Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rodriguez Resigned to Fate

Rodriguez's days in pinstripes are numbered, and he knows it (Hardball Talk)
Alex Rodriguez was not in the Yankees starting lineup last night, although he did get in the game long enough to slap the fly-out that ended it. He didn't make an appearance at all the previous night, despite the game going 10 innings and Joe Girardi using a dozen position players.  Rodriguez was also absent from the starting nine on Sunday, when he was again limited to a pinch-hit cameo (he struck out).

That's how the summer has gone for Rodriguez, who's watched his playing time evaporate as he sinks deeper and deeper into the worst slump of his career. Since July began Rodriguez has started just nine of his team's past 28 games. And he didn't spend time on the Disabled List, so it's not like he wasn't available.

After two decades as a Major League starter, Rodriguez has finally been reduced to a part-time role. The Yankees are still giving him superstar money, but they're through giving him superstar playing time. Even in a rebuilding year where they've shipped out more talent than they've brought in, they can find better ways to fill their DH slot than with a 41-year-old failing to bat his weight.

Girardi has tried everything to revive Rodriguez's bat. He's given him days off to clear his head and work on his swing. He's continued batting him cleanup, long after it became obvious that Rodriguez is no longer a Major League quality bat, let alone a middle of the order one. He's limited A-Rod's at-bats against righties, even though Rodriguez has never shown much of a platoon split.

None of it's worked, of course, because there's no cure for diminished bat speed and reflexes. Despite Girardi's best efforts, the decline of Rodriguez has only hastened. He's down to .204/.252/.356 after going 4-for-his-last-37, which was lowlighted by a four-strikeout performance in a game at the Trop last weekend. He recently drew comparisons to Willie Mays, and not the good kind.

His collapse extends far beyond last month, though, or even this year. Including last year's Wild Card game, Rodriguez has played 119 games since the beginning of last August, coming to bat 451 times during that span. In what is now a year-long famine, he has almost twice as many strikeouts (126) as hits (79) and has slashed .196/.272/.362. That is unacceptable production for a player at any position, especially one where the sole requirement is hitting.

To his credit, Rodriguez has taken the benching quite well (at least publicly). There has been no sulking or media outbursts. He hasn't demanded a trade. Instead, he's handled everything with grace and professionalism, which can't be easy for a player of his stature.

So when reports leaked today that Rodriguez might be released, of course he was okay with it. Many see it as the Yankees finally ridding themselves of Rodriguez, who long ago stopped being the superstar they were paying him to be. But from Rodriguez's perspective, he will also get a welcome release from what has become a sad existence. The former MVP is now baseball's most expensive bench player. That might at least be palatable if the Yankees were winning, but they're not. Maybe a release will mean more playing time elsewhere (probably not). Perhaps it gives him a shot at a ring.

At this point, releasing Rodriguez is clearly in the best interests of both parties. A-Rod knows it, and the Yankees have been trying to do it for years. He's given them the green light; now it's up to them to pull the plug.

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