It wasn’t so long ago that baseball fans was looking ahead to the day when Alex Rodriguez might break Barry Bond‘s all-time home run record.
These days, he can’t even get his manager to put him in the lineup for a playoff elimination game.
If Rodriguez’s benching in game three of the ALCS between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers was a move designed by Joe Girardi to send a stark message to the rest of the flagging offense, the decision to do it again – ahead of a do-or-die game four – is practically a burial.
That word shouldn’t be taken lightly. Rodriguez, and the $114 million dollars owed to him over the next five years, is buried under a mess of fan expectations, diminishing returns at the plate and in health, and a once-dominant career that’s been reduced that of a replacement-level player.
Actually, scratch that. In the case of the 2012 MLB playoffs, A-Rod has been well below replacement level, as Yankees fans and Girardi will surely attest to after watching the veteran hit for just a .330 OPS over six playoff games, with 12 strikeouts over 23 at-bats. Those strikeouts aren’t unique to A-Rod as far as Yankees who are struggling at the plate – that list runs about eight players long, with every member of the Yankees offense on it with the exception of Raul Ibanez, who was become the unexpected last gasp of this team struggling to stay alive in the playoffs.
That said, each time that A-Rod has been a blow to the aura of this franchise, chipping away at the base of the Yankees’ league-leading $197 million payroll, until the weight of the fact that this current core, built on big contracts that could be called both fearless and ill-advised, might just be on the verge of an expensive collapse. The Bronx Bombers are out of armament, its seemingly ageless leader – Derek Jeter – forced to watch from the sidelines, having worn his ailing ankle to the breaking point.
Raul Ibanez can’t be the answer.
These are the Yankees, after all.