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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Alex Rodriguez stubbornly ignores Yankees

Either you have to admire New York Yankees circus ringmaster Alex Rodriguez – or wonder if he’s insane. Rodriguez has more or less been told by the team that he’s got no shot of playing third base, yet he trots out onto his old high school field in Miami and takes grounders. He wants everyone to see how much he wants it. Then he posts a photo to his Instagram account for all to witness – sending the hidden message – I can still do it, see?

Rodriguez feels he can compete for the starting job at third base. It’s laughable.

Rodriguez might want to simply concentrate on the hitting aspect of his game which has been turned off since the end of the 2013 season. By the time he steps foot on the fields in Tampa it will be over 16 months since he’s participated in the official capacity of a major league ballplayer.

By the way, he played in 44 games that season. He hobbled through 122 games in 2012 and 99 contests in 2011. Notice a trend? He couldn’t stay on the field for three years prior to missing a full season. He’s lucky he is under contract.

And that’s the rub. The Yankees, only because they owe him $64 million (and potentially $6 million more for six more home run balls), have Rodriguez penciled-in as the regular DH. I used the term "penciled-in" because there is no assurance A-Rod can hit a lick against big league pitching after his season-long suspension.

The Yankees figure with surgically repaired hips and the time off, Rodriguez will be unable to handle third base. General manager Brian Cashman went so far as to say he was unimpressed with Rodriguez at third in 2013. So, he wisely went out and signed Chase Headley to be the regular third baseman for the next four seasons pushing A-Rod to DH duties.

Here are A-Rod’s offensive numbers from 2013.

Year Age G PA R H 2B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS+
2013 37 44 181 21 38 7 7 19 .244 .348 .423 113
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/8/2015.

Small sample sure, but the Yankees would be OK with those numbers extrapolated over the course of a full season. But, with normal decline for a 39-year-old and being a full season removed from playing time, those numbers would indicate there is not much to get excited about. That is especially true for a DH position the Yankees have recently gotten little production from. I won't even get into how he'll perform without performance-enhancing drugs.

The Yankees need Rodriguez to be somewhat productive to warrant the salary, but it will take a miracle for Rodriguez to return full value on the $22 million he is set to earn in 2015. The Yanks probably want nothing more than Rodriguez to show up to camp and immediately look and feel overmatched. Should he decide to walk away, it would save the Yankees a lot in terms of money and nuisance. But, it has to be on his terms, so the Yanks will give him a chance to earn at-bats.

So, why waste time taking grounders at third base? If Headley is injured the Yankees have a slew of options that can man the position. The Stephen Drew signing has truly provided depth in the infield and Yankees manager Joe Girardi would likely pull from that before putting A-Rod at the hot corner. Drew could shift to third while Brendan Ryan or Jose Pirela can play second. Alternatively, Ryan or Pirela can play third. Point is; Girardi will have more mobile options.

There is a better chance that Rodriguez can be productive at the plate versus providing anything of value in the field. So while he still has a chance to be helpful at something, he should concentrate on hitting the baseball. That, in and of itself is going to be difficult for a 39-year-old, let alone one who last stood in a major league batter's box during a regular season game back on September 25, 2013.

What are your thoughts? The Yankees are stuck with A-Rod; should they be strict about his being a DH only, or give him time at third to be ready as a backup to Headley? Let me know in the comments below.

Salary figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.