A-Rod a Broken-Down Sports Car

Time to unload damaged flash and get a Scion. 

Yankees manager Joe Girardi did the once-unthinkable during a postseason game against the Orioles–he pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning while down a run. As every sports fan knows, Girardi came up smelling like roses when Raúl Ibañez smacked a game-tying homerun off American League saves leader Jim Johnson, and then won it with a 12th inning blast off Brian Matusz. Girardi pinch-hit for A-Rod several more times (without success) before the Yankees’ season ended in Detroit.

Gutsy moves on Girardi’s part? Not really. Rodriguez hasn’t come close to driving a ball over the wall in quite some time. For those keeping track, his last homerun occurred on September 14 against Tampa. He hit a grand total of five since June. It’s time for the Yankees to face the inevitable–Alex Rodriguez is an unreliable sports car kept in the team garage for prestige purposes, not reliability.

Before anyone gets their back up, no, this is not another “Trash A-Rod” story. Rodriguez’s flamboyant personality, ego, womanizing, and admitted steroid use attract haters, but true baseball fans know that he has been one of the greatest talents ever to lace up cleats. This year’s postseason woes notwithstanding, if one consults the sabermetrics tool known as LIPS (late inning pressure situation), A-Rod ranks among the top 20 clutch hitters of all time. And, for heaven’s sake, the man has launched an astonishing 647 balls over enemy fences. He has been among baseball’s immortals.

Key phrase: “has been.” Remember when his agent, Scott Boras, justified A-Rod’s monster contract by promising that his client would break MLB’s all-time homerun record? A-Rod would have to hit another 116 to pass Barry Bonds. From where I sit, it’s increasingly unlikely he’ll even match Babe Ruth’s 714 for a share of third. He’ll need to crack 67 homers to join the Babe, one more than he’s hit over the past three years. If it takes him more than three years, he’ll be over 40, and therein lies the problem.

If Derek Jeter is a young 38, A-Rod is an old 37–a very old 37. It’s not his fault that he’s been injured, but this is what happens to aging sports bodies. To return to my sports car analogy, A-Rod is like a Jaguar, a high-cost high-performance vehicle capable of tremendous spurts of power. It also has the worst maintenance and repair record of any car on the road. Lots of guys want one. Some shell out over $100,000 and then wish they had spent $85,000 less and got the number one reliable car: a plain-wrapper Scion.

A-Rod might still flash occasional power and the Yankees had better hope someone else thinks so. General Manager Brian Cashman is well aware that his garage is filled with vintage Jaguars, Porsches, and Audis. He also knows that he needs to sell them before they go to the scrap yard so he can get some newer model Hondas and Toyotas. (As he knows that he’ll need to pay more to keep vintage Derek Jeter on the road.) It all begins with A-Rod. If C. C. Sabathia hadn’t been part of the package, A-Rod would be a Dodger by now. As it is, he’s a $30 million dollar drain on the budget–a guy who is statistically just the twelfth best third baseman in baseball, when he can even play the position.  Who’d you rather have these days, A-Rod at $30 million, or Chase Headley at $3.4 million?

A-Rod has been magnificent, but it’s time to trade down for several Scions. The Yankees might get lucky, as there is one natural suitor if the Bombers pick up about half of his salary: the Marlins. They only averaged 27,400 (18th in MLB) in a brand new ballpark and that’s sure to drop significantly next year unless something dramatic happens. To put it bluntly, a star attraction such as A-Rod might determine whether or not MLB has a regular-season future in south Florida. Who knows? Against less consistent NL pitching, A-Rod might even look like a Jaguar on occasion. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand nothing about baseball so this, as far as I'm concerned, is written in an arcane language. Excellent stuff. I wonder what it means? Are there any women in it?