When Joe Torre moved Alex Rodriguez down to the 8th spot in the order in Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS, it was a terribly stupid move. Arod was struggling, like the rest of the team at the time, but was one of the best hitters in the American League that year. A combination of ant-Arod zeitgeist and Joe Torre’s ongoing problems with him caused the move.
But last night was different. Alex Rodriguez is no longer one of the best hitters in the league. At 37 years old, Rodriguez is doing exactly what we should expect him to be doing: declining from his peak. He’s still a valuable player in a lot of ways, but is no longer among the elites. As you all know, Joe Girardi pinch hit for him to get a better matchup in the 9th inning, and the move won the game for the Yankees.
Unlike six years ago, this is a good sign. Its time for Alex Rodriguez’s role to start to diminish on the Yankees. He is a lot more valuable to the team as a bottom-of-the-order, flexible starting 3rd baseman than the guy who you want up in the big situation of big games. The Yankees will need other people to step into his shoes and lead the team while Rodriguez fades into the sunset.
This isn’t to say that Arod is destined to never again be a great baseball player. Derek Jeter has shown us that great players can be great even when you’re sure that they are in decline. But the odds are against Alex.
On the Derek Jeter point: We should apply the exact same logic to him. Jeter is still a very good hitter, but his defensive skills are in severe decline. The Yankees are going to have an open spot in the outfield next season. They should consider moving him, just like they should consider moving Alex Rodriguez down a spot or pinch hitting for him against a right-handed relief pitcher in a big spot.
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