Sunday, October 19, 2014

0 comments Now That Derek Jeter is Retired, Wallace Matthews Wants Joe Girardi to Play A-Rod at Third Base Often, So He Can Inevitably Complain about A-Rod

Sportswriters often don't see athletes as human beings, they see these athletes as walking narratives. Walking narratives that can help that sportswriter with a column idea or even as a means to expound upon that narrative in a column. The New York media has missed Alex Rodriguez this season. They miss bashing him and talking about what a hypocritical, self-involved, cheating asshole he is. So naturally, Wallace Matthews misses A-Rod and can't wait for him to come back and play for the Yankees next season. It will make Wallace happy to know he can have A-Rod to kick around again. But first, Joe Girardi has to go ahead and hand A-Rod the starting third base job before the World Series is even over. So it turns out A-Rod won't be getting the Jeter treatment, because Girardi won't name A-Rod the starting third baseman in 2015. Just in case the zero people who thought Girardi might were confused.

Joe Girardi is about to go from the Farewell Tour to the Circus Parade. 

And the New York media could not be happier. They were tired of all this happiness and positivity surrounding Derek Jeter's retirement. Finally, they can get pageviews using negativity.

Girardi took a lot of heat this season for managing what some believed was a Derek Jeter Farewell Tour rather than a baseball season, and put forth the dubious proposition that this was the reason the Yankees missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

(New York media to each other) "We are going to saturate the coverage of the Yankees' season with talk about Derek Jeter and his impending retirement. We will make this our sole focus."

(New York media to Joe Girardi) "Why did you manage this season like it was a Derek Jeter Farewell Tour? That's the only story we heard about this season. Was that your only focus?"

While Girardi certainly deferred to Jeter all season, continuing to play him at shortstop and bat him second, despite sometime shrill calls from many corners claiming this was the reason the Yankees stunk in 2014, Alex Rodriguez cannot hope to enjoy the same level of respect. 

This disputes the claim of absolutely nobody that A-Rod was going to be treated like Derek Jeter was during his final year in the majors. Sure, a lot of nobody thought that A-Rod would be immediately handed the starting third baseman job before the World Series ended and the MLB offseason has begun, but these people, of which there were none, will be shocked to find out this isn't happening. Joe Girardi isn't going to cater to Alex Rodriguez like he did Derek Jeter. And here I thought Jeter and A-Rod would be treated the same, especially since the legacy each will leave with the Yankees isn't similar at all.  

And no, the reason the Yankees stunk in 2014 is not solely because Derek Jeter batted 2nd. The Yankees had injuries to their pitching staff, (predictably) the free agents they signed didn't entirely live up to their contract for a variety of reasons and the farm system isn't built up enough to withstand these two issues. But yeah, blame Girardi for playing Jeter, though the New York media would have had a heart attack had Girardi put Jeter 8th/9th in the batting order and sat him more than two games in a row.

That much was clear from Girardi's postseason wrap-up news conference at Yankee Stadium on Monday, in which he refused to guarantee A-Rod his old job back, despite being given several opportunities to say so. 

What kind of idiot manager would guarantee A-Rod his old job back for the upcoming season as early as late September? Girardi has no idea who the Yankees will sign in the offseason, no idea what kind of playing shape A-Rod is in, and Rodriguez wasn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball during the 2013 season. It would be the height of stupidity to guarantee A-Rod his old job back, so naturally the mouth-breathing idiots in the New York media ask Girardi to do so.

And I know if Girardi had said, "Of course A-Rod will have his job back when he returns" then this column by Wallace would go in a completely different direction. It would be, "I can't believe Girardi guaranteed A-Rod's job at third base this early in the offseason."

Asked directly, twice, on Monday if A-Rod was returning as the Yankees' starting third baseman, Girardi hedged. 

I don't want to spoil it, but Girardi's "hedge" is acknowledging that A-Rod will be playing third base when he returns. This further removes any confusion that A-Rod will be moving to the outfield or to shortstop. I'm sure the same subset of zero people who also thought A-Rod would get the Jeter treatment during the 2015 season thought A-Rod might play shortstop when he returned to the Yankees team. These zero people are now even less confused than they never were.

