner (78 wRC+) and Jacoby Ellsbury (85 wRC+) haven’t been great in August, which is kind of a problem because they hit first and second — directly in front of the molten hot Sanchez — most games. Brian McCann (77 wRC+) hasn’t done much either, and call-ups Aaron Judge (85 wRC+) and Tyler Austin (-11 wRC+) have cooled off following their big MLB debuts. You can’t really expect the kids to carry the offense though. Sanchez is the exception, not the rule.

Still, the point is the Yankees have multiple hitters locked in right now. Most of the season they were able to rely on Beltran and maybe one other hitter at any given time. Didi Gregorius was hot for a while. Then it was McCann. Then Headley. Then whoever. The offense never seemed to fire on all cylinders, and truth be told, it still doesn’t feel that way. At least now there’s more than one or two guys carrying to load. Sanchez has been getting the kind of help Beltran never received.

The Yankees beat up on some bad Orioles pitching Friday and Saturday night, which skews their August numbers a tad. They’re averaging 4.61 runs per game this month if you remove those two blowouts, which is still their second highest scoring month this year after June (4.78). Friday’s and Saturday’s games happened though. They count. Earlier this year the Yankees rarely beat up on bad pitching. They just did it on back-to-back days.

No one expects Sanchez to stay this hot the rest of the season. It’s pretty much impossible. Hopefully as he cools down others like Gardner and Ellsbury and McCann heat back up and create a deeper, more balanced lineup. Scoring runs can still be a struggle for the Yankees, we saw it yesterday, but they’ve done a much better job offensively of late. They’ll have to keep up this pace to continue climbing back into the postseason race.

Teixeira and McCann have accepted their reduced roles, and that’s important

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are a team in transition, as they like to say, and that transition involves playing young kids over established veterans with some serious credentials. It’s an obvious move to make but not necessarily an easy one. There are egos to be managed in the clubhouse, and an unhappy veteran can make things uncomfortable for a rookie trying to find his way in the show.

“I think it’s difficult if the players are about them, but if the players are about the team and winning, I think they buy in, they understand and they do their job,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand. “It’s really important, because when they’re willing to mentor, it really helps our young players. It does a lot for the clubhouse, too; the importance of the clubhouse staying together and understanding that we’re still in this and we’re fighting.”

Alex Rodriguez has been pushed out the door, but Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann remain with the Yankees, only with reduced roles. Teixeira has started only one of the last four games and three of the last eight games. McCann hasn’t caught a game in ten days now and he’s been relegated to full-time DH duty. He’s not a part-time player, but he kinda is. Teixeira and McCann are in new and unfamiliar roles.

I can’t imagine these new roles feel like anything but a demotion for those two. How could they not? Teixeira went from batting in the middle of the order and playing every single day to playing two or three times a week. McCann has been a starting catcher in this league since he was 21. Suddenly that has been taken away from him and he’s being asked to DH, something he’s never done regularly before.

“I’m getting used to it. When all you know is catching, it’s just a new routine. I’ve got to find a routine to work for me,” said McCann to Dan Martin. McCann’s situation is very different than Teixeira’s. Teixeira is retiring after the season and he doesn’t have to worry about his future as a player. McCann has two years left on his contract and right now he might not be sure what the future has in store for him. Will he be a full-time DH? Will he be an everyday catcher again?

So far McCann has done nothing but praise Gary Sanchez — “I haven’t seen a young catcher this good since I’ve been in the big leagues. He’s fun to watch play, and his ceiling is extremely high,” he said to Martin — the kid who has taken his job. That’s not really a surprise though. McCann came to the Yankees with a reputation for being a team first player and we’ve seen exactly that in his three years in pinstripes.

Teixeira has been a team first guy as well, and one of the reasons the Yankees aren’t planning to trade him this month is his leadership and willingness to mentor young players. Brian Cashman and the Yankees value that leadership more than anything they could realistically get in return for Teixeira, which at this point might be a player to be named later or cash. Teixeira is like an extra coach now.

