ALDS Game 2 Thoughts: It’s Always A-Rod’s Fault

On Tuesday morning on the subway I was standing with my back to the door and the guy sitting down in the second seat to the right of me was reading the New York Post on his iPad, so I decided to read it with him. I couldn’t actually read the articles from where I was, but I could see the headlines. I only needed to see one to stop reading.

Even when A-Rod hits liners it turns into outs for Yankees

If A-Rod went 3-for-4 in Game 2, but the one out he made was the strikeout to end the game against Jim Johnson, there would still be negative headlines about him. But when he goes 1-for-5 and is now 1-for-9 with with five strikeouts in two games, well he’s feeding the New York media exactly what they want.

A-Rod shouldn’t be hitting third. He shouldn’t have been hitting third for a long time now. But does that mean the Yankees’ Game 2 loss is his fault or that he should take responsibility for it because he’s the team’s highest-paid player? Of course not. But that’s how the world works when it comes to A-Rod. He has never been given any sort of pass since he arrived in 2004 when the Yankees lost the ALCS because of Joe Torre, Tom Gordon, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez and a short wall in right field at Fenway Park. It was his fault in 2005 when Randy Johnson destroyed Game 3 and Bubba Crosby and Gary Sheffifled crashed into each other in Game 5. It was all on him in 2006 when Mike Mussina couldn’t hold a lead and Randy Johnson and Jaret Wright couldn’t get an out. In 2007, it was all A-Rod and not Chien-Ming Wang giving up 12 earned runs on 14 hits in just 5 2/3 innings in two starts against the Indians. In 2009, the Yankees won because of A-Rod and really only because of him. It was on A-Rod when Phil Hughes pulled a Chien-Ming Wang in the 2010 ALCS against the Rangers and A.J. Burnett was given the chance to face Bengie Molina in Game 4. And last year, it was A-Rod’s fault that Freddy Garica started Game 2, CC Sabathia came up short in Game 3 and Ivan Nova looked like A.J. Burnett early in Game 5.

A-Rod has been bad in every postseason series for the Yankees except the 2004 ALDS against the Twins and all of the 2009 playoffs. And not just “bad,” but painfully bad. Here are his averages in playoff series that aren’t the 2004 ALDS or any of the 2009 playoffs.

2004 ALCS: .258
2005 ALDS: .133
2006 ALDS: .071
2007 ALDS: .267
2010 ALDS: .273
2010 ALCS: .190
2011 ALDS: .111

The last time A-Rod hit a postseason home run was in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series. Since then he has played in 18 playoff games and has had 65 at-bats. But even as bad as A-Rod has been in October, it’s disgusting the attention and criticism he endures because of his lack of production in October.

Guess who these postseason series averages belong to: .167, .222, .136, .308, .000 (0-for-14) and .167. Those would be the postseason series averages for Mark Teixeira prior to the start of the 2012 postseason. Guess how many postseason home runs Teixeira has for the Yankees in six series prior to 2012? Three. That’s three home runs in 29 games and 106 at-bats. Mark Teixeira has been a worse postseason player than Alex Rodriguez in his three postseasons with the team before this year. So why is it that Teixeira gets a free pass for failure and A-Rod doesn’t? It’s not like Mark Teixeira is making the league minimum at $22.5 million per year (just $6.5 million less than A-Rod will make this year) as the second highest-paid player on the team. The reason is because Mark Teixeira was part of a championship team in his first season in New York and A-Rod wasn’t. The ironic part is that Teixeira was part of a championship team because of A-Rod.

Teixeira never had to deal with questions about why he hit .167 against the Twins in the 2009 ALDS or .222 against the Angels in the 2009 ALCS or .136 against the Phillies in the 2009 World Series because while he was busy leaving everyone on base and being what A-Rod was from the 2004 ALCS through the 2007 ALDS, A-Rod was busy winning the World Series for the Yankees. So instead of hearing about what a terrible free-agent signing Teixeira was for Brian Cashman because he isn’t a clutch player, the lasting image of Mark Teixeira in 2009 is him hugging A-Rod and Derek Jeter in the center of the Yankee Stadium infield.

A-Rod is going to hear it from the Stadium on Wednesday night if he doesn’t produce in Game 3 and Mark Teixeira will hear it too, but he’ll hear it less. Because if the Yankees don’t win every postseason game and don’t win the last game of their postseason then it’s on A-Rod’s and no one else. Mark Teixeira will get a free pass. He always does.


As I wrote after Game 1 and will do after every Yankees postseason game, here are my thoughts from Game 2 of the ALDS.

– Sweeny Murti is calling it the “Ichiro Shuffle.” I’m going to call it magic. The slide and moves that Ichiro put on Matt Wieters in the play at the plate in the first inning were unbelievable. The sad thing is that Rob Thomson sent Ichiro on the play. Is there a worse third base coach in the league than Thomson? I’m not sure, but I don’t know a more known third base coach and that’s never a good thing. Most of the time Thomson holds guys up when he shouldn’t, but when he finally has a chance to, he sends Ichiro home and the ball got to Wieters before Ichiro was even at the “P” in “POSTSEASON” written on the third-base line. If Ichiro was tagged out there, that would have been the second out made at the plate in two games for the Yankees. No big deal!

