A-Rod’s benching sends a loud, clear message about the Yankees
The Yankees are the most bottom-line organization in all of professional sports. The Yankees do not have transition years. The Yankees do not make progress in a season. The Yankees do not fret about the future. And the Yankees most certainly don’t have two-, three- or five years plans.
When the Yankees win the World Series, they’ve had a good season. When they do not, they’ve had an unacceptable season. When they have an unacceptable season, people are held accountable. That is, they either lose their jobs or come up with a really good explanation for why they should not lose their jobs.
George Steinbrenner demanded this attitude. Randy Levine and Brian Cashman understand it. Joe Girardi gets it, too. So do Derek Jeter and Andy Pettite.
In that way, the Yankees have a really simple organization. They do not evaluate themselves by tickets sold or revenue streams or television ratings or any of that other stuff. Everything begins with winning, and from there, revenues, attendance, ratings, merchandise sales, flow.
Everyone who works for the Yankees understands this. The Yankees have the most resources, and they do not apologize for this. Yes, they make a lot of money. But their deal is winning.
This is has been an unbelievably tough season for the Yankees on many levels. No Mariano Rivera. No Brett Gardner. No Michael Pineda. No Andy Pettitte for two months. Still, the Yankees won 95 games and finished with the best record in the American League. No excuses, remember?
So when Yankees manager Joe Girardi benched Alex Rodriguez for Game 5 of a deciding ALDS contest against the Orioles, he was sending a loud, clear message about the Yankees. He may never have had a tougher call. I’m not sure I would have made it, or even recommended it to him.
Regardless of what A-Rod has done in this series, he’s married to the Yankees for five more years (and $114 million). To embarrass him now could open a wound that’s tough to close.
On the other hand, it’s about winning. A-Rod has not had a productive season, and he has not had a productive ALDS. He’s hitting .125. There’s an argument to be made about his presence in the lineup, but it’s obvious the Orioles don’t see it that way. They are not pitching around A-Rod. They are pitching to A-Rod.
The Yankees are playing to keep their season alive today, and Girardi did not want Rodriguez in his lineup. He has the numbers and the scouting reports to back him up. He probably also has A-Rod’s immediate confidence factor.
In doing this, Girardi is telling his players that it’s only about winning, and that if some feelings get hurt, then some feelings get hurt. Again, this is a tough, tough call because clubhouses have structures, and managers typically do not tamper with those structures.
But Girardi believes that leaving A-Rod in the lineup would punish his players, coaches, bosses and Yankees fans everywhere. He’s not worrying about long-term impact or any of that stuff. He’s only worried about today. He’s to be commended for that because there are a lot of managers who wouldn’t have had the guts to do it.
All he’s worried about is winning. All the Yankees every worry about is winning. However this season ends, he can look everyone who cares about the Yankees in the eye and tell ‘em he did everything he could. He can tell them he cared more about winning than about feelings.
This may end up being a defining moment in Girardi’s managerial career. First, he made the tough call to pull A-Rod for a pinch hitter. Then he benched him.
I’m guessing fans will appreciate his willingness to make a tough call. If A-Rod handles it with class, he, too, can grow in the hearts and minds of Yankee fans. He can let them know that he also only cares about winning. That’s the Yankee way.