“I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with (Tyler Austin). I’ve known him for a few years in Spring Training, but first base is new to him. I was in his shoes my rookie year, learning on the job. I’ve really enjoyed talking to him about the ins and outs of playing first,” said Teixeira to Feinsand and Martin. “I try to do as much as I can with Tyler or any of these young guys that are here … It might be different if I was still gonna be around and not retiring, but I understand these guys need to play.”

This could have become a very uncomfortable situation, especially after A-Rod was shown the door. The Yankees made it abundantly clear they are ready to move on from the veterans and play the kids, even if it means eating a ton of money to cut a guy loose. That couldn’t have made Teixeira and especially McCann feel too secure. It would be completely natural to wonder if you’re next in that situation.

Instead, the Teixeira and McCann demotions have been a non-factor. If anything, they’ve been a positive because Teixeira is working with the young players and McCann has been productive in his new role (.286/.423/.429 as the full-time DH). We’ve seen other instances around the league where veterans were unhappy about losing playing and made a big stink about it. Teixeira and McCann have done the opposite of that. They might not love losing playing time (who does?), but they’ve handled this professionally, and that’s important. They’ve helped foster a positive environment for the kids to develop.

“I told Joe when I decided to retire, ‘Literally whatever you want me to do, if it’s playing every day, once a week or once a month, I’ll do whatever you want to do,” said Teixeira to Feinsand. “I’ve done everything I want to do in this game. Because of that, it makes this process easier. If I play once a week, I’m going to be really excited about that one game I play. Those guys definitely need to play.”

Teixeira says he is “staying put” and won’t accept a trade

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

According to Dan Martin and Fred Kerber, Mark Teixeira will not waive his 10-and-5 no-trade protection this month, even if it gives him an opportunity to go to a team with a chance to win the World Series. “You know, (GM Brian Cashman) and I have talked about it, and it’s not something that I think would benefit me or the Yankees. So no, I’m staying put,” he said.

Two weeks ago Teixeira announced he will retire after the season, and with the Yankees on the postseason bubble at best and Tyler Austin now on the roster, I thought maybe he would be open to going elsewhere. Then again, Teixeira and his family live in the New York full-time, and he might not want to leave them, even for a few weeks. I wouldn’t blame him if that’s the case.

Of course, the other side of this is what teams would want Teixeira? The Marlins immediately come to mind. First baseman Justin Bour is out long-term with an ankle injury and Giancarlo Stanton’s season just ended due to a groin injury. Miami has a clear need for a first baseman and power. The Cardinals just lost Matt Adams to a shoulder injury, making them another potential landing spot.

Cashman told Martin and Kerber that while the Yankees didn’t actively shop Teixeira, his willingness to mentor the team’s young players is more valuable than anything they could realistically get in return. I can’t imagine they’d get more than a fringe prospect or cash for Teixeira at this point, so why not keep him to mentor guys like Austin, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez? That sounds good to me. Just maybe don’t bat him cleanup all the time.

For now Teixeira says he doesn’t want to leave the Yankees, but maybe he’ll change his mind if the team really falls out of the race and/or Austin starts hogging all the time at first base. Two weeks from yesterday is the deadline to acquire a player and have him be eligible for the postseason roster, so there’s still some time for this to play out. Right now, my guess is Teixeira retires a Yankee.

Yankeemetrics: Surprising news, big wins [Aug. 5-7]

(AP)
(AP)

Tribute to Teix
The first stunning news conference of the weekend came just a couple hours before the opening game of this Yankees-Indians series, when Mark Teixeira announced that he will retire at the end of the 2016 season.

One of the defining numbers of Teixeira’s legacy is his unprecedented combination of power and defense, at a position where most players either excel in one of those two tools, but rarely both. Teixeira is the only first baseman with at least five Gold Gloves (awarded since 1957) and at least 400 homers.

