The New York Yankees have had sideshows in the postseason before, both real and imagined. But this one - because it involves Alex Rodriguez - seems different, because it is not just somebody saying or doing something that has created a distraction. It is somebody doing it while they have stopped hitting.
And this is the thing with Rodriguez, who will drive the day's news cycle right up until Thursday's first pitch of the fourth game of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Detroit Tigers. He creates issues that can't be handled within the confines of the clubhouse; that can't be handled in the traditional corporate manner that has been the Yankees modus operandi going back to Joe Torre's days as manager.
Rodriguez, benched yet again for the playoffs, held an impromptu news conference on the field before Wednesday's fourth game was rained out. That happens all the time during the playoffs; there are formal interviews in an interview room and sometimes players will stop to chat with reporters on the field. But the Yankees don't always do that; the unwritten rule has been once you're on the field you're on the clock. Derek Jeter, in particular, is the master at snapping off a 90-second Q and A on the way to and from the batting practice. He won 't say much ... but he says enough to get quoted.
Rodriguez is not an especially bad person. As I've written before: he is baseball's version of the ditzy blond. And while his crie de coeur will be the talking point until today's game is done and dusted, in the end it likely hasn't expedited his departure from the Yankees or cemented his return.
All bets are off with the Yankees heading into this off-season. All bets but one: if there was a chance that manager Joe Girardi would not be back, that has likely been extinguished given the manner in which he has dealt boldly with Rodriguez and other slumping Yankees hitters such as Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. This is going to be an unhappy fan base, but the guess here is Girardi will emerge from this with more currency than ever.
As for Rodriguez and that contract? Both the Miami Marlins and the Yankees denied a report that discussions have been held that would see Rodriguez traded to south Florida in a deal for Heath Bell. A little too strenuously, for my liking. Three things to keep in mind: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is an art dealer and a former Yankees season-ticket holder. He has a view of the game and contractual value that is unique among owners. Second, he has a new ballpark that was seldom filled to overflowing to see the under-achieving, 2012 version of the team. Third, at one point, Mike Hampton had the worst contract in baseball: an eight-year, $121-million contract signed with the Colorado Rockies. The Marlins brokered a deal with the Atlanta Braves that ended up spreading the damage around three teams, effectively splitting the six years and $84.5- million three ways and shuffling prospects around.
The Marlins, for all their critics, do more than pay lip service to creativity. It would not be a surprise to see Loria and the Steinbrenner brothers make this work out. Rodriguez isn't the masterpiece he once was, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?
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