Commentary

Yanks must put A-Rod back in lineup

It's absurd that New York is continuing to bench arguably its best power threat

Updated: October 18, 2012, 12:23 AM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

DETROIT -- Trailing the Detroit Tigers, three games to none, and one loss away from a nuclear winter, the New York Yankees have only one hope left. Manager Joe Girardi must put Alex Rodriguez back in the lineup. And then the Yankees also need to station binders of Australian bikini models in the outfield bleachers to inspire him to deliver a home run ball to their seats.

I kissed this ball good-bye so I can kiss you hello. What's your number?

[+] EnlargeAlex Rodriguez
Tim Fuller/US PresswireAlex Rodriguez was a spectator for all of Game 3 of the ALCS.

I mean, the Yankees tried dropping A-Rod in the order the first two games of the series, but that didn't work. They benched him in Game 3, but that didn't work, either. The Yankees are still not hitting and still not winning. All they have done is lose three games while creating the sort of firestorm that could render A-Rod and the $114 million remaining on his contract unsalvageable in New York.

A team source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that A-Rod gave an Australian bikini model and her friend sitting behind the Yankees' dugout a baseball in exchange for their phone numbers during the team's Game 1 loss to the Tigers in the ALCS. Keith Olbermann reported Wednesday that a joke between Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and Yankees president Randy Levine has escalated into serious discussions about trading Rodriguez to Miami (Yankees general Brian Cashman said he has had no trade talks with anyone).

"Look, there's blood in the water," Rodriguez said to reporters after he was left out of the Game 4 lineup Wednesday. "And when you don't play well, and I haven't played well, and some of the criticism I've received -- I've been here nine years -- I can take that. Well-deserved. But that other stuff, gossip, I don't give a crap about that. But I will tell you this. I hope nothing like that is going on at this point because our only focus from the top to the bottom is to win a game tonight."

Well, Mother Nature intervened with a rainout Wednesday, shifting Game 4 to Thursday and providing Girardi another chance to put A-Rod back in the lineup.

"I really feel that in my heart, that any time I'm in the lineup the team is a better team. Without a question," the always humble Rodriguez said.

I hate to admit it, but he's right. As bad as Rodriguez has looked this postseason, I still prefer a lineup that includes a 14-time All-Star and three-time MVP with 647 career home runs over the mess Girardi penciled in the past two nights.

Obviously, Rodriguez is not swinging the bat well now, particularly against right-handers, and Detroit is starting right-handed Max Scherzer in Game 4. Cashman said the Yankees put A-Rod on the bench because they have a left-handed alternative. Fair enough. But his replacement isn't hitting, either. Eric Chavez doesn't have a hit this postseason (0-for-14 with six strikeouts) and he also made an error that led to a crucial run for the Tigers in Game 3.

Tuesday night in Game 3, Girardi decided to keep left-handed-swinging Raul Ibanez in against left-hander Phil Coke rather than pinch-hit A-Rod with two outs in the ninth. Ibanez has been a postseason hero, but he doesn't hit lefties well and Coke struck him out to end the game. When Girardi was asked why he didn't bring in A-Rod, he dismissively said that had he done so the Tigers simply would have brought in a right-hander, as if it was inconceivable Rodriguez could get a hit off the legendary Joaquin Benoit.

The Yankees are down 0-3 to Detroit with only a slim chance of returning the series to New York, let alone winning the final four games to reach the World Series. They've tried playing without A-Rod, to no avail. At this point, they might as well give another shot to a player they're paying nearly $30 million this season and owe $114 million more.

"I always feel like I deserve a shot," Rodriguez said. "I have tremendous confidence in my ability and I feel like I started swinging the bat better at home and I feel like any point I'm in the box, there's damage in the near future.''

After all that has happened since he joined New York, today is that point for the Yankees to give A-Rod one last shot to see if he can do damage to something other than his reputation.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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