Found October 12, 2012 on
New York Yankees
It looks desperate. It's not.
Joe Girardi's decision to bench Alex Rodriguez for the winner-take-all Game 5 of the American League Division Series is a matter of common sense.
Based on the way he's been swinging -- long before this series began -- A-Rod is not the New York Yankees' best option to start against right-handed pitching.
Raul Ibanez is the better designated hitter. Eric Chavez is the better third baseman. Girardi's lineup for Friday's decisive game against Baltimore accurately reflects those realities.
A-Rod is not solely to blame for the Yankees' current predicament, needing a win Friday to extend their season. He is hitting .125 in this series -- but that is better than both Robinson Cano (.111) and Curtis Granderson (.063). Granderson has struck out just as often as A-Rod, a team-high nine times in four games.
This decision has everything to do with A-Rod's at-bats against right-handers in this series, which have been consistently poor. Rodriguez has only two hits, both against lefties. He has been overmatched by fastballs of 92 mph or more -- and even lower, in the case of side-armer Darren O'Day. With his tentative at-bats late in Game 4, Rodriguez offered little hope that he would fare differently against Baltimore righty Jason Hammel Friday evening.
After Ibanez famously pinch-hit for Rodriguez in Game 3, A-Rod promised he'd swing aggressively in Game 4. That never happened.
Girardi said at a Friday news conference that A-Rod will be available to hit against a left-handed reliever (Troy Patton or Brian Matusz) late in the game. Frankly, a platoon role suits the 37-year-old at this point in his career. He had a .924 OPS against lefties during the regular season, but only .717 when facing right-handers.
There is the matter of A-Rod's ego, as it relates to his future with the team. That is a valid concern. He does, after all, have five years and $118 million left on his guarantee, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. (How much money is that? Well, it's about what Josh Hamilton -- baseball's top position-player free agent -- may get this winter.)
Girardi and Rodriguez insisted in the giddy Game 3 aftermath that the pinch-hit decision would not affect their relationship. "I love Joe," A-Rod said then. This decision, however warranted, could jeopardize that goodwill -- particularly if the Yankees lose.
But Girardi can't worry about A-Rod's feelings now. He needs to win a game. Clearly, Girardi is aware that A-Rod's production has declined for five straight years. It's time for Rodriguez to accept the same reality about himself.
It's awkward. It's humbling. It's uncomfortable. These things always are.
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