Here we are, at the finish line. When Alex Rodriguez’s career comes to a close, he’ll go down as one of the most controversial athletes of all-time. So why wouldn’t he give us one more controversy for old time’s sake?
Nothing comes easy for A-Rod anymore. He proved that again Thursday in his final game at Fenway Park, the same stadium where he made his major league debut in 1994. It was a lousy night for Rodriguez, who went 0-for-4 with an RBI. The RBI came on a slow roller that died about 20 feet in front of home plate. A-Rod’s other at-bats included a weak lineout to second base, a pop-up and a strikeout.
It was all very anticlimactic. Friday’s finale against the Rays should be a bit more celebratory but even that event has been tainted by a minor controversy centered on A-Rod’s strained relationship with Yankees skipper Joe Girardi. When the Yankees announced that Rodriguez would be playing his last game on Friday, Girardi seemed amenable to giving him a proper sendoff. If A-Rod wished to be in the lineup every day, Girardi said he would make it happen. But Girardi quickly backtracked and banished A-Rod to the bench.
“I’m aware of what my quotes were, that there would be conversations and I would try to get him in every game. I said that,” said Girardi in a hostile exchange with the media earlier this week. “But what I’m saying is, I made a mistake. And I’m admitting that.” Girardi let A-Rod come out of hiding for a pinch-hit appearance on Wednesday and relented again Thursday by penciling him in for one last game against the rival Red Sox. But even then Girardi slammed the door in A-Rod’s face, denying him the opportunity to play third base in his final game Friday night.
“My job description does not entail farewell tours,” said Girardi. “My job description is to try to win every game and to try to put everyone in the best possible position to do that. And that’s what I’m trying to do.” It takes a lot to frame Rodriguez as the victim. Years of PED scandals have shaped A-Rod into a villain but it still seems like he’s getting a raw deal here.
Playing Rodriguez at third base might be a safety issue at this point. He hasn’t started there since May of last year and hasn’t looked comfortable at the hot corner in quite some time. Even A-Rod admitted his goal at third would be to not get hit in the face. But the way Girardi has shunned Rodriguez this week is still inexplicable.
No, Rodriguez is no longer a good hitter or even capable of being a productive bench player on a big league roster. But Derek Jeter certainly wasn’t lighting it up when he exited stage left in 2014. Despite being a liability in nearly every facet of the game, Jeter still managed to play 145 games while rarely taking a day off from shortstop. There’s no denying that Jeter is more well-liked than A-Rod but is that a good enough reason to honor Jeter with a year-long parade while humiliating Rodriguez in what will likely be his last week as a professional ball player?
At face value, Girardi has a valid argument. His job is to win games by putting the best lineup on the field and right now, the Yankees’ best lineup doesn’t include Alex Rodriguez. But if the Yankees are truly going for it this year, why did they move their three best players (Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller) at the trade deadline? New York is two games above .500 and needed to win four of its last six to even reach that point.
Editor's Note: Subscribe to the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast on iTunes. Please remember to rate and review if you dig it. New episodes come out every Friday.
The Yankees are, for better or worse, a rebuilding ball club. Would it have killed them to let A-Rod start a handful of games before riding off into the sunset? And if Girardi is so convinced that A-Rod is going to spoil his team’s chances of winning, why would he bat him cleanup on Thursday instead of hiding him in the No. 9 spot? Girardi’s brand of circular logic can’t sit well with A-Rod, though he’s handled the situation gracefully while continuing to own up to his past mistakes. If there was ever a week to feel anything resembling empathy for A-Rod, this would be it.
Rodriguez didn’t ask for a farewell tour. In fact, he has yet to utter the word “retirement” since the Yankees announced their plans for his departure. A-Rod thinks he can still play in this league, even if the numbers suggest otherwise (3-for-35 in the second half). The Marlins have shown at least a passing interest in A-Rod and it’s certainly possible other teams could join the mix after he plays his final game in pinstripes. Rodriguez spent his childhood in Miami so the link to the Marlins is obvious. What isn’t as obvious is where he’d fit in their lineup. Rodriguez is no longer able to play the field and with no DH in the National League, he’d have to settle for pinch-hitting duty. As cool as it is to envision Rodriguez sharing a clubhouse with legends like Ichiro Suzuki and hitting coach Barry Bonds, signing Rodriguez just wouldn’t be practical for the Marlins.
