A-Rod, Yankees' final batter of 2011, is first question for 2012
NEW YORK -- The Yankees' time is up for 2011. But Alex Rodriguez has six more years, at $30 million per no less (plus another $30 mil more in milestone monies to come). It's tough to say which thought was less appealing here on Thursday night.
After Game 5 was over, and the Tigers were headed to the American League Championship Series and the Yankees headed home, general manager Brian Cashman noted, sadly, that it's time to turn his calendar to 2012. Meanwhile, the calendar seems like it sped up for A-Rod, who had by far his worst year as a professional at age 36.
"Alex looks done,'' one scout said.
At the very least, Rodriguez had more issues than hits in the ALDS defeat to Detroit. Among other problems, his bat speed, timing, confidence and health were cited by baseball insiders as possible problems. His age is certainly something to think about, too.
While nobody turned in a worse series for the losing $200 million team (A-Rod batted .111, slugged .111 and whiffed .333), he still managed to talk a good game afterward. "I have no doubt in my ability to play this game at a very high level and be someone who can contribute something to this lineup every day,'' Rodriguez contended.
Meanwhile, A-Rod stressed, "There are no excuses.'' Not the in-season knee surgery, the time off, nothing. "I was healthy enough,'' he said, referring to the lost series. "That's on me.''
The final moment, the key at-bat, always seems to find baseball's biggest attention magnet. This was not a good time at all for that, and Rodriguez, predictably, struck out for the sixth time in 18 at-bats in the series and the third time in the game, capping an 0-for-4 night that sent the Yankees into next year. Tigers closer Jose Valverde, who is "the guy we wanted to beat,'' according to Nick Swisher, went to 51 for 51 in saves with a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the heart of the Yankees' lineup. And then it really was over for the AL's best regular season team that didn't play like that when it counted in the ALDS, losing three games to two to the Tigers.
"I've got a lot of work to do,'' Rodriguez conceded. "I have to get my house back in order ... No question, I have a lot to prove. I'm looking forward to that challenge. I will be back with a vengeance.''
The problem is that, at his age, hard work or even a vengeance just may not be good enough anymore.
Of course, with six years to go on his contract, A-Rod and the Yankees are stuck with each other. They could move him down in the order, but that's about the only option. They could make him a DH, but at least at the end, he looked like a better fielder than hitter. Here are some more key questions for the 2012 Yankees.
When the question of Posada's Yankees future was posed to Cashman on Thursday, he said, "I'm not prepared to talk about the winter right now.'' A-Rod might have to DH sometimes, and top hitting prospect Montero might have to DH a lot of the time. Tears were also starting to flow. Posada choked up, telling reporters, "I'm sorry.'' It had all the look of a player who knows he has played his last game in pinstripes, or maybe anywhere.
There was no suggestion that Posada, who will be 41 next year, would be invited back. "He's had a tremendous career and I'm sure he's going to play, and I don't know what's going to happen,'' Girardi said. The guess here, sadly, is that he will not be back. While Posada has suggested that he'd consider playing elsewhere, he seems destined to retire a Yankee, as the need for a lefty-only DH isn't strong anywhere and Posada should realize that it's better to retire a lifelong Yankee on a high note.
• Robin Ventura was a shocker of a pick to succeed former infield mate Ozzie Guillen as White Sox manager, as he has no professional managing or even coaching experience. But White Sox higher-ups like his smarts, integrity and longtime South Side ties. It's a gamble, but he's someone worth gambling on.
• The smart money says the Red Sox go for a manager with little experience, too (though maybe not that little). Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr., who were thought to be candidates for the White Sox, look like possibilities for the Red Sox. Respected Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin is also expected to be in the mix. Since Ventura presumably wasn't on their radar, they didn't lose anybody by not rushing into things. The Theo Epstein situation probably needs to be resolved first, anyway.
• There appears to be no certainty that Terry Francona will get another job quickly. He was never in the mix with the White Sox. The Cubs are expected to hire a new manager. But of course, if Epstein becomes their GM, Francona won't be hired there.
• Epstein makes sense as the first choice of the Cubs for GM, as he fits the profile of someone who's had success with analytics and also player development, and it doesn't hurt that he's worked in a big-market fishbowl atmosphere. But most baseball insiders believe that Epstein will wind up staying in Boston. He loves the ownership there and seems to be co-existing with club president Larry Lucchino lately.
• The Mets, Angels and Pirates look like they are in a firing race. The Angels dumped three top front office people, the Pirates axed their medical staff and some veteran scouts and the Mets canned three coaches and at least two scouts. The Mookie Wilson situation is interesting with the Mets, as he appears to be on a yo-yo. It seems the Mets like the publicity bump they get for hiring him but don't really love him as a coach.
• Chip Hale decided to leave the Mets for Oakland on a two-year deal to work for his friend Bob Melvin and also spring near his Arizona home. Hale was said to have finished second for the Mets managerial job that went to Terry Collins.
• Jim Riggleman and Larry Bowa both would make sense for the Mets' bench coach job.
• Albert Pujols' Game 4 play to jump in front of first base to gather a throw and fire across the diamond to nail Chase Utley trying to take third was absolutely brilliant on Pujols' part. Many folks don't grasp his all-around greatness.
• The Diamondbacks may be the story of the year, no matter how Friday night's Game 5 with the Brewers turns out. Scouts still don't get how they keep winning.