Redskins

Column: Day of reckoning had to come for A-Rod

201210102216801708433-p2.jpeg

Column: Day of reckoning had to come for A-Rod

Joe Girardi should be manager of the year just for the guts it took to sit down his $275 million third baseman and help the New York Yankees advance a step closer to the World Series.

Benching Alex Rodriguez might turn out to be the easiest move in a drama that is suitable for Broadway, but will play out instead in the Bronx. What do you do with an aging and increasingly fragile player who now threatens to be a drag on the Yankees for years to come?

The immediate answer Saturday night was to put A-Rod back in the lineup against the Detroit Tigers and hope he might guess correctly and square up on a fastball. Girardi declared him ``raring to go,'' relying on the same instincts that have proven remarkably successful the last few days.

``Sometimes you look at a guy's eyes,'' Girardi said. ``Sometimes you listen to his words.''

Sometimes you watch him bat, too, which is how A-Rod ended up in this spot to begin with.

Girardi's optimism aside, it got even worse for Rodriguez in the opener against the Tigers. He grounded out with the bases loaded in the first inning, struck out on three pitches with two on in the sixth and generally had another miserable night before being pulled once again for a pinch hitter in a game the Tigers ended up winning 6-4 in 12 innings.

And now, if he doesn't somehow find a way to take over for the injured Derek Jeter, the Yankees may be out of options. A-Rod won't be playing short, but he will certainly be playing now, and if he doesn't step up this time Yankee fans won't let him forget.

The day of reckoning was always going to come for the Yankees, ever since the Steinbrenner brothers caved in and re-signed A-Rod in 2007 to a pact even more onerous than the $252 million deal he brought to the team. Included were bonuses for what was going to be a series of grand days at Yankee Stadium as Rodriguez chased the biggest names in the game's history on his way to the career home run record.

The Steinbrenners might not have known then what everyone knows now - that A-Rod was a juicer at least during the most prolific years of his career. But with Barry Bonds very much in the news during those days they should have at least suspected a player who hit home runs like no other might have had a little help along the way.

They doubled down on A-Rod because he put people in the seats and in front of their televisions. Then they tried to sell it to New York fans by portraying the self-absorbed slugger as some sort of heroic figure for sticking with the pinstripes.

``He is making a sacrifice to be a Yankee, there's no question,'' Hank Steinbrenner said at the time. ``He showed what was really in his heart and what he really wanted.''

That the Yankees are stuck now with a player who can't hit a right-hander, can't handle a fastball, and can't stay healthy isn't going to win them much sympathy. At a time when they're trying to keep a whopping $222 million payroll more manageable to avoid more looming luxury taxes, they've got him for the next five years at a price of at least $114 million.

This year's tab was even more shocking: A cool $29 million going into A-Rod's pocket plus $11.6 million in luxury tax for a grand total of $40.6 million.

All for a player who went 2 for 16 in the series with the Baltimore Orioles and looked so confused at the plate that Girardi pinch hit for him twice in game-changing situations before finally just benching him for good in the game Friday night that decided whether the Yankees would go on or go home.

It's not just the money, though money is always mentioned every time Rodriguez becomes the subject of the conversation. Has to be, because by the time the Yankees are done paying him off, A-Rod will have made a staggering half-billion dollars or so playing baseball.

As long as he kept hitting, that would have been fine with Yankee fans. They would have continued cheering him as he continued his inexorable climb up the home run charts, ignoring the fact that many of them were fueled by steroids. By the time he finally broke the illegitimate mark set by Bonds he would have been paid another $30 million in bonuses, and work would be underway for his inclusion in monument park in the new Yankee Stadium.

Like most steroid users, though, his body is beginning to break down. He's an old 37, and his trips to the disabled list have become commonplace. Once considered a lock to break the home run mark, there seems no way now he can hit the 115 home runs he needs to catch Bonds.

Rodriguez helped the Yankees win a World Series in 2009 - the only ring he has earned in his career. But he's hitting .152 with no homers and six RBIs in postseason play since then, and hasn't homered in his last 84 at-bats.

There's not much the Yankees can do about it. Any idea of a trade is almost laughable considering his contract, and it's hard to imagine any team wanting him anyway. He'll likely finish his career in pinstripes as a very average and often hurt third baseman booed by home fans every time he goes into a slump.

It's hard to imagine him ever getting a plaque at Yankee Stadium like Derek Jeter will surely get. With his admission of steroid use he's not a lock for the Hall of Fame, either.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for Rodriguez, no matter how it ends. He isn't a sympathetic figure to begin with, and the obscene amount of money he has made playing baseball further colors almost every impression of him, even when he makes a point of cheering on his teammates from the dugout.

The Yankees bought into him anyway. And nobody will feel sorry for them as they continue to pay the price.

---

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com//timdahlberg

Quick Links

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

scherffvideo102918.jpg
USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

Quick Links

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

anibal_sanchez_nationals_pitching_usat.jpg
USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

 

NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.