"He hasn’t played in a year," Girardi said. "That’s not easy to do, to sit out a year. I've got to see where he’s physically at, I’ve got to see from a playing standpoint where he’s at. Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. But in fairness, I think you have to see where he’s at." 

So A-Rod will play third base when he returns? Look at Girardi hedging on whether A-Rod will be the regular third baseman for the Yankees by acknowledging that A-Rod will be playing third base.

Which raises the bizarre and tantalizing prospect that Alex Rodriguez could be returning to the Yankees as a part-time player, or worse, a bench player.

Which is pretty much what the New York media has wanted A-Rod to be for a few seasons now. Of course, if A-Rod is a part-time player the New York media will take one of two roads:

1. State A-Rod isn't playing well enough to deserve to be a full-time player and then call him "an expensive pinch-hitter" in some fashion, while baiting A-Rod to second-guess Girardi's decision by firing a series of leading questions at him all in an effort to drum up controversy.

2. Claim that A-Rod should be starting because he makes enough money that he needs the opportunity to contribute and then blame A-Rod for Girardi refusing to pull him from the lineup. I don't know how, but the media will try to blame A-Rod for this.

Funny, Girardi showed no similar hesitation when asked similar questions about Jeter a year ago, even though Jeter was a year older than Rodriguez and coming off a similar yearlong layoff, having played in just 17 games scattered throughout the 2013 season.

That is because it was Jeter's last season and Girardi had never pulled Jeter from the lineup for performance-related reasons. Girardi has pulled A-Rod for performance-related reasons, and A-Rod has been out of baseball for an entire year, while Jeter was rehabbing an injury during much of the 2013 season. There's no way Jeter wasn't going to be the Yankees starting shortstop coming into the 2014 season for a variety of reasons. Just like A-Rod is not being handed the starting third base job for a variety of reasons.

No matter by what illicit means he achieved it, Rodriguez was always a better player than Jeter, if not nearly as much of a winner or so good a teammate. 

And those are part of the reasons why Rodriguez isn't being handed the third base job and Jeter was assumed to be the Yankees' starting shortstop during the 2014 season. Being a good teammate is always nice to see and much of A-Rod's value lies in his power, so it remains to be seen what remains of that power.

It is easy to argue that he doesn't deserve it, for transgressions both on the field and off. 

Ah yes, so basically Wallace Matthews is asking questions and then answering his own questions. Essentially, this entire column could have been a conversation instead Wallace's head instead of a column.

Without even trying, A-Rod is going to cause Girardi the kind of headaches that Jeter never did, and he does not appear to be relishing the prospect, even five months removed from the start of spring training.

It seems that Wallace has broached the question of A-Rod's starting status simply so he can rehash the same talking points about what a pain in the ass A-Rod is. Wallace acts surprised Girardi hasn't named A-Rod the starting third baseman (did you know A-Rod isn't on the same level as Derek Jeter?) in late September and then begins to list the reasons why Girardi wouldn't do this.

Although the manager went out of his way to mention, "I have a good relationship with Alex," he was unable to give a precise date of the last time he and his erstwhile third baseman actually spoke. 


"We've talked more about how he’s just doing and his family, mostly through texting," Girardi said. "Obviously that will pick up now that we’re through the season and I don’t have nearly as much to do, just to see where he is at physically and encouraging him and see what his thoughts are."

Now that Joe Girardi has stopped managing the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour, he can focus more on the Alex Rodriguez Redemption Tour. At some point, probably the beginning of each month during the season, he will put the Yankees lineup, pitching rotation, and bullpen usage charts together so he can spend the rest of that month focused on A-Rod as much as he solely focused on Derek Jeter.

All indications are that he expects to come back to the Yankees in all of his former capacities, as the everyday third baseman and a middle-of-the-order hitter, as well as a possible new capacity -- as a team leader now that Jeter will no longer be in the clubhouse.

How did Wallace get these indications? Why is Wallace unable to give a precise date of the last time he got an indication this is true?

Joe Girardi isn't allowed to talk to A-Rod during the season without every discussion notated and archived for the public's perusal, but Wallace Matthews is all, "I know that A-Rod thinks he is coming back to play third base everyday and hit in the middle of the order," and he just wants his readers to nod their head as if this is true and possibly isn't just an assumption Wallace wants to make for the purposes of writing a column.

