If you had told me back in 2004 that Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees would go to only 1 World Series together, I would have bet you anything that you were wrong. The Yankees had just lost the 2003 World Series, but it was their sixth appearance in the last eight Fall Classics. Adding the best player on the planet seemed like a guarantee for plenty of more Octobers in the Bronx.
But we didn’t know that baseball was changing and A-Rod was a major jerk. Team like the Red Sox were better than the Yankees at exploring new ways to win. A-Rod alienated most of his teammates immediately by doing things like requiring the clubhouse attendants to put the toothpaste on his toothbrush. Those Yankee teams of the mid-2000’s were more talented than the results they produced and I think that has a lot to do with how divided they were.
Alex kept making himself look bad while putting up enormous numbers. He preened and pressed for attention and then committed the cardinal baseball sin of trying to upstage the 2007 World Series by opting out of his deal during the final game. Yet all was forgiven when the Yankees weeks later not only took him back, but gave him a raise. His ten-year contract guaranteed him $275-million and additional money for the milestone home runs he was going to hit as he pursued the record.
Brian Cashman was absolutely right yesterday when he said that the Yankees don’t win the 2009 World Series without Alex, but that was a heck of a price to pay for the 13 years he was under contract. Some people feel sorry for Alex which is hard for me to fathom. He became fabulously wealthy playing baseball, yet cheated the very sport he professed to love multiple times. He was benched because he simply didn’t add any value to the team, not because of some vendetta by management against him. Give credit to Hal for not only swallowing a big check in releasing Alex, but taking the high road. It would have been very easy for the Yankees to simply cut him yesterday without another thought. Instead, they gave Alex a way to leave with some dignity.
I hope Alex takes advantage of the opportunity. He can head back to Miami next weekend and then pour his efforts into helping younger players grow. If I were him, I would play the long game doing everything I could to bolster my image for a shot at the Hall of Fame. Alex could follow Mark McGwires path and coach, staying involved in the game he loves and helping other player succeed.
But I don’t think that will happen. I suspect he will start working out and leaking stories about it. He will work out at first base to gain some competency there and Loria and the Marlins, looking for another gate attraction after Ichiro, will bring him into camp next March. So think of this only as a good-bye to the Yankees, not baseball.
With the subtractions of A-Rod and Beltran, the Yankees no longer have a permanent DH. This has big implications for the future.
First off it means that Brian McCann stays a Yankee unless someone absolutely backs up a truck for him. (Remember he has the most home runs as a catcher since 2014 and is still very good defensively). The Yankees can shuttle him and Sanchez between DH and catcher, giving Sanchez a chance to grow into the job while learning from a really good source.
Second it means that someone else is going to come up and play. I suspect it will be Tyler Austin and the Yankees will give him every chance to show what he can do, but Aaron Judge won’t be far behind. And if Austin and Judge show they are ready over the final months of the season, you can bet that the Yankees trade Gardner or, if they somehow could, Ellsbury, this offseason.