3:03 pm Oct. 12, 2012
Alex Rodriguez has officially completed his two-month descent.
This afternoon, it was announced that the highest-paid player in baseball history, having been pinch-hit for in Game 3 and Game 4, will be on the bench for Game 5 of the A.L.D.S. between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles.
Manager Joe Girardi confirmed that this was a decision made for performance reasons; there are no injuries Rodriguez is battling.
“As I’ve talked about a little bit, it has been a struggle against the right-handers," Girardi said to reporters prior to the game. "Chavy has been a guy that we’ve played against a lot of right-handers and has been pretty successful, so it’s a tough decision, there’s no doubt about it, because of what he’s meant to our club. But I just thought with the struggles that he’s had, I’m going to go with Chavy. He said he’s ready to help when he needs to help, and let’s win today.”
Rodriguez probably doesn't belong in the lineup right now. There's his one extra-base hit since September 15. There's the fact that Jason Hammel, a righty, starts for the Orioles Friday, and that Rodriguez is 1-for-12, with nine strikeouts, against righties in this series.
But Rodriguez still managed a respectable .756 O.P.S. against righties in 2012. In a vacuum, Rodriguez wouldn't be the worst player to wait out in hopes that he could snap out of his slump. Rodriguez has declined from his peak as one of baseball's best in 2007, fairly steadily. But he hasn't been useless until very, very recently.
The decision isn't happening in a vacuum. The Yankees employ Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez.
In Chavez, the Yankees have a capable third baseman who put up a .908 O.P.S. against righties in 2012, with 16 home runs. In Ibanez, they have a designated hitter who put up an .812 O.P.S. against righties in 2012, with 19 home runs in the regular season, and two more you might have heard about on Wednesday night.
The Detroit Tigers, who will face the winner of Friday's game in the A.L.C.S., have all righty starters, presenting Girardi with this conundrum over and over in the next round if the Yankees get past the Orioles.
Rodriguez's reputation alone might have kept him in the lineup if he weren't struggling in this series quite so badly. He's managed, amazingly, to make Girardi's decision a relatively easy one.