Without mentioning names, Girardi spoke in general terms about the likelihood that several current Yankees could step up next year to fill the leadership void Jeter leaves behind. And from what I know about Alex, I can tell you he considers himself one of those candidates, if not the only legitimate one.

Brian McCann is going to stand in the baseline and yell at A-Rod for believing he is the only legitimate leadership candidate. There is an unwritten rule that says you have to get past Brian McCann first before you can be the leader of any team.

But it is just as likely that his return will be seen by some in the Yankees clubhouse as a burden, because at least for the beginning of spring training, the camp is likely to be crawling with even more media than usual, poking and prodding A-Rod for his daily thoughts and charting his every move on and off the field. 

Of course, the New York media could ensure the Yankees clubhouse don't see A-Rod as a burden by not poking and prodding A-Rod for his daily thoughts and charting his move on and off the field, but apparently that isn't even close to being option. Not that the New York media has an obligation to help the Yankees have a lesser burden, but Wallace Matthews is basically saying he and his media friends will make the Yankees clubhouse a living hell if they damn well want to.

Girardi acknowledged the coming circus could serve as a camp distraction, but said: "I think our players will handle it fine. The first couple of days in spring training there will be more attention, and that will die down. That's the nature of sports too. Something’s gonna happen that the focus will be off of him again."

Joe Girardi is going to have Francisco Cervelli murdered so the focus will be off A-Rod and on Cervelli's untimely death. I'm just kidding of course, the New York media would recognize that Cervelli is dead so there's no reason to immediately cover a story that isn't going anywhere, and then continue to focus on asking A-Rod for for the millionth time whether he considers himself the leader of the Yankees now and how much he'll miss Derek Jeter.

the spotlight will be on him again as he faces a likely procession of hostile crowds, perhaps even in his own ballpark. 

So why not announce A-Rod has the starting third base job in late September when he hasn't proven he deserves it, the fans hate him, and it will only put more pressure on him to produce immediately? Joe Girardi has really missed a chance to give New York sportswriters a great story to write.

"His teammates enjoy Alex," Girardi said. "His presence in the clubhouse, the way he likes to teach the game and talk about the game, so I don’t think that will be an issue. Will he have to deal with some angry fans? Yeah. But we’ll help him get through that. And when’s the last time Alex hasn’t had to deal with that?

Stop it! Stop being reasonable about Alex Rodriguez and how hostile crowds will affect him. Just pretend that A-Rod has never faced a hostile crowd before. It's a lot more fun that way.

If he's even 75 percent of the player he was before he was suspended, A-Rod can help the Yankees too, especially the offensively challenged Yankees of 2014.

Considering he is being paid $21 million next season, that's good to hear. I'm not going to mention that as much of a douchebag asshole as A-Rod has been through the years, it's funny how once the Yankees offense starts stumbling sportswriters start talking about him in a positive fashion as someone who can help the team. Wait, I did just mention it. It's almost like A-Rod is overpaid, but still a reasonably useful baseball player.

But there's no guarantee that when he comes back to the Yankees -- and his yearlong suspension ends as soon as the World Series is over -- that aside from his lavish paycheck, Rodriguez will enjoy any of the perks he did before he was set down, or any of the deference the manager showed to Jeter. 

Again, no one thought Alex Rodriguez would be treated in the same way that Derek Jeter was treated during his final season in the majors. Anyone who thought A-Rod would be treated as a conquering hero upon being reinstated is an idiot or simply stuck in 2002.

Which sets up a mouthwatering question for Girardi's postseason news conference a year from now:

After being accused in 2014 of playing Derek Jeter too much, will Girardi in 2015 face charges that he didn't play Alex Rodriguez enough?

My mouth is officially watered. Tell you what, if Alex Rodriguez plays well enough to play third base a lot during the 2015 season then I am betting Joe Girardi will play A-Rod a lot. Girardi won't reasonably know if A-Rod will play well enough until five months from now in spring training. Hence, he doesn't name A-Rod the starting third baseman yet. Somehow it makes sense if you just take the time to think about it. He won't be treated like Derek Jeter and I doubt anyone thought he would be treated in a similar fashion.