10:03 am Oct. 10, 2012
The New York Yankees employ the highest-paid player in baseball in Alex Rodriguez. And since September 15, Rodriguez has one extra-base hit, a double, in 90 plate appearances.
Accordingly, Yankee manager Joe Girardi was bombarded with questions on Tuesday's conference call about whether he plans to reassign Rodriguez to a spot lower in the lineup. And he didn't rule it out.
“I think you have to take it all into account,” Girardi said on how he'd decide his lineup in Game 3 and beyond. “We know that we’re in a three-game series, and whether you need to pinch hit for someone, you need to make a pitching change, you need to change the lineup a little bit, our guys understand. We have a veteran group that understands that we’re going to do what we think is the best thing to win."
The luxury Girardi has in his 2012 Yankees, one the team didn't have just a few years ago, is that Alex Rodriguez really isn't the difference-maker in his lineup anymore. They can survive whether or not Rodriguez starts hitting again.
Consider that Rodriguez posted a 112 O.P.S.+ in 2012. That's a solid mark, but on the Yankees, it is decidedly unspectacular. Among the eight hitters with the most plate appearances, that ranks sixth, behind Robinson Cano (149), Nick Swisher (126), Mark Teixeira (116), Curtis Granderson (116) and Derek Jeter (114). The two below Rodriguez are Raul Ibanez (104), who was extremely hot over the final few weeks of the season, and Russell Martin (92), who had a great second half and hit a game-breaking homer in Game 1. Rodriguez also trails Ichiro Suzuki's 114 O.P.S.+ as a Yankee since arriving in late July.
Rodriguez might actually be the team's least important hitter at this point.
Whether it would be a good idea to drop him in the batting order is a different question. Rodriguez probably shouldn't have been batting third or fourth, as he did in 118 of 122 games this season, but dropping him a couple of spots now wouldn't mean much in terms of the Yankees' productivity and it is worth asking whether the move will worsen the perceived problem by shaking Rodriguez's confidence.
The real problem with Alex Rodriguez is that he's 37, the Yankees owe him another $114 million over the next five years, and if their efforts to keep payroll under $189 million come to fruition, he'll continue to take up a large chunk of their payroll in return for steadily decreasing productivity.
But that is not an issue for the 2012 Yankees. For now, Rodriguez is just a talented hitter who is being carried by his more talented teammates.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Jon Heyman reports that the Mets are set to offer David Wright a deal worth about $100 million, and are looking to extend R.A. Dickey for no more than two years. These are either extremely low starting points, or the Mets aren't giving themselves much chance of signing either.
Mike Woodson really wants J.R. Smith coming off the bench.
Kris Humphries is really good, you know.