A-Rod won’t get to 700 homers but maybe he has one more left in him. Rodriguez only has two hits in 15 career at-bats against Friday’s starter, Chris Archer, but both of those hits were home runs including a two-run blast on May 27. The Red Sox did not hold a ceremony for Rodriguez this week but the Yankees will and it should be a fairly elaborate one. The festivities will start around 6:50 PM with first pitch scheduled for 7:35. It will be a night to remember in the Bronx. And if nothing else, at least A-Rod will be a major bargain on FanDuel Friday night. He’s going for $696, one dollar for every home run he’s hit in the major leagues.
Editor's Note: Don't whiff on this special FanDuel offer: win your first contest or get your money back (up to $10) to keep playing. Try FanDuel now.
AL Quick Hits: David Ortiz returned to the lineup Thursday after leaving Wednesday night’s game with what initially looked like a serious leg injury. He went 1-for-3 with a double while passing Dave Winfield for the most extra-base hits in a season for a player after the age of 40 … Mookie Betts was not in the Red Sox lineup on Thursday after leaving Wednesday’s game with calf tightness. Betts was recently moved to No. 3 in the order after spending most of the year batting leadoff … Zach Britton worked out of a jam in the ninth inning Thursday to preserve his 35th save. Britton, who has emerged as a legitimate Cy Young contender in the American League, has gone 39 appearances without allowing an earned run. That’s a new major league record … Miguel Gonzalez is headed to the disabled list after suffering a strained groin Thursday against the Royals. Gonzalez was just starting to hit his stride with a 3.31 ERA in six second-half appearances … Kendrys Morales dropped his appeal and served a one-game suspension Thursday against the White Sox. Morales was suspended for returning to the field after his ejection against the Rays on August 2 … George Springer played center field Thursday for the first time in over a year. He might play there more often now that Carlos Gomez has been designated for assignment … Andrew Albers set a Twins record by throwing 108 pitches Thursday in relief of starter Tommy Milone, who was lifted after three innings because of shoulder tightness. Albers let up 11 hits and five runs (three earned) over six innings in a lopsided loss to Houston … The Twins were getting knocked around in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader (they lost both games in blowout fashion), so they turned to a position player on the mound. Shortstop Eduardo Escobar tossed a scoreless ninth inning in his pitching debut … Carlos Santana left Thursday’s game in the seventh inning after getting struck in the head by a foul ball. He suffered a bruise but was cleared of a concussion.
NL Quick Hits: David Peralta underwent season-ending wrist surgery on Thursday. Coming off a breakout year in 2015, Peralta hit just .251 with four homers during an injury-plagued 2016 campaign … Jose Fernandez will have his next start skipped in an effort to limit his innings. With Fernandez getting the day off, Tom Koehler will sub in Sunday against the White Sox … Francisco Cervelli took a seat Thursday against the Padres. The absence was expected after Cervelli left Wednesday’s game with wrist discomfort … Carlos Gonzalez cleared the bases with a three-run double Thursday in a pinch-hitting appearance. Gonzalez was out of the lineup with an ankle issue but obviously the injury didn’t affect his bat … David Dahl continues to get it done for the Rockies. His 17-game hitting streak is the longest to open a career since Chuck Aleno matched that feat with the Reds in 1941 … Mark Reynolds suffered a hamate bone injury in Thursday’s win over Texas and will likely head to the disabled list. With Reynolds out of commission, look for Daniel Descalso to step in at first base … The Brewers enjoyed a stress-free win over the Braves on Thursday afternoon. They also made a bit of history in becoming the 16th team in the modern era to score a run in every inning. The last team to accomplish that was the Tigers two years ago against the Rockies … Jim Johnson was claimed on waivers by an unknown team but the Braves decided to pull him back after the two sides couldn’t work out trade. Johnson has been filling in at closer for Arodys Vizcaino, who is out with a strained oblique … Pedro Strop will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Friday after leaving Wednesday’s game with a torn left meniscus. He’ll miss 4-6 weeks … It was a rough day for the Cardinals. They lost to the Cubs on a walk-off walk and placed Matt Adams on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. Matt Holliday will join Adams on the disabled list after leaving Thursday’s game with a broken right thumb.