Thursday, October 18, 2012

A-Rod Should Insist on a Trade

Reuters / Ray Stubblebine
So, in the last  hours, the drama surrounding Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees has gone from bad to obscene. The discussion of Alex's struggles are no longer about whether or not he will play and where in the lineup he'll be placed. The conversation has now shifted to this team's most talented player being booted out of the Bronx during the offseason. After being benched for game 4 of this ALCS series, the Yankees biggest game of the year, it has become clear to the media and Yankee fans that the message being sent to A-Rod is that he is no longer needed, nor valued on this team. Couple that with reports of trade talks between Yankees and Florida Marlins ownership for the star and well, the writing may be pretty much on the wall.

I say Alex should demand a trade and get the hell out of town.

While it would sting me tremendously to see one of my favorite players leave my favorite team, a trade to Florida makes sense for Alex. Miami is his home, and he is respected and revered there. Not just for his play on the field, but also for the countless contrinutions he's made to the Miami community. The Marlins are coming off of a failing season where a new stadium, location, name and manager did nothing to improve their standing in the National League. Nor did it improve the number of fans who came out to watch the team play. Alex would single-handedly turn all that around with his presence and the success he's had off of National League pitching.

 Also, being managed by a guy like Ozzie Guillen would be great for Alex. Ozzie is a wild-card that doesn't seem to care about what his players do off the field, as long as they perform on the field. He also does not have the pressure of a "Yankee-style" organization dictating his movements like every manager has to deal with here in New York (although I do believe that Joe Torre had more flexibility in his leadership than any manager was afforded for years prior). Guillen himself has had to battle through being a lightning rod for the media; not being particularly liked by many in baseball; making comments that perhaps were better left unsaid. He could definitely identify with Alex's struggles, and that would bode well for managing a superstar of Alex's caliber.

And let's be real fanatics, Alex was a marked man from the time he put on the pinstripes. No one in 2004 questioned him as a player, but the hatred was there for his strained relationship with Derek Jeter. Seems like no matter what is going on with Alex, Jeter gets thrown into the equation somehow. The truth from my perspective is that Alex has had to succumb to not truly being himself at any time during his tenure in New York because of the backlash of having our revered Captain at odds with him. Any implication of adverse feelings from or toward Jeter makes you a target for hatred in this town. It's not always fair, but if you're a Yankee fan of this generation, you live and die by the Captain.

But the bigger picture in all of this is that what's happening to Alex now is unfair. There, I said it. A crucial game 4 and the decision is to bench him? Again? It's as if the Yankees believe that he is just no longer viable in any capacity, period. So Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher--all of whom have now put up worse numbers than Alex has this postseason--can play for a chance to "run into something," but Alex can't? And let me reiterate from my last post that Eric Chavez has done nothing, absolutely nothing in Alex's place, yet he continues to be given an opportunity to also "run into something?" I don't believe that this is still about Alex not doing well against right-handed pitching. This is personal, and my intuition tells me that these decisions are coming directly from Brian Cashman and even higher, and Joe Girardi's hands are tied, although, I don't see him putting up much of a fight in Alex's defense. Regardless of the struggles, you have to keep putting your best players out there and Alex Rodriguez is still one of their best. He's certainly better than the guy they're replacing him with.

So it's time for Alex to go. You can't continue to fight through struggles for an organization that has already billed you as null and void. Not when you're a player of this caliber. My friend Nicholas, who is staying on top of all this drama, informed me yesterday that Kobe Bryant had a conversation with Alex, basically telling him that while it's ok to be a team player, you have to remember who you are. In other words, you can't continue to sit back and be okay with being treated like you no longer matter when you're still the most dangerous player on your team. Listening to Alex's press conference, it was clear that Kobe's words made him realize that he had to get back to being A-Rod.

"I really feel that in my heart, any time I'm in that lineup, the team is a better team, without any question," Alex told reporters yesterday. He gave a fantastic interview overall, clearly shying away from caring about any backlash his words might incite. He made it clear that he is still a dangerous hitter; still capable of turning this series around; still the guy that has done nothing but give his all and compete his entire career. He also made it clear that he's not happy with being benched and that the relationship between him and Girardi has shifted. Jorge Posada, anyone?

With Alex's contract containing a full no-trade clause, only he can detrmine his fate in New York. Only he has the power to approve any deal. At this point, I don't see him wanting to stay here; not with all that's transpired in this ALCS series. Maybe something can happen from here that will turn things around. ESPN's Buster Olney reported on this morning's "Mike and Mike" show that in batting practice this morning, Alex was "absolutely raking." Maybe Joe could change his mind and include him in today's game; give him a chance at redemption. If Alex makes some noise, it would certainly work in his favor today. But if no chance is given, and if today's game is the last game the Yankees play this year, I see no room for repair. No way that Alex will want to stay here.

