The New York Yankees have reached the end of the regular season as champions of the American League East and they have the best record in the league. It was not easy but they are now ready for the playoffs. It is time to look at the players that got them there and give them grades for the season.
THIRD BASE – ALEX RODRIGUEZ (18 HRs, 57 RBIs, .272 BA)
It’s always something.
With Alex Rodriguez it always seems some injury comes up that interrupts his season and rolls him down a highway that is a few exits past his MVP seasons. This pattern has been going since his monster season in 2007 when he played in 158 games and hit 54 home runs, drove in 156 runs and hit .314.
For the past five seasons Rodriguez’s totals have been gradually slipping. The home run totals dropping from 35 to 30 to 30 to 16 and 18 this season. The RBI totals sinking from 103 to 100 to 125 to 62 and now just 57. The batting averages dipping from .302 to .286 to.270 to .276 to .272 this season.
This is not your father’s Alex Rodriguez. The once most-feared hitter in baseball has turned into Scott Brosius before our very eyes and it is pretty to safe to say that age 37 that the vintage A-Rod is not coming back.
After suffering through seasons cut short by a serious hip injury to his injury-plagued 2011 campaign shortened to 99 games because of knee and thumb injuries, this season was supposed to be a big comeback season for Rodriguez.
But after languishing through a terrible first half in which he hit just 13 home runs, drove in a mere 36 runs and hit .266, Rodriguez was struck on the left hand by pitch thrown by Felix Hernandez of the Mariners in Seattle on July 24. A broken bone in the hand shelved him until Sept. 3.
So from the midpoint of the season, Rodriguesz contributed five home runs and 21 RBIs.
A look inside the numbers shows just how far A-Rod’s star has fallen:
- With the bases empty he hit .300.
- With runners in scoring position he hit .230.
- With the bases loaded he hit .200.
His 18 home runs are just two more than he hit in 99 games last season and yet he still hits in the middle of the order as if he was the A-Rod of 2007.
The fact the Yankees are on the hook to pay this large albatross through the 2017 season is quite troubling. When that contract was signed, the Yankees were envisioning Rodriguez becoming the all-time home run champion in pinstripes.
But with Rodriguez stuck on 647 career homers and seemingly unable to hit 20 in a season, he will be lucky to reach 700, much less make to 763 to pass Barry Bonds.
The qustion is how long will the Yankees to allow Rodriguez to underperform for the money his is making and how much he is hurting the Yankees in every game with his strikeouts, weak popups and routine fly balls? Can they afford to keep him? Or are they paying so much for him that they can’t get rid of him?
All I know is what I see and I just see a very sad shell of a player who might be succumbing to aftereffects of performance enhancing drugs. So I do not feel sorry for him. But I do feel sorry for the Yankees being roped into this deal that will hamper their ability to pare salary ahead of the 2014 season.
Rodriguez is also turning into a liability in the field, too.
He made eight errors this season, which sounds OK until you find out he started only 81 games at the position. That total also does not account for the balls that got past him because his surgically repaired hip has robbed him of his lateral quickness. It also does not account for the slow dribblers he was unable to charge fast enough to get the runner at first.
His cannon arm is still there but it can be erratic.
Nope, any way you slice it, A-Rod is just not A-Rod anymore. The sooner Yankee fans realize that the sooner they can stop praying for that game-winning homer in the playoffs. If the Yankees are lucky he will single in a big run with a runner in scoring position.
So don’t get your hopes up for a great postseason for A-Rod. It might turn out like all the ones he produced before his epic postseason in 2009, which brought title No. 27 back to the Bronx. The 28th will have to come some other way.
MIDSEASON GRADE: D
SECOND-HALF GRADE: I
OVERALL GRADE: D
BACKUP – ERIC CHAVEZ (16 HRs, 37 RBIs, .281 BA)
I have already discussed Chavez in my post about Mark Teixeira.
