With A-Rod, Yanks Torpedo Sinking Ship

On the field and off it, in the short-term and long, the Yankees’ handling of A-Rod has been nothing short of wrong.

It’s not clear where this goes from here.

The Yankees could end up taking a cue from heartbreak past. They could surge back from 3-0 to advance to perhaps the most unlikely World Series in franchise history, quieting questions and putting off answers until another day.

Much more likely, they will go loudly into the night. (UPDATE: In case you went into frustration-induced hibernation after Game 3, they already have.) The Alex Rodriguez trade rumors, of which I am extremely skeptical, will continue to swirl.

In fact, the storm has already begun. As I write this, the Yankees are already down 6-0 in an elimination game. By the time you somehow waded through a sea of A-Rod columns to find this one, the 2012 Yankees – and Rodriguez’s career in pinstripes – could be over.

But regardless of how these Yankees are remembered (and right now, the odds on “fondly” aren’t looking too hot.), one thing must be said:

The Yankees’ handling of Alex Rodriguez during the postseason – and this is putting it kindly – has been straight up wrong.

On the field and off it, in the short-term and the long, the Yankees have diminished their chances of winning.

By treating one of history’s greatest sluggers as a mere nuisance unworthy of the stripes which he has so dutifully earned, they’ve hurt their chances against the Detroit Tigers of 2012, the Tampa Bay Rays of 2013, and all of baseball’s elite moving forward.

I get it. I’ve watched the games too. A-Rod looks finished, roasted. His bat speed is laughable, his confidence non-existent, his once majestic swing reduced to a pathetic flail.

The man who was supposed to end up blasting more homeruns than anyone else now looks incapable of ever hitting a single one again.

Still, looks can be deceiving: There’s no doubt A-Rod’s skill set has diminished, his 18 homeruns in 2012 being just one indicator of batting prowess passed. But it’s worth remembering that he hit .315 in July – albeit without much power – before fracturing his wrist and then returning for the stretch run, stripped of his once-legendary ability to hit a baseball.

Is Alex still hurt? Is this set of 25 or so at-bats merely an embarrassingly bad small sample?

I don’t know.

And guess what? Neither do the Yankees.

Which makes it all the more perplexing why they’ve treated this situation like one settled, seemingly already having launched a smear campaign of their $114 million third basemen (‘Confirmed by team sources,’ by the way. Are they even trying to disguise this stuff anymore?), just minutes after they announced their decision to bench him for the third time in five crucial contests.

“I’ve played this game for a long time,” Rodriguez told reporters before Wednesday’s rainout. “Bottom line is: anytime I’m in any lineup, I think that lineup is better. It has a better chance to win.”

Bottom line: A-Rod’s right. Especially when his absence requires the presence of the even more punchless Eric Chavez, who is 0-15 during these playoffs.

When you have one of the game’s greatest, you give him a chance to figure it out.

In baseball, 23 at-bats is not much of a chance.

(Just ask Robinson Cano, who recently vanquished a dubious streak of his own: hitless in 29 postseason ABs.)

But even worse than giving up on one of the game’s greatest, and likely doing it too hastily – the Yankees have banished A-Rod when they needed him most.

“I feel I can bring that type of impact and I’m also at any point ready to break through,” A-Rod said, flanked by reporters. “I thought my at-bats in some of those game got a little bit better. The last two, I hit two rockets. Anytime I’m in the box the game can change, and everyone knows that.”

Teetering on the verge of capsizing, without their captain to steady the ship, the Yankees should have listened to Alex, and given him a chance to right all that has gone wrong.

They needed him to find his stroke. They needed it yesterday – when, instead of playing baseball, he was answering questions from reporters and providing half-shaken, half-confident responses like the ones above.

Yet, even if the Yankees are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that their third baseman is fried – and it remains to be seen how they could be – and that any A-Rod plate appearance is destined to end in a trip back to the dugout, and that the best course of action is to trade him, and trade him tomorrow – then it boggles the mind why it made sense to torpedo a sinking ship, plummeting Rodriguez’s trade value to depths previously unseen.

Hey Cashman, it’s Jeff Loria. We’re interested in Alex.

But we know you want no part of him. You’ve made that exceedingly clear. You want him gone, ASAP.

So here’s what we’ll do: We’ll give you Mark Buerhle. And you’ll give us Alex Rodriguez.

And you’ll pay ninety-five of the hundred-and-fourteen million dollars remaining on Alex’ contract.

And, if Brian Cashman is serious about trading Rodriguez, as most seem to believe, he will have no choice but to say yes.

Because when you’ve made your disdain for a player this clear, that’s about the best offer you’re going to get.

Because when you’ve backed yourself into a corner like the Yankees have, the best offer you get might just be the one you can’t refuse.

Jesse Golomb is (unfortunately) a Yankee fan.

He’s also the Editor-in-Chief of TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter, or drop him a line via email

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