Teixeira was also unique in that he produced at a high level right out the gate as a rookie, and showed impressive consistency during the prime years of his career. He reached the 25-homer mark in each of his first nine career seasons (2003-11), one of four players in major-league history to do that: Darryl Strawberry, Albert Pujols and Eddie Mathews are the others.

The next season he hit 38 homers and drove in 112 runs, kicking off an incredible eight-year run of 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBI. Among players that played at least 50 percent of their games at first base during the season, the only other guys to match that streak are Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

Teixeira was in the Bronx for less than a decade, but he still has a place alongside the all-time great first basemen to wear the pinstripes. He is one of three Yankee first baseman to compile at least 200 homers and 800 hits with the franchise. You might have heard of the others: Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig.

Just hours after Teixeira’s emotional announcement, the Yankees took the field and produced one of their finest offensive performances of the season in routing the AL Central-leading Indians, 13-7.

Starlin Castro delivered the biggest blow of the game with his first career grand slam in the third inning. Thanks to that blast, Castro upped his batting average with the bases loaded this season to .429 (6-for-14 plus a sac fly), the second-highest in the majors among players with at least 15 plate appearances through Friday.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The letdown
The Yankees rollercoaster-like offense continued its up-and-down path, while another so-so performance from their starting pitcher doomed them in a 5-2 loss to the Indians on Saturday afternoon

Since the calendar flipped to August (and through Saturday), the Yankees game-by-game run totals have been as follows: 6, 1, 9, 1, 13, 2. For the season, that’s 44 games with two or fewer runs scored, by far the most among AL teams (no one else in the league even has 40 such games).

CC Sabathia retired the first 10 batters faced, but once again was victimized by the longball, giving up solo shots to Jason Kipnis in the fourth and Mike Napoli in the sixth inning. This was the third straight start that Sabathia has given up multiple homers, the first time in his career he’s done that.

After a shaky second inning during which he coughed up two runs, Corey Kluber dominated the Yankee lineup the rest of the way, facing the minimum number of batters over his final six innings while striking out eight batters. It was his third straight win over the Yankees, and in each of those games he’s given up no more than two runs and gotten at least eight strikeouts.

Only four other players in major-league history have fashioned such a streak — three straight games pitched with a win, eight-plus strikeouts and two or fewer runs allowed — versus the Yankees: Felix Hernandez (2010), Pedro Martinez (1999-00), Bob Feller (1946) and Lefty Grove (1926).

(Reuters)
(Reuters)

An A-bomb from A-Rod
For the second time in three days a shocking off-field news item grabbed the headlines in Yankeeland. Just hours before Sunday’s series finale, Alex Rodriguez and the team announced that the 41-year-old would play his final game on August 12 and then join the front office in a special advisor/instructor role.

A-Rod might be one of the most complicated and polarizing figures in baseball, but it’s hard to ignore his staggering (though tainted) statistical pedigree. He’s compiled numerous historic feats during his 22-season career, but most notably, he arguably possessed the best power/speed/run-producing combo tool of any hitter.

His 11 seasons of at least 100 RBI, 30 homers and 15 steals are the most all-time (and four more than anyone else), and he is the only player in major-league history with at least 2,000 RBI, 500 homers and 300 steals in a career.

Most people would agree that A-Rod’s signature moment in pinstripes was his incredible production during the Yankees’ 2009 World Series run. He hit .365/.500/.808 with six homers and 18 RBI, putting together one of the greatest single-postseason hitting lines in franchise history.

Among Yankees with at least 25 at-bats in a postseason, his 1.308 OPS ranks third behind only Mickey Mantle in 1960 (1.345) and Reggie Jackson in 1978 (1.315). Additionally, he is the only Yankee with more than five homers and more than 15 RBI in a single postseason.

There was still a game to be played after A-Rod’s announcement, and the Yankees once again rode the momentum of yet another tearful and emotional press conference, beating the Indians 3-2.

Masahiro Tanaka was masterful on the mound, scattering six hits across six innings while striking out eight and allowing just one run. He is now 5-1 with a 2.07 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankee loss. Among MLB pitchers with at least nine such starts this season, only Jacob deGrom (1.99) has a better ERA than Tanaka.

