Monday, June 12, 2006

Week In Review: A Weekend to Forget

It didn't matter that I was there. Indeed, Brother J and I got there late (we'd forgotten the powerful transit effect of the PR day parade) arriving in the top of the third, just in time to see Melky and Damon converge on a fly ball by Nick Swisher...and Swisher round the bases for an inside-the-park home run. The last inside-the-park job I remember seeing live was in the early 90's. Back then, it was the opposition hitting them, too.

The Yanks came back a couple of innings later, with a three-run fifth inning keyed by Jorge Posada's two-run home run. This is the closest I've ever been to catching a ball at Yankee Stadium, as the homerun was hit directly in line with mine and J's seats (in fact, if you go to and cue up the highlight of the home run, you can see us pretty clearly--he's in a red sweater, and I'm the guy in blue who looks ticked that he missed catching a home run).

Sadly, the 5-4 lead the Yanks took that inning wouldn't hold up. Shawn Chacon, "Everyday" Scottie Proctor, and Alex Rodriguez would conspire to surrender the lead in the sixth. In the eighth, Mariano Rivera was warmed and ready to pitch a couple of innings (three straight losses plus a Monday off-day meant Mo was well-rested for a multi-inning stint). However, after the Yanks blew their umpteenth scoring opportunity of the game in the seventh, Torre decided to send Kyle Farnsworth out there to pitch, rather than bring Rivera into a tie game. The move was defensible--the Yanks were looking at the 5-6-7 hitters in the A's lineup, so bringing in Rivera might mean not having him against the heart of the order in extra innings. Defensible move, but wrong--Dan Johnson connected off Farnsworth for his second homer of the game. And that was all she wrote. In the ninth, I was apoplectic that Torre didn't pinch-hit for Miguel Cairo leading off, but I didn't at that time know that Jason Giambi was not available with various wrist ailments. Huston Street retired the side for the save.

I've got more to say, but I'm saving some of it for below.

Record for the Week: 2-4, 32 runs allowed, 30 runs scored
Overall Record: 35-26 (2nd Place, one game out)

Player of the Week: Robinson Cano was at the top of his slasher game this week, smacking the ball around for a high-contact .458/.458/.708 line, and 11 hits on the week. Runner, up, perhaps the strangest line you'll see on the player of the week ledger .188/.409/.750 for Jason Giambi. All of Giambi's hits on the week went out of the park; he lead the team with three homers and eight RBI. On the pitching side, Chien Ming Wang was sterling in his one start last week, giving up just one run in seven innings, and Mariano Rivera (no runs in 4.7 IP) and Dregs posterboy Aaron Small (four scoreless innings over two relief appearances on the week) were untouched for the week.

Dregs of the Week: Cairo was awful in a full-week gig standing in for the Captain at short. His .150/.190/.150 line for the week may be the worst we've seen so far, in 2o or more PA. Jeter himself didn't help out much when he was able to assume the DH slot, coughing out 15 PA of .077/.200/.154 that makes you think that he really wasn't ready to play, yet. Andy Phillips followed up his thermonuclear week with an Antarctic one, .143/.143/.357. In the pitching staff, the terrible trio of Randy Johnson (4 IP, 11.25 ERA), Scott Erickson (0.7 IP, 13.50 ERA), and Everyday Scottie (3.3 IP 8.10 ERA) particularly failed to distinguish themselves. Erickson even managed to earn himself a nice big DFA, when Chacon came back on the roster.

But the story of this week is not Cairo or the Captain, or even Erickson. Johnson's sucktasticalness is no longer news, and Erickson's now history. The big news is Alex Rodriguez, Dreg of the Week. A-Rod had a .190/.346/.190 week, four singles, a few walks, a couple of runs scored and one sole RBI. It's typical of Alex's slumps that even when he isn't doing well, he gets on base at a decent clip. Sadly, "gets on base at a decent clip" is far less than what everyone expects from A-Rod.

In Sunday's game, Rodriguez was booed lustily at the Stadium, even before his error which allowed the A's to tie the game. It's gotten to the point that any out is a reason to boo him. It's an embarassing bush-league reaction, considering that Yankee fans tend to fancy ourselves the most knowledgeable folks on the baseball scene, but it's also a reaction that isn't going anywhere soon. New York fans resent Alex Rodriguez. They think he's a choker and a loser, an overpaid guy who does nothing but pad his stats with "meaningless" home runs.

And I'm starting to get tired of defending Alex. No, I don't believe the stat-padding stuff. But I'm starting to wonder if the booing of every Alex Rodriguez out might just be a self-fulfilling prophecy, Rodriguez making outs in big situations because everybody, including, eventually, Alex himself, expects him to fail.

I used to think that all it would take would be some clutch performances to change everyone's opinion of Alex. But last season he collected quite a few big, late-inning hits...and it didn't matter, we were told, because David Ortiz collected more. Alex didn't have as many hits in the clutch as Big Papi, so obviously, he sucked--never mind that there's a lot of space between David Ortiz and "sucks in the clutch."

Alex came on the same year as Gary Sheffield, and the difference in how the fans react to the two men has been stark. Sheffield came to town with a bad reputation as a money-grubber with a bad attitude, and won the fans over by hitting the ball hard, and playing through an injury. Since then, he's been outed in the BALCO case, grumbled about money, and had his fair share of scandal, but the fans never said a thing. Alex, meanwhile, can't catch a break--and it doesn't help that he's had bad moments in big spots (2004 ALCS, anyone?) that everyone just can't let him live down.

Now I believe that there's no hope of repairing the relationship between A-Rod and the fans. So if the fans aren't ever going to come around, and Rodriguez is going to continue to underperform, should the Yanks be looking for a trade? The Yankees have a lot of needs right now--at least one starting pitcher and starting outfielder, a reliever or two and some infield depth wouldn't hurt--and no tradeable bargaining chips aside from their few viable farm products.

And Alex Rodriguez. If the Yanks could find a way to make the money work for the other team (HUGE "if") maybe Alex could net the Yankees the depth that they need. The price would have to be steep--the Yanks would need a thirdbaseman in return, as well as outfield and/or pitching help--but you'd have to think it's possible.

I don't want this to happen. I don't even expect this to happen...yet. But I'd be surprised if the Yanks--and maybe even Rodriguez himself--aren't thinking about it.

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