Commentary

Face it: A-Rod isn't going anywhere

With an immovable contract, better for fans to root for