Instead of benching A-Rod and Granderson, how about putting the best players in the Yankees’ lineup and seeing how it plays out?
I can’t get rid of this nagging feeling that Joe Girardi is going to regret benching Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson during this postseason. They’re three of the reasons the Yankees have overcome so many injuries to get all the way to the American League Championship Series.
That’s the thing that can’t be forgotten. If Brian Cashman and Girardi had known they wouldn’t have Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez for all or part of the 2012 season, they would have wondered how ugly thing would have gotten.
With a lot of the top talent in the minor league system either injured or performing poorly, the Yankees ran out of good options. Still, they had the best record in the American League with 95 victories, and they eliminated the Orioles in a terrific division series. Now they’ve hit a wall.
Despite a 2.25 staff ERA, the Yankees are a game away from being eliminated. They’re hitting .182 in the first three games of the ALCS against the Tigers and have scored five runs in three games. Girardi benched Rodriguez and Swisher for Game 3, then sat down Rodriguez and Granderson for Game 4.
As Cashman said, there wasn’t much risk that the starting lineup Girardi settled on would do worse than one with his regulars. Still, I couldn’t have brought myself to do it.
Even though A-Rod’s postseason numbers against right-handed pitching are stunningly bad—0 for 18, 12 strikeouts—I would have written his name in there and prayed for a turnaround. Obviously, Girardi has seen enough to believe no turnaround is coming.
Also, Cashman pointed out that A-Rod’s problems with right-handed pitching didn’t begin this month. For the season, he’s hitting .256 with a .717 OPS against right-handers and .308 with a .924 OPS against left-handers.
I’m among the people A-Rod convinced in Spring Training that he was still capable of doing great things even after a tough 2011 season. But it didn’t happen.
There were flashes of the old A-Rod, but never any consistency. By month, he hit .244 in April, .314 in May, .232 in June, .315 in July, .261 in September and now .130 in the postseason.
When asked about the long-term impact on A-Rod’s future with the club—he has five years and $114 million remaining on his contract—Girardi and Cashman said they’re only worried about winning this one game. That’s the right answer, and it’s a gutsy move to bench him. Whether it’s the right move or not is one of those issues Girardi might think about long into the off-season.
In all these cases, Girardi is choosing players who would appear to be in the twilight of their careers (Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez). They were never close to being the players that the benched players were. In the end, there’s no right answer. Girardi will be judged on the bottom line.