Tanaka’s final strikeout — the result of winning a 12-pitch battle with Lonnie Chisenhall to end the sixth inning — was also the 400th strikeout of his career. The only other Yankee to reach that milestone this early into his major-league career (67th game) was Al Downing.

Thoughts following the Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira retirement news

There are too many things to love about this photo. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
There are too many things to love about this photo. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Yesterday morning Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees announced A-Rod will play his final game this coming Friday, at Yankee Stadium against the Rays. After that he will be released as a player and join the team in what is being called a “special advisor and instructor” role. Oh, and by the way, a few days ago Mark Teixeira announced he will retire at the end of the season. It’s all happening so fast, isn’t it? I have some thoughts on all of this.

1. Make no mistake, A-Rod is being “forced” into retirement. Based on everything we heard at the press conference, it sure seem the Yankees — specifically Hal Steinbrenner — made it clear to Alex they no longer have a spot for him on the roster. That doesn’t mean they gave him an ultimatum, but A-Rod’s not stupid. He knew what his options were. Alex sounded very much like a man who still believes he has some quality baseball left in him during that press conference, and there was this weird disconnect during the whole thing. A-Rod was up there by himself, then Brian Cashman went up, then Joe Girardi went up. They weren’t up there together. It was … weird. You could tell this is not the way A-Rod wants things to play out, but he realizes this is his best option.

2. The Yankees do not owe A-Rod anything and vice versa. The club managed to turn him into a sympathetic figure these last few weeks, but they did not do him wrong. If anything, Hal threw Alex a bone by approaching him about an advisor/instructor role. The Yankees could have easily — and justifiably — released A-Rod and been done with him. They gave him an opportunity to go out with some dignity and grace. The end of a player’s career is rarely pretty, and Rodriguez’s was quickly spiraling towards an ugly end. The Yankees gave him an opportunity to avoid that.

3. All of this was, without question, a big distraction. Girardi was getting asked about A-Rod before and after every single game, and you could tell it was wearing on him. How could it not? The same questions, day after day after day. Other players on the team were being asked about it, the front office and ownership had to have it on their minds constantly, the announcers were talking about it … it wasn’t pleasant. Benching A-Rod became a very big thing. I don’t know what kind of effect it had on the other players and their performance, but I know it bothered me watching as a fan, and I’m sure I’m not alone. This was a very awkward situation that I don’t think anyone enjoyed.

4. The A-Rod stuff is very bittersweet. I love A-Rod and have greatly enjoyed watching him these last 12 years. He’s one of my all-time favorite Yankees and I’m sad to see him go. At the same time, the Yankees are better off without Alex at this point of his career, so I’m glad he’s gone. It’s a weird feeling. Different than when Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Bernie Williams retired. I can’t explain it. With those five, it was time for them to retire. I almost feel like A-Rod is being ripped away from me. I’m going to miss watching him. I’m also exciting about the direction the Yankees are heading without him.

5. My one simple request: play Alex every game this week. I’d like to see him start all three games at Fenway Park in addition to Friday’s game against the Rays. It would be the coolest thing ever if he got to play third base Friday, but I’m not going to hold my breath. A-Rod is four homers away from 700 for his career (700!) and I’d like to see him get as many at-bats as possible to try to get there. He’s already hit two homers at Fenway this season, after all. (Plus the Red Sox’s pitching staff is hilaribad.) The man is motivated and I want to watch him play during his final week in the big leagues, not sit on the bench.

Sock just one more dinger, Al. Please. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Sock just one more dinger, Al. Please. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

6. No one thinks another team is actually going to sign A-Rod, right? I’ve seen a few people talking about the possibility, but who wants a DH who can’t hit? No one signed Barry Bonds back in the day when he was coming off a very productive year. I see two possibilities and they’re both long shots: the Rays and Marlins. The Rays could use a DH and, if nothing else, signing A-Rod will generate some buzz and sell a few more tickets. As for the Marlins, well, owner Jeffrey Loria has a history of making moves geared towards headlines, and A-Rod would definitely qualify. Martin Prado just got hurt yesterday, so hey, they need a third baseman now. I just can’t see it happening. Alex is persona non grata around the league.

