The Yankees flameout witnessed yesterday was a long time coming. Alex Rodriguez is 37 years old. He cannot hit righties. Now that I think about it, he can’t hit lefties either.
The Yankees, just three short postseasons ago, reaped a championship with their obscene investment. It was a championship in which A-Rod was viable. He contributed. Now, we have to ask. Has Alex Rodriguez’s performance-enhanced past caught up with him?
Epic slumps are not unprecedented. Gil Hodges of the Brooklyn Dodgers went 0 for 21 in the 1952 postseason. However, Hodges was 28. Rodriguez is not. Manager Chuck Dressen still started him in all seven games. Rodriguez was not.
That was obviously a different age. Hodges was a Brooklyn icon. Again, A-Rod is not. Fans sent religious objects to him. A-Rod gets phone numbers. Hodges also did not have a huge salary across his shoulders. A-Rod? Well, you get the point.
Besides, there was no wildcard, division or championship rounds in those days. There was hardly time for a pattern to develop. Good pitching and solid role players came to the forefront in the postseason. With all due respect, Joe Girardi’s mass benching of key players would have looked like sheer panic in those days.
This A-Rod inevitability has been a long time coming. However, he has a contract for five more years. He is owed $114 million. The Yankees ignored the warning signs.
It could be argued that the golden age of the entire Yankees franchise was from 1995 through 2000. They won four World Series and just missed twice. The New York Yankees were home-built and fundamentally as sound as this organization has ever been.
Hard to imagine, I know.
The five cornerstones were Rivera, Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. They were homegrown. The only reason they stayed together was because George Steinbrenner was suspended. It allowed Gene Michael to hold on to the prizes the organization had wisely cultivated.
Once the Yankees pursued A-Rod for the 2004 season, they became the flawed suitor in some old nursery tale. The Yankees have won exactly one World Series in nine seasons with A-Rod. They are not a dynasty anymore.
Can dynasties even exist anymore? Since Luis Sojo dribbled a hit up the middle in the fifth and final game of the 2000, there have been nine different champions in the past 11 Series. Don’t get me wrong. Democracy is good for baseball. It also seems to be a trend.
As Tyler Kepner of the New York Times pointed out recently, sound management counts. He particularly points out the “know-thyself” regime of the DeWitt family and the smart folks hired to run the Cardinals.
The Yankees in all truthfulness were disgraceful this postseason. With their payroll of $197 million, they flopped around like 42-year-old Willie Mays in the 1973 World Series. Nonetheless, the Yankees made their deal with the Fates. They sold their soul and now they’ll have to pay $114 million to get it back. If they don’t, postseasons like this will become far more common.