But I could be wrong about all of this. I'm speculating like every member of the media and every fan following this story. I hope that I am. I hope that this can all be fixed. I hope that when we all go to bed tonight, a game 5 will be necessary. I hope that Alex gets a shot to do something big. I hope that he can reconcile his feelings and want to stay in New York. I hope that this team can pull off a miracle, and that all of the superstars play a part in that. I hope.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ ra_cooper 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Do or Die Time In Yankeeland

AP Photo / Alex Brandon
What's happening in Yankeeland right now seems both unimaginable yet, at the same time, predictable. I don't know how you fanatics felt last night, but I went into the game feeling that a loss was on the horizon. Sorry, but this is where the Yankees have left me, and other fans like me, at this point. With very little hope. And that's what's so unimaginable: that Yankees' fans have literally been left with no hope; something that we've always had. On the flip-side, the predictability of the loss comes because the offense has shown no "substantial" signs of improving from game to game.

Getty Images / Leon Halip
But will I say it is over entirely, folks? No. If any team can build momentum from having their backs pushed all the way to wall, it's the Yankees. But the only way this will happen is for the offense to do what it does. Where are the homeruns?? Where are the stolen bases?? Where are the good at-bats?? What's happened to making pitchers work and running up pitch counts??? These are the fundamentals of what make the Yankees such a deadly team, and it's all been lost somehow. Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson look absolutely dead at the plate; no good pitch recognition, allowing way too many "cookies" to pass their bats in the zone. Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano have lacked the control and patience that allows them to see as many pitches as they do, and get better opportunities for pitches they can hit. At least twice in this series, Ichiro has had an opporunity for a stolen base in a crucial situation, and has passed. And with the exception of Raul Ibanez, no one in the entire lineup has the power stroke. And I won't even bother to question hitting with runners in scoring position, because the Yankees haven't done that all season. But on all other fronts, it's as though everything that makes this team pop has just completely disappeared in the postseason. Definitely the worst time possible.

AP Photo / Kathy Willens
And speaking of A-Rod, with the exception of a close childhood friend of mine that I've been going back-and-forth with on this, I have kept relatively quiet on Girardi's decision to bench him. So I will say this: A-Rod is playing the worst baseball of his career right now. He is a shell of the hero we saw 3 years ago. Girardi's decision to play Eric Chavez was both warranted and necessary, in the beginning. But right now, Girardi can no longer justify sitting A-Rod out. Why? Because Chavez has done absolutely nothing in A-Rod's place. Nothing. Chavy is now 0-for-14 with 6 strikeouts, and he committed a costly error last night. If Chavez' struggles are just as bad as the guy who lead you to a World Series just 3 seasons ago, you must now give that guy the chance to come in and make something happen. If Chavez were hitting, I might not like it personally, but I would be alright with him playing for A-Rod. But that's not the case. Fanatics and Yankee haters who can't stand A-Rod can think whatever they want to think about him personally. But as I've stated to many people before, the Yankees do not win a WS Championship without his bat. He proved this in 2009 and he's proving it by default now. No, it's not all about A-Rod, but it's largely about him and how he can turn any game around at any time. Let's face it, none of the superstars on this team except Mark Teixeira are doing anything. So if Girardi continues to put Cano, Grandy and Swish out there in hopes of something happening, he has to afford the same to Alex. At this point, what do the Yankees have to lose by putting him in? But, I'd be surprised if gets to play tonight. He's 1-for-12 against Tigers' Max Scherzer with 4 strikeouts. Could be that leaving him out of last night's lineup was a missed opportunity for this team. But we'll never know.

But all is not lost, fanatics. We saw some good signs in the game last night. Eduardo Nunez looked damn good defensively showcasing his diving play up the middle, and the homerun off of  Justin Verlander in the ninth inning was a sight for sore eyes.  The bullpen has been lights out this entire postseason really, and last night only allowed one run in 5 innings without the help of David Robertson or Rafael Soriano. And Brett Gardner, although hitless, took some good swings last night. I think he has to continue to play and get at-bats while either Swish or Grandy sit games out.  

AP Photo / Carlos Osorio
So tonight, CC Sabathis gets the start. Bottom line is, CC has to be CC and the offense has to dig deep and score runs. Right now, the Yankees' approach has to be that of a 12-step program: just take each remaining game (because I do believe they will win tonight) one at-bat at a time. If the Yankees can pull it together in the next two in Detroit, we'll be looking at a different series. They still have a chance, but the bats have to come alive.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper