Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A-Rod Due for Big Game

Rodriguez needs to come up big tonight, or else (FoxSports)
After much speculation and hoopla over where Yankees manager Joe Girardi would slot Alex Rodriguez in the batting order tonight, it turns out #13 will once again take his hacks as the team's number three hitter.

No surprise there. Girardi is a veteran's manager who likes to maintain the status quo and he doesn't want to ruffle the feathers of his highest paid player.  Unlike Joe Maddon and Bobby Valentine, he doesn't shake things up just for the sake of shaking things up.  He prefers the Terry Francona approach; just pencil the names in and let the players do their thing. However, many fans were calling for him to take action and drop his struggling third baseman in the batting order.  Rodriguez frustrated the Yankee faithful by going 1-for-9 with five strikeouts in Baltimore during the first two games. Even a longtime Rodriguez defender/apologist like myself can see that he looks overmatched right now, that he can't catch up to the fastball or make consistent contact on breaking pitches.  Girardi said he was open to the idea of rearranging his the lineup for Game 3, but decided to hold his ground.

I think he made the right call. A good manager has confidence in his players and sticks with them through thick and thin.  He does what he thinks is best for the team without caving in to the pressure from fans and media. I think Girardi also understands the implications of making a move like that at this stage in the season. Dropping Rodriguez in the order, or even benching him in favor of Eric Chavez, would feel like a panic move when the series is merely tied at one game apiece.  It would incite a media firestorm and signal desperation.  When Joe Torre dropped Rodriguez to sixth, then eighth during the '06 Division Series versus Detroit, it backfired.  A-Rod went 1-for-15, New York lost in four games and Rodriguez never forgave his skipper for humiliating him.  Girardi knows the Yankees won 95 games during the regular season with A-Rod hitting third in many of them. The strategy worked for 162 games, so why wouldn't it work now? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

It certainly looks like Rodriguez's swing is broke though, doesn't it? He's mired in one of his patented postseason funks, much like the one that dogged him in 2005, '06, and '07.  He hasn't gone yard in the playoffs since Halloween night, 2009, a span of 87 plate appearances.  Since helping the Bombers win the title that fall, he's 10-for-59 with 17 strikeouts in 16 games while batting .169/.282/.203. Granted, Rodriguez is not the superstar he once was, but that level of production from a middle-of-the-order bat is simply unacceptable, even for a 37 year-old with diminishing power. Needless to say, A-Rod has been long overdue, and he needs to find a way to contribute something from the batter's box tonight.  A sac fly, a timely base hit, a walk to start a rally. Something. Anything. Because if he comes up empty again, and the Yankees lose, then Girardi will have no choice but to make a change for Game 4.

Rodriguez is still an above average player.  Now is the time to prove it.

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