ESPN.com is currently featuring a video clip from Steve Phillips. Premise? The Yankees have to move A-Rod, if not at the deadline, then in the offseason. The fans hate him. The constant barrage of boos rains down on him no matter what he does—-A-Rod hits a game-winning homer on Wednesday, Yankees have an off-day on Thursday, and he strikes out in his first at-bat Friday? Booooo!
All of this negativity, says Phillips, is affecting A-Rod’s game. His fundamental skills—-catching and throwing—-are off, and he’s pressing at the plate, trying to hit a dinger everytime he’s up. “He’s arguably gonna be the best player in the history of the game,” says Phillips, adding, “You can’t be better than the best.” It sounds like Steve thinks that keeping A-Rod in New York may damage him permanently, or something. But I don’t know who else could pay that albatross of a contract.
Yet despite the boos, I’m not sure Yankee fans actually want to dump A-Rod. I think they want to boo him, 81 times a year. And the New York media certainly isn’t campaigning for his ouster. The New York Daily News ran a piece quoting, of all people, “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani defending A-Rod.
“I really think Yankee fans have to change their whole attitude about this,” Giuliani said on WFAN yesterday. “It doesn’t make any sense to me to be booing A-Rod when you want him to perform. We want him to succeed, not to fail. The idea of booing him every time he makes an out is kind of silly.”
A-Rod himself has said he would “rather die” than leave the Yankees. Everyone from Brian Cashman to Joe Torre to Scott Boras has said a trade is just not gonna happen (and A-Rod has a no-trade clause). Even Steinbrenner, who slammed A-Rod after he made two errors and went 0-for-3 against the Red Sox earlier this season, has recently said he thinks A-Rod will be fine.
So his mechanics are off. So he leads major league third basemen in errors (18). So he’s hitting 43 points worse than last year. (Maybe he needs to wipe off his bat again.) He’s still A-Rod. Right? And of course, the big sticking point is simply this: if you do dump Rodriguez, who do you get to replace him?
After the jump, a New York Sun columnist answers that question.
Here’s what Steven Goldman had to say to NY’s boo-birds:
First, here’s what has to be replaced. As inconsistent as A-Rod has been with the bat this year…the overall results have been pretty good. Even with his recent slump, his July numbers (.288/.350/.534) are strong by the standards of merely human players. We’ll use Baseball Prospectus’s Value Over Replacement (VORP) as a benchmark. VORP shows how many runs over the most barely adequate,Triple-A-type replacement (think Nick Green) a player has generated. So far this year, A-Rod’s VORP is 23.4.
Seven third basemen have been more productive. Miguel Cabrera (Marlins, 42.8 VORP) is just 23 and seems the kind of player the Marlins will build around, even if he is due for an arbitration bump after the season….The Yankees acquiring David Wright (Mets, 37.8) falls neatly into the “not even when hell freezes over” category. Chipper Jones (Braves, 37.4) is having a great year but has no-trade protection, is injuryprone, and actually makes A-Rod look like Brooks Robinson. Freddy Sanchez (Pirates, 32.3) might be available in that he’s likely to be arbitration-eligible after the season, but the Pirates dumping him would destroy what little credibility the organization has. Scott Rolen (Cardinals, 31.6) is a key part of a division-leading team – single-handedly keeping the club’s hopes alive while Albert Pujols was hurt and Jim Edmonds was slumping. Garret Atkins’s (Rockies, 28.0) glove will make New York long for the days of Mike Blowers.
The rest of the third basemen represent a step down in terms of pure production. White Sox management has never been in love with Joe Crede (18.5), who is a superior fielder. He’s having the best year of his career at 28, but his lack of plate judgment (16 walks in 358 plate appearances) means that even a slight slump will negate his bat. Troy Glaus (Blue Jays, 17.5) is on a division rival. Morgan Ensberg (Astros, 16.2) is inconsistent with both glove and bat and is presently on the DL. Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals, 16.2) is a rookie who is going to be the heart of the Washington franchise for the next halfdecade. The Red Sox might trade Mike Lowell (15.5) straight up for ARod, but the rich getting richer isn’t a phrase the Yankees like unless it applies to them.
As for the rest of MLB’s third-baggers? They are, says Goldman, ”in many cases, actively bad.”
Can it be that when it comes to Alex Rodriguez, my frigid Masshole heart is actually feeling something like…dare I say…pity? Actually, on second thought, I think that’s heartburn. Or relief that the A-Rod/Manny/Nomar/Magglio trade fell through.