7. I’m intrigued by the special advisor/instructor role. A-Rod said he’s going home to Miami after Friday’s game and will begin his new role in Spring Training, so he won’t immediately jump right into it. (He did also say he’ll help whenever the Yankees ask, even later this year.) By all accounts A-Rod is great with young players and we know he has a lot of knowledge to give, and boy do the Yankees have a lot of talented young players on the way. He can work with their young shortstops, including Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo, not to mention their potential sluggers like Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge. Rodriguez could be a real asset in a role like that. I hope the Yankees take advantage of having him on the staff these next few months.

8. Rodriguez is truly one of the greatest and most talented players in baseball history, and he has a slam dunk first ballot Hall of Fame resume. He’s in the inner circle of the inner circle. Will A-Rod actually get into the Hall of Fame? Right now my gut says no. Roger Clemens and Bonds aren’t close to getting in and we have far more evidence A-Rod used performance-enhancing drugs than those two, so yeah. The odds are stacked against him. That doesn’t change the fact Alex was the greatest ballplayer whose career I got to see from start to finish. (I was too young to understand how good Bonds was in the 1980s.) It’s going to be a very very very long time until we see someone seriously threaten 700 homers and +120 WAR again. Those kinds of numbers. At his peak, A-Rod was the perfect baseball player. Talented, instinctual, fundamentally sound, durable … he was the total package. What a joy it was to watch this man day after day.

9. The question on everyone’s mind: who takes A-Rod’s spot on the roster? The Yankees have plenty of open 40-man roster space — they have three open spots right now and will get a fourth once Alex is gone — so that’s not an issue. I think it’s between either Tyler Austin or Aaron Judge, and right now I think it’ll be Austin. Judge just missed a month with a knee injury, and while he hasn’t missed a beat since returning, it’s still not a bad idea to give him a few more at-bats in Triple-A to get up to speed. Austin can play first base, right field, and DH, so it’ll be much easier to get him into the lineup right away. Like it or not, the Yankees still seem committed to letting Aaron Hicks play as much as possible, and that will cut into Judge’s playing time. So my guess is Austin comes up for A-Rod, then Judge comes up once rosters expand in September.

10. I don’t have much to say about Teixeira retiring, I guess because a) I didn’t get as attached to him as I did A-Rod, and b) I was expecting him to be gone after the season anyway. Not retired, but gone as a free agent, so really, nothing has changed. Like I said before, I feel like Alex is being ripped away. Teixeira was a very good two-way player for the Yankees for a long time whose biggest problem was injuries the last few years. The Yankees are going to find guys to hit homers and things like that, but they’ll miss Teixeira’s defense. It remains world class even at age 36. Teixeira is still the guy I want the ball hit to with a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven of the World Series. Was his contract worth it? Oh yeah. Absolutely in my opinion. He was a key part of the most Yankees’ most recent championship team and he was a total pro who played hard every day. Teixeira got hurt and that stinks. I never once doubted his effort or commitment to the Yankees.

11. Teixeira called the Yankees a “team in transition” during his press conference and that has stuck with me. I mean, we all knew it was true, but to hear one of the team’s key veteran leaders say that was a bit different. The players are all aware of what’s going on now. These last two weeks have totally changed the direction of the franchise. The Yankees sold at the deadline and two longtime cornerstone players are getting ready to call it a career. That’s a lot of change in a very short period of time! It’s exciting! And also sorta scary! There’s comfort in familiarity and none of this is familiar to a large segment of Yankees fans, myself included. I definitely remember the Yankees being bad back in the early-1990s. I just didn’t fully grasp the inner workings of the team at the time. I’m sad to see A-Rod go and I’m sad to see Teixeira go. I’m also ready to embrace this “team in transition” and see where it leads next.