I am really curious to see what happens when Alex Rodriguez steps to the plate tonight. I think there could be three different reactions.
1- The St. Louis/San Francisco reception. He gets a standing ovation because fans hate cheaters, but only cheaters on other teams. You have to support your cheater.
2- The every other ballpark in the league reception. He gets booed unmercifully.
3- The LA reaction. The fans haven’t entered the ballpark by the time he steps to the plate, or they don’t really react at all because they are checking out their hair.
I certainly hope it isn’t #1 or #3. And while I would understand #2, I would like to see Yankees fans get creative with expressing their scorn. I would like to see two things happen.
1- In the Top of the First when the roll call happens, I hope the Bleacher Creatures simply skip chanting A-Rod’s name. That would be a neat form of protest.
2- Whenever he comes to hit, I hope all the fans just get up and walk to the concession stands or turn their backs SILENTLY on A-Rod. Can you imagine that? Alex gets introduced and everyone simply ignores him? That would be the perfect reaction in my mind. Save the boos for the next time he comes to the plate.
Whatever happens, I suspect most of us will be watching.
Joel Sherman has always been a fairly level-headed voice for reason in the insanity that normally surrounds the Yankees. So, I am a bit surprised by his article this morning about the Yankees being tired of Joba’s “act”. I don’t know if the article was one that was planted by Yankee brass or if it is Sherman’s original thinking, but it strikes me a unfair and incorrect.
Let’s start with the ego part. Does Joba have a huge ego? Does he crave attention? Well most professional athletes have bigger than normal egos, it what helps them rise to the top of their game. I couldn’t begin to say if Joba’s ego is bigger than most or not. What I will say is that the two biggest egos in the history of the Yankees were George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson. Both of those guys have plaques hanging in Yankee Stadium (one of them has a ridiculously-sized one) so I don’t think egos are something the Yankees really worry about.
So what are they worried about? Probably the fact that they had three highly-ranked prospects and none of them developed into a frontline starter for the Yankees. They jettisoned Ian Kennedy in a trade. Phil Hughes is still trying to establish himself and then there is Joba. I have a feeling that if you administered truth serum to the Yankees they would admit that they blew it with Joba. They panicked when they turned to him in 2007 as a bullpen arm and then they started messing with him in 2009 to keep his innings down. Through his first 20 starts of 2009 he was 7-2 with a 3.58 ERA. Once they started messing with his innings he fell apart posting a 7.74 ERA over his last 11 starts. Those were the last 11 starts he would make as a Yankee. He moved to the pen full-time in 2010 to protect his arm, got hurt in 2011 and the rest is history.
In light of all of that can you blame him for saying he wants to be a starter? He was fairly good at it once and then there is the money aspect. Starters get big money in free agency, so do closers, but middle relievers do not. Joba knows that and he knows that the next contract he signs will be for a fraction of the amount he once thought he would get. I can’t blame him for being unhappy about that.
Local columnists aside, I can’t think anyone who has paid attention to the Yankees over the past few years is surprised at the news that the Yankees are moving Brett Gardner to center and Curtis Granderson to left. Granderson hasn’t looked great in the field the past few years and fielding stats back that impression up. His range factor was 10th in the AL. His UZR was an abysmal -17.8. Compare that to Brett Gardner who had amazing back-to-back UZR’s above 20 in 2010 and 2011 and had the second-highest range factor in the AL in 2011. (He only played 85 innings in the field in 2012, so I ignored those numbers.) Gardner is clearly the better fielder and moving him to center makes baseball sense.
But it also makes business sense. Granderson will be a free agent next season and there is a big price difference between a 40-home run centerfielder and a 40-home run leftfielder. By putting Granderson in left, the Yankees reduce his potential price tag, which might just allow them to keep him after 2013. (We can debate whether or not they will want to later.)
So, the Yankees improve their team and they improve their business potential, that’s a win-win in my book. Of course Granderson is the loser in all of this. By doing this the Yankees put a dent in his price tag and they force him to learn the toughest outfield position in Yankee Stadium. Granderson is not the type to complain, but I can’t imagine he is happy about any of this.