New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, right, talks with teammate Mark Teixeira prior to Game 4 of the MLB ALCS baseball playoff series against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Michigan, October 17, 2012. (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
DETROIT - No matter how strong and how all encompassing, every empire eventually crumbles.
We’ve seen the rise and are about to see the fall of the New York Yankees.
That’s not to say the most winning franchise in Major League Baseball history won’t ever be successful again, but in order for the Yankees to thrive once more it’s going to take some heavy lifting. With a team that is older and burdened with big contracts, there are plenty of questions about how long that will take.
The poster boy for the Yankees’ failure so far in the American League Championship Series is Alex Rodriguez, he of the wandering eye and the wavering bat. He’s an easy target especially now that his club is down 3-0 to the Detroit Tigers in the best-of-seven series.
Rodriguez has five years and $114-million remaining on his contract. He’s struggling at the plate in these playoffs and manager Joe Girardi has benched him against right-handers. Rodriguez hasn’t helped himself by chasing women during baseball games.
Rodriguez isn’t the only problem. Derek Jeter is getting older and will now take five to six months to recover from a broken ankle. Mark Teixeira is slowing down. Mariano Rivera is recovering from knee surgery.
It’s a machine that is breaking down part-by-part.
These aren’t just issues that have been affecting them throughout this horrible post-season. These are issues that will stay with them over the winter and into next season.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman faced the media Wednesday and tried to explain what has happened to his team.
Understandably, most of the questions were about Rodriguez. Cashman was asked everything from how damaged the relationship between player and management has become during this very public demotion to whether A-Rod’s roving eye had anything to do with his benching in Game 3 to whether or not the Yankees are going to trade their high-paid platoon player.
That is what Rodriguez has become. He’s hitting 3-for-23 in the playoffs and is 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handers. The benching in Game 4 of the ALCS was his third in these playoffs.
Rodriquez was swarmed by press on the field before the game.
Off the field, Cashman was trying to smooth over a situation that has raised the discomfort level to New York-like proportions.
“We will go forward, Alex will go forward,” Cashman said. “The one thing about this game as we’ve all appreciated over time is that you’re going to have some good times and you’re going to have some tough times. It doesn’t have to be the end-all and be-all. Opportunities will exist to get back off that mat and get back in the ring and battle.
“And Alex is going to wait for that opportunity. Right now it looks like in theory we’ll do that against left-handed pitching.”
Cashman went on to say benching Rodriguez was “discussed organizationally,” and did occur merely because Rodriguez was stinking out the joint in the playoffs.
Rodriguez’s contract makes him tough to move.
Both Cashman and Girardi must have the gnawing feeling in the back of their minds that their big-money star is not worth what he’s being paid.
It isn’t a case of having to toss Rodriguez by the wayside, but he’s not a No. 3 hitter in the lineup. He can be effective further down the order but that’s a lot of money to pay a No. 7 hitter.
The same questions are being asked of Cashman about the rest of the lineup.
“These guys are better than this and you’ve seen it and I’ve seen it,” Cashman said. “It is just a very poor, short sample. We have a lot of guys that got cold at the wrong time and it looks bad ... this is not a reflection of who they are.”
Funny, but it sounded like Cashman was trying to convince himself as much as he wanted to convince everyone else he was talking to.