– If A-Swisheira doesn’t produce then the Yankees will not advance to the ALCS. It’s that easy.

– Mark Teixeira might have been the slowest player in Major League Baseball before his calf injury. Now it’s not even a discussion. If I need Teixeira or Jorge Posada to score from second on a single, I’m taking Posada every single time and that’s scary. Teixeira was thrown out at second in Game 1 on a ball off the right-field wall and in Game 2 he couldn’t score from second on a single up the middle from Curtis Granderson. But that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that after his leadoff single in the eighth inning, Joe Girardi chose not to pinch run for a guy who has proven he is a station-to-station runner. I guess the decision to leave Teixeira in the game isn’t worth complaining about since Brett Gardner is out for the season and not on the playoff roster and wasn’t available to pinch run for Teixeira. Wait? Brett Gardner is on the postseason roster and was available off the bench to pinch run in Game 2? I don’t believe you.

– I never talk negatively about Derek Jeter and I’m not going to here. All I’m going to say is that he looked drunk in the field and he probably shouldn’t have swung at the first pitch against Jim Johnson in the ninth inning, a night after Johnson was embarrassed for five runs in 1/3 of an inning. But again, I’m not going to talk negatively about Derek Jeter or criticize his play.

– Wei-Yin Chen was getting fatigued and his pitch count was rising like Jason Hammel’s and then in the fifth inning, Ichiro got out on the first pitch and then A-Rod got out on the first pitch and then Cano got out on the second pitch. Three outs on four pitches without a double play. That’s impressive.

– It’s hard to win in the postseason, period. It’s even harder to win when you have to get four outs a few innings a game. Luckily an error hasn’t cost the Yankees yet, but eventually one will if they continue to play this bad defensively.

– How much money did Mark Teixeira give Ernie Johnson, John Smoltz and Cal Ripken Jr. to say nothing negative about him? (Did you notice how I didn’t ask if you think Teixeira paid them because it’s not a question. He paid them.) I’m going with $145,061.73 each since that is what Teixeira makes per regular season game and since he didn’t play for the final month of the year because he wasn’t about to play at 80 percent (his words not mine) during a pennant race that went down to the last day of the season, he probably felt like he could afford to give up three games pay to make sure national TV viewers don’t think he sucks.

The problem with Teixeira supporters is that when he doesn’t hit they can always say, “Well, he makes up for it with his defense.” That’s nice and all, but Teixeira didn’t get $180 million because he plays great defense. Doug Mientkiewicz played well defensively and he made $1.5 million for the Yankees in 2007. If you’re going to misplay grounders like Teixeira did in Game 2 then that argument is destroyed.

– Here’s a picture of Robisnon Cano’s effort on Mark Reynolds’ RBI single that made it 3-1.

If you didn’t see the play, the next picture in the sequence isn’t Canoon the ground with the ball in the outfield after laying out for it. The next picture is Cano standing there with Nick Swisher fielding the ball. What does that mean? It means Cano didn’t dive to knock the ball down. If Cano knocks the ball down then Wieters doesn’t score. If Wieters doesn’t score then the Orioles’ lead is only 2-1. The Yankees scored again later in the game. That means the score would have been 2-2. I understand this is all part of Michael Kay’s “fallacy of the predetermined outcome,” but how is Cano not going to dive there and knock the ball down? Not giving maximum effort to save a run in the postseason doesn’t matter anyway.

– For the second straight game I had no idea what was a ball and what a strike was, and I wasn’t alone.

– Ernie Johnson dropped the old “(Player name) and (Player name) are a combined (number) years old” line when Andy Pettitte faced Jim Thome. Is there a worse and more meaningless saying in sports? No.

– In Game 1, Derek Jeter was asked to bunt. Derek Jeter is the all-time Yankees hits leader. Derek Jeter is the all-time postseason hits leader. Derek Jeter was Major League Baseball’s hits leader this year.

In Game 2, Ichiro was asked to bunt. Ichiro might be the best hitter in the history of baseball and he hit .322 as Yankee in 67 games. Right now Ichiro and Jeter are the only two Yankees you can fully trust to come through in a big spot and they have both been asked to give up at-bats.

Again, I know Joe Girardi will keep bunting in these spots even if he successful zero percent of the time, so I’m wasiting words even talking about it, but if I don’t get my frustration out here it will come out during or after games and lead to me getting evicted from my apartment. And because of me blaring The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” a couple weekends ago late at night, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

– I wish I were upset when Curtis Granderson strikes out in big spots, but I’m not. At this point I assume he’s going to strike out and if he makes contact I consider it a moral victory. That’s not good, is it?

– I’m saving everything that I have built up in my head for Nick Swisher for another time and another column.

This train carries Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3.