A-Rod benched for Yankees’ Game 5 win
It happened in stages – first demoted in the batting order, then losing at-bats to pinch-hitters in late innings – but last night, Alex Rodriguez found himself benched as the Yankees put away the Orioles in Game 5 of the ALDS.
It was peculiar enough to see Yankees manager Joe Girardi pinch-hit Raul Ibanez for Rodriguez, who the Orioles’ Adam Jones called “half a billionaire,” in Game 3, then pinch-hit Eric Chavez with Game 4 on the line.
Chavez, whose career was thought to be over at various points in the last few years due to chronic injuries, lined out to end the game, but he still earned the starting spot at third base over Rodriguez in Game 5. Chavez’s $900,000 one-year contract is equal to three percent of the $29 million A-Rod is making this year, halfway through a 10-year contract.
CC Sabathia’s dominant complete-game pitching performance was the story of Game 5, and the Yankees certainly had no problem winning without their highest-paid player. Rodriguez was 2-for-16 in the series with nine strikeouts, and benching a player with that line seems like an easy decision.
But of course, this isn’t just any struggling 37-year-old. This is a player bound for the Hall of Fame, a man with 647 career home runs and $114 million still owed him by the richest team in baseball. It could be argued that those numbers earn him a little more leeway than anyone else would get in his place.
Girardi has no time for that argument. He clearly intends to put what he thinks is the best lineup possible on the field, regardless of how much money the team is “throwing away” by benching Rodriguez. Against the Tigers in the upcoming ALCS, Chavez could well be the better choice: Detroit’s best starters are right-handed, and A-Rod hit .308 against lefties but .256 against righties in the regular season this year. (Chavez’s split is .298 against righties and .152 against lefties.)
It’s a given that a player signed to a 10-year contract in his 30s will decline sharply somewhere in the middle of that deal. It’s far more surprising to see a manager accept that fact this quickly and set his lineup accordingly.