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Column: Time to put A-Rod on auction block

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Column: Time to put A-Rod on auction block

Alex Rodriguez is as good as gone.

He was the most feared hitter of his generation once. Now he's an afterthought.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said as much in the aftermath of Tuesday night's AL championship series Game 3 loss to the Tigers. What may turn out to have been New York's last chance to change the course of the series came in the ninth inning with two on and two out and left-handed reliever Phil Coke on the mound. Instead of bringing the right-handed Rodriguez in to pinch-hit, or even as a decoy to force his Detroit counterpart, Jim Leyland, to turn to right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit, Girardi elected to roll the dice once more with the Raul Ibanez.

Unlike when Girardi played a similar hunch last week against Baltimore, letting Ibanez pinch-hit for Rodriguez, the left-handed veteran struck out to end the game.

``Joe, did you consider hitting Alex or a right(-handed) hitter?'' a reporter asked. ``What went through your mind there when Ibanez came up?''

``Well,'' Girardi replied, ``they were going to bring in Benoit.''

``So you liked that first matchup better than the other one?''

``Ibanez has been one of our best hitters down the stretch here,'' Girardi said matter-of-factly.

Thanks to that thicket of statistics Girardi has within arm's reach in the dugout, he knew the percentages the Yankees were up against. On the one hand, Benoit has yielded seven home runs against right-handed batters this season; on the other, Rodriguez was .158 in his career off Benoit, with one home run, slightly better than the 0-for-17 - with 12 strikeouts - he's posted against right-handers this postseason. Anyone who doubts Girardi has effectively given up on A-Rod simply had to look at who was in the on-deck circle when Ibanez struck out - the similarly struggling, but left-handed hitting Nick Swisher.

And though Girardi hasn't said as much, he hasn't lost sleep over whether his decision to bench Rodriguez has damaged their relationship.

``Of course that's something that you have to worry about,'' Girardi said recently. ``But I don't think you can worry about it today. Relationships go through their ups and downs, no matter who they are, and you have a chance to rebuild them.''

Or end them.

Rodriguez has never been a comfortable fit with the Yankees. He's a target for the tabloids, even when he's not in the game, a reminder of which came with a report in the New York Post that he spent some of his time on the bench Saturday night flirting with two fans two rows behind the New York dugout. And at 37, with his skills in decline, he still has five years and $114 million guaranteed to run on his contract, plus the power to veto a trade. But that doesn't mean it can't happen.

In the National League, Atlanta could use a name to replace Chipper Jones at third. Rodriguez also would be a fit at third for Miami, where he grew up and owns a home that he's trying to unload for $38 million. The Dodgers' new ownership hasn't been shy about accumulating high-priced talent and current third baseman Luis Cruz isn't going to help sell tickets.

But A-Rod to the American League seems like a better deal all around. His current contract contains a number of bonuses for career milestones - all home runs - and his best chance to eventually reach those is as a designated hitter.

Based on his performance this season, Rodriguez would be an immediate upgrade at third over the platoon of Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo the Los Angeles Angels deployed this season and he'd be popular with the team's Latino fan base as long as he remained productive.

Even the Chicago White Sox might be an option, since the club has made a habit of taking on fading stars in recent years, so long as the price is right. Best of all, though, might be the Houston Astros, who have money to throw around as a result of an agreement with Major League Baseball to move to the AL next season, and desperately could use the buzz.

That said, not one of those clubs is likely to consider Rodriguez at the full retail price. But the Yankees have a history of unloading high-priced talent by continuing to pay part of the bill and estimates the team would have to fork over somewhere between 50 and 75 percent of his salary for the next five years aren't necessarily a deal-breaker. Not after this postseason.

Recently, Yankees President Randy Levine was asked whether he thought A-Rod would still be wearing pinstripes when his current deal ended in 2017. He told ESPN Radio in New York, ``That's like one of those questions: Where's the stock market going to be in 2017, who's going to be president on Nov. 15?

``If I had crystal ball to predict all of that stuff, I'd be a lot smarter than I am,'' he added. ``I'm not going to go there.''

Not yet, anyway, and not before this season comes to a merciful conclusion. But Rodriguez lost the fans long ago, and from the sound of things Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman might not be too far behind.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

ESPN Fantasy Football expert Matthew Berry was at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere last weekend in Los Angeles, where he got the chance to interview the three Redskins rookies in attendance: Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin, and Bryce Love. 

Berry, who was a guest of JP Finlay's on the Redskins Talk podcast on Thursday, has been a fan of the Burgundy and Gold since he was a kid, so he was eager to talk to three of the team's newest players and learn more about them.

It was during those interviews where Berry got a quick glimpse of a side of Haskins that now has Berry really excited.

"I thought what was really cool was... When I was interviewing McLaurin, Dwayne Haskins came in and interrupted the interview to give him some crap," he told Finlay. "It was really a wonderful moment to see. Obviously, they know each other very well from Ohio State, but just the fact that they felt comfortable enough and he wanted to come over and mess with him a little bit and have some fun, I was impressed with that."

Once Haskins left, Berry explained how he asked McLaurin about the interaction. Redskins fans will like McLaurin's answer.

"That's Dwayne, Dwayne is being a leader," McLaurin said, per Berry. 

Haskins did something similar to Love during Love's interview as well. Berry even caught up with Colts receiver Parris Campbell, who also played with the QB at Ohio State, to inquire about the 15th overall pick. 

"I asked him, 'Listen, I'm a diehard Redskins fan, what am I getting?'" Berry said. "He couldn't have been more effusive. 'You're not only getting a guy who puts the ball where you want it, but you're getting a leader. You're getting a guy who makes sure everyone in the huddle is included.'"

You can be skeptical of how much these little moments mean, and that's fair. Ultimately, how quickly Haskins picks up Jay Gruden's playbook and how accurate his arm turns out to be will factor more into his success in the NFL than being able to joke around a bit with some of his guys.

But you can also hope that these little moments are hints of a bigger personality and approach, a look into an athlete who can get a football team to buy into him. That's the side Berry is on.

"I thought that was really cool, and just showed somebody who's very comfortable in the leadership position and who's trying to be inclusive of everyone," he said. "It's early in the process, but I have yet to hear somebody on or off the record say something bad about Dwayne Haskins."

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

For Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics, last season's heartbreak in the WNBA Finals is only fuel for another potential postseason run in 2019. 

"That's something I don't think I'll ever let go," Washington's star forward told Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "It's always tough when you get to that Finals and you can't finish it off. But I think it's something that can fuel you. You don't want to let it just bring you down and depress you and make it so you can't get over that hump."

"If you use it as fuel and motivation, it can help you get better. I think that's what we're all gonna do."

The Mystics reached their first WNBA Finals in franchise history in 2018 but ultimately lost to the Seattle Storm. Delle Donne, recently named in WNBA.com's GM survey as the favorite to win league MVP, is back for her third season in Washington and headlines a strong team that has the talent to compete for the title again.

Her status for Saturday's season opener against the Connecticut Sun is up in the air due to a left knee injury, but Delle Donne believes the Mystics will have another great season given the continuity on the roster from last season and the return of All-Star forward Emma Meesseman. 

"We feel great. We've got our core back," said Delle Donne. "And to be able to add a superstar like Emma to that roster is pretty scary. Especially with her style of play and the way that our team started playing last season, where it was such positionless basketball. Spreading the floor, just spreading it, making it easy for one another to attack, get some threes. She's just gonna add so much to that."

NBC Sports Washington will be broadcasting 10 Mystics home games during the 2019 WNBA season. For the full regular season schedule, click here.

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