Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

On field and off, Yankees' Alex Rodriguez can't avoid controversy in AL Championship Series

DETROIT — Alex Rodriguez has been the talk of the American League Championship Series.

Well, besides Wednesday's Game 4 being rained out without any rain actually falling.

A-Rod has struggled. He was benched. He was reportedly caught flirting with female fans during a game. Donald Trump and Kobe Bryant have called him out. He is being offered in a trade to the Marlins. His future is being questioned.

"There's blood in the water," Rodriguez said. "I do think some of the criticism out there is very fair, and I can live with that, but some of the other stuff is not fair, so you just move on, you don't worry about it too much."

For his part, he dismissed the report of getting too friendly with the fans ("I've never addressed anything from blogs or gossip columns"), insisted his priority was helping the team win, maintained that he still loved the Yankees and New York and remained very, very confident in his ability, recent results aside.

"I've played this game for a long time, and bottom line is any time I'm in any lineup I think that lineup is better and has a better chance to win, no matter," Rodriguez said. "I don't care if it's an All-Star Game, I feel I can bring that type of impact."

The Yankees obviously didn't think so, as he was benched Tuesday (and not even used as a pinch-hitter) and was not in the lineup again Wednesday, the product of his .130 postseason average (3-for-23 overall, with 12 strikeouts) and overall ineffectiveness against right-handed pitching.

"This isn't just a short-term decision," general manager Brian Cashman said. "It's a short-term decision based on the strikeouts that have occurred against the right-handed pitching during the playoffs. But if you look at his splits vs. right-handed pitching and left-handed pitching for the season, it's not a short-term sample."

But being that it's the Yankees, that explanation begat these questions of manager Joe Girardi:

Do you think Alex is even a viable player for you right now? … Can you rely on him for anything right now? … Do you think he's a shot player?

"No, no, I don't think he is a shot player," Girardi said. "I think he's a guy that's going through some struggles, similar to what (Curtis Granderson) has went through the last month and a half or whatever. And there's some things that you have to try to fix and get him going, and we'll continue to do that with both of them."

(Both Girardi and Cashman did insist that the benching was purely performance related, and not punitive for the reported in-game moves on the fans.)

There will also have to be some work repairing the relationship, given that Rodriguez, 37, has five years and a guaranteed $114 million remaining on his contract, plus millions more in bonuses.

Girardi acknowledged that benching Rodriguez "is not an easy thing to do" but something they felt they had to do as they try to avoid elimination, down 3-0 to the Tigers primarily because of their inept offense.

To which Rodriguez said, basically, yeah, well …

"The thing I will give Joe a lot of credit for is he has been very good to me over the years," he said. "So he has a lot of equity with me. For me, it's just tough. I'm a competitor. And I really feel in my heart that whenever I'm in that lineup the team's a better team. Without a question. So we'll disagree there till the end, but I like Joe, I support Joe and our job right now is to come together like a family. We're here to win a game. I will be ready."

And, again, this being the Yankees, there was a report — which originated, of all places, with Keith Olbermann, who has an MLB.com blog — that the Yankees were already in trade talks with the Marlins.

"I've had no trade discussions, so false — 100 percent false," Cashman said.

"Certainly would never have any trade discussions under the circumstances."

That, too, said something.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

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