Because of Rodriguez’s injury, Chavez was the primary backup at third base and he started 50 games there. If Chavez were a younger player and capable of playing every day, he would have either replaced Rodriguez outright or, at the very least, be the lefty part of a platoon at the position.
Of course, that is if A-Rod was not A-Rod and he was not getting paid big bucks.
Chavez was the better fielder here and you can make a case that he was a more productive hitter. He hit 16 home runs in 278 at-bats. A-Rod hit 18 in 463.
If it were me, I might even consider moving Rodriguez the DH spot and starting Chavez at third against right-handers in the playoffs. It just makes good sense.
MIDSEASON GRADE: B
SECOND HALF GRADE: B+
OVERALL GRADE: B
The Yankees also played Jayson Nix, Casey McGehee and Eduardo Nunez at third base this season. With Nix out of the early part of the playoffs with an injury, Chavez will be the primary backup and Nunez will not play here unless it is an emergency.
McGehee will not make the postseason roster.
In the minor leagues the Yankees have a slick-fielding third baseman in Brandon Laird. But Laird, 25, had a mediocre season with the bat at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting just .254 with 15 home runs and 77 RBIs.
With Rodriguez blocking his path to the majors, Laird has to hope he can find an opportunity with another organization. He has some value as a potential corner infield backup because he play first base also.
The Yankees do have a potential star in last year’s first draft pick Dante Bichette Jr., who spent the season at Class-A Charleston.
Bichette, 20, has a long way to go after hitting .248 with three home runs and 46 RBIs. This was after a season in which he was the MVP of the Gulf Coast League in 2011. But he is still young and the Yankees love his bloodlines to former Rockies outfielder Dante Bichette.
He looks to be a keeper for now.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: C-
It is rare when you are talking about a three-time MVP being worse than the player who backs him up. But that is what we are dealing with in Rodriguez. Out of loyalty, his past track record and to keep the peace, manager Joe Girardi has refused to take A-Rod out of the middle of the order.
Fine. I understand that. But one would hope if A-Rod falls flat on his face this October that he will have the courage to do it next season.
There is only so much you can take. Seeing him swing through fastballs he used to crush and pop up pitches he used to hit hard over the fence is just frustrating to watch game after game.
Opposing scouts, managers and pitchers already see what Girardi has refused to admit. Maybe it is because of what happened to Joe Torre after he batted Rodriguez seventh in the 2007 playoffs against the Detroit Tigers. Torre lost his job.
Perhaps Girardi sees a similar fate for him if he does it and the team loses a playoff series. Just don’t be surprised if Rodriguez hits .125 and leaves a lot of runners on base this postseason.
YANKEES 11, ASTROS 9 (RAIN SHORTENED)
KISSIMMEE, FL – A week or so ago it just seemed the Yankees were not scoring any runs. After Saturday’s Grapefruit League game against the Astros you have to wonder are they ever going to stop scoring.
Raul Ibanez homered and drove in four runs and Robinson Cano added a home run of his own and two RBIs as New York pounded out 16 hits – four of them homers – to down Houston at Osceola County Stadium in a game that was called with one out in the ninth inning due to rain.
Right-hander Adam Warren (1-0) was the winning pitcher despite the fact he gave up six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. The Yankees made life miserable for Astros starter Jordan Lyles (0-3), who was knocked around for eight runs on 11 hits and he walked one batter in 4 2/3 innings.
Preston Claiborne gave up two runs in the ninth inning but still got credit for a save.
In their last two spring training contests the Yankees have scored 24 runs on 31 hits and 11 walks.
With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 15-11 and that means they can finish the spring with no worse than a .500 record. The Astros completed their Florida portion of spring training and ended up 14-15.
- The story of the week has been the resurrection of Ibanez. In his last five games, Ibanez is 6-for-14 (.429) with three home runs and eight RBIs. Not to mention he had another potential home run taken away by a leaping grab at the wall by Justin Heyward of the Braves on Wednesday. Ibanez has raised his once dismal spring average from a low of .054 to a still poor, yet encouraging, .157. It looks like the extra work Ibanez has been putting in with hitting coach Kevin Long is paying dividends at the right time.
- Cano also had a slow start to the spring but he is gearing to put up a monster season from the No. 3 spot in the batting order. Cano singled and scored in the first and preceded Ibanez’s two-run home run in the fifth with one of his own as the Yankees rallied from a 5-4 deficit to 8-5 lead, a lead they did not relinquish. Cano is hitting .236 with two home runs and a team-leading 12 RBIs.
- Curtis Granderson is also primed for another big season. Granderson was 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Granderson is hitting a sizzling .381 this spring and it seems he is determined to show 2011 was not a fluke.
- It also bears mentioning that the Yankees’ firstup draft pick in 2011, Dante Bichette Jr., served notice on Saturday that he is a force to be reckoned with in the future. Bichette entered the game in the fifth inning and promptly hit a solo home in the sixth off right-hander Ruben Alantz. He followed that with another solo home run in the eighth off Astros closer Brandon Lyon. Both home runs came on the first pitch.
- The pitching was atrocious but manager Joe Girardi wanted to make sure his rotation was lined up for the start of the regular season on Friday so Warren was pressed into action. The 24-year-old former North Carolina Tarheels star had trouble locating his fastball and he paid dearly for it. He gave up four runs in the fourth, three of them on a three-run home run by Justin Ruggiano.
- It had to happen sooner or later but left-hander Clay Rapada surrendered his first run of the spring on Saturday. Called on to relieve Warren with two outs in the sixth, Rapada gave up a solo home run to Brian Bogusevic, a left-handed batter. Rapada, 30, will likely make the 25-man roster as a lefty specialist in the bullpen. His spring ERA is 0.93.
- Eduardo Nunez was the only Yankee starter to not get a hit on Saturday. Nunez was 0-for-3 but he still has had an excellent spring, hitting at a .381 clip.
An MRI conducted on Saturday on 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda’s sore right shoulder indicated he merely has tendinitis. However, he will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Pineda complained of soreness behind his right shoulder after he was blasted for six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies on Friday night. The Yankees said Pineda will rest the shoulder and then resume throwing until he is ready to return. Pineda was acquired along with right-hander Jose Campos from the Mariners in a trade for top catching prospect Jesus Montero this winter. With Pineda on the disabled list, manager Joe Girardi set the rotation as follows: No. 1 CC Sabathia, No. 2 Hiroli Kuroda, No. 3 Phil Hughes, No. 4 Ivan Nova and No. 5 Freddy Garcia. . . . With Pineda on the DL, the loser in the six-man fight for five rotation spots will not be headed to the bullpen. That opens the door for young right-handers David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Warren as candidates for a long-relief role. . . . Left-hander Cesar Cabral has a stress fracture on the tip of his left elbow and he also will begin the season on the disabled list. Cabral, 23, was in considerable pain after pitching an inning against the Phillies on Friday. An MRI, an X-ray and a CT scan was conducted on Saturday and Cabral’s left arm was placed in a splint. The silver lining in this is that with Cabral on the disabled list the Yankees will not have to offer the Rule 5 selection back to the Kansas City Royals. . . . In a procedural move the Yankees released first baseman/DH Russell Branyan on Friday and signed him to a new minor-league deal on Saturday. Branyan, 36, has been unable to play in any games this spring due to a herniated disc in his back. Branyan will stay in Tampa, FL, after spring training ends to work back into shape for about four weeks.
The Yankees will travel to Miami, FL., on Sunday to play the Marlins in a pair of games and open their brand-new retractable roof stadium, Marlins Park.
In the Sunday opener the Yankees will start Sabathia in his final tuneup before his April 6 start against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, FL. The Marlins will counter with right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.