Joe Girardi made just about the toughest call a manager can make in lifting A-Rod for a pinch hitter
Alex Rodriguez hadn’t produced in this series, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn’t want to lose the game without firing all his bullets. Still, lifting A-Rod for a pinch hitter isn’t like lifting other players. He has been such a star for so much of his career that he has earned the right to be treated differently.
Regardless of what is said, regardless of his production, it’ll be a tough for A-Rod to deal with the embarrassment. Girardi’s defense is the easiest one on earth: His only job is to win, and all he asks his players to do is put the team first. I’m guessing A-Rod will say all the right things.
But it could be a defining moment in his career. The Yankees and A-Rod are wed to one another for four more seasons, so there’s plenty of time to patch things.
Between 1998 and 2007, Rodriguez was baseball’s best player. He averaged 45 home runs a season and had a .982 OPS during these 10 seasons. He was 21 years old on Opening Day in 2001 and 32 at the end of the 2007 season. In the last five seasons, his production has declined dramatically—26 home runs a season and an .873 OPS. He celebrated his 37th birthday this summer.
There has been a dramatic decline in home runs, from 54 in 2007 to 16 in 2011 and 18 in 2012. This season, he hit fewer home runs than 48 other American League players, including six of his own teammates. Nevertheless the Yankees were 73-46 when he was in their starting lineup and 22-21 when he wasn’t. That’s perhaps the only good thing about his numbers because he’s not going anywhere thanks to a contract that still has five years and $114 million left on it.
For a second straight October, he’s having a terrible time of it in the postseason. He began the day hitting .111, which was also what he hit last October. With the Yankees in a 1-1 tie with the Orioles, A-Rod’s place in the batting order has become a favorite topic of discussion in the tabloids and on talk radio.
Girardi said all the right things about believing him and all that, but with the Yankees trailing by a run in the ninth on Wednesday, he pulled him for a pinch hitter. Raul Ibanez promptly delivered a game-tying home run, so it’s a game filled with story lines.