The rhetoric surrounding Alex Rodriguez is beginning to sound less like a broken record, and more like a record that has been taken off the dial, snapped in half, and thrown out the window. Anyone with two eyes can tell that the 2-0 hole the Yankees are in is not the sole responsibility of Alex Rodriguez, but fans observe the $30 Million a year contract and immediately see red. So continues the saga of Alex Rodriguez, the pressure on him in New York is equal to the coach, quarterback, and star basketball player. When the Yankees struggle the fans look to him with such a passion and white-hot anger I’ve only seen reserved for Red Sox players
It is odd, really. Make no mistake about it, 18 home runs, 57 RBI and a .272 average in the regular season is not good enough. The fact that Alex Rodriguez hasn’t played 162 games since 2005, and has averaged 124 games a season since 2008, is not good enough. The fact that he is hitting .130 in the postseason is not good enough. But (wait for it) Alex Rodriguez is actually not the reason that the Yankees find themselves heading to Detroit down 2-0. Curtis Granderson is hitting .115. Nick Swisher is hitting .153. Robinson Cano is having a historically awful postseason. Alex Rodriguez is just a clog in a larger machine. What do you get when you try to make a roster stocked with 30-something sluggers work? You get exactly what we are witnessing right now, a lineup that is prone to unexplainable slumps that consume the entire lineup. Yes, the umpires in this series have been awful. Yes, Alex Rodriguez is doing the 2007 thing again. And yes, the whole complexion of the series would be different if Derek Jeter was even just watching from the dugout, but looking for someone to blame? Look no further then the supposed architect of this great American homage to capitalism known as the Yankees roster. If the Yankees fail to come back and advance to the World Series, Brian Cashman’s employment status should be seriously looked at.
Of course I have believed this for a while, because the Brian Cashman model has never changed. It is simple in theory, and practice. See a problem with the roster? Don’t just throw money at it; throw absurd amounts of money at it. Since 1998 Brian Cashman has not seen any reason that any player wouldn’t want to play in New York for the right price. New York City is not made for everyone, the pressure that exists in New York does not exist in Pittsburgh, or Baltimore, or Kansas City. The media can be brutal, but not as brutal as the fans. You may have pitched well in Los Angeles, but if your ego is fragile it won’t be long ‘till the ERA starts to climb or the batting average starts to dip.
Brian Cashman has been on the job since 1998. No one appears to have told him this. The list of failed Cashman signings is too long, and frankly painful, to get into. A few stick out: you could see Randy Johnson was going to have an issue handling the media when he practically chucked a camera on the streets for a strike the day after he got signed. Watching A.J. Burnett implode in front of about 10 people every fifth day in South Florida didn’t really inspire confidence in his ability to handle the pressure of New York. He did win a World Series, but if you think that was$85 Million well spent you should be checked out. Of course there was the worse one of all, when after the 2007 season he gave Alex Rodriguez one of the worst contracts in history. A back loaded deal worth about $275 Million over 10 years. He is under contract until he is 43 years old. This is not promising considering his inability to stay on the field, and his ability to produce on it, in recent years. How much did other teams offer you ask? Nothing. The Yankees outbid… themselves.
Teams have been able to make a habit of winning World Series in recent years by building fundamentally sound rosters through years of developing prospects. The Yankees used to do this, and were able to start a dynasty on the shoulders of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. The Yankee way is now to gut the farm system periodically every three or four years when a big bat or arm becomes available around the trading deadline. The ones that do stick around, Phil Hughes, don’t always pan out the way they were supposed to (I remember when he was the next Roger Clemens).
As the Yankees head to Comerica Park, they stare down 41,000 fans that hate their guts, the best pitcher in the game, and a 2-0 series deficit. Are they done? Smart people never write off the Yankees. Win or lose, however, there are fundamental, potentially insurmountable, flaws with the Yankees roster. It has been this way for a while. Maybe instead of pointing the finger at Alex Rodriguez, we should be looking to the cushy, air-conditioned luxury box at Yankee Stadium. It is time to re-evaluate the Yankee way, maybe for guidance we can look back to the time when, I don’t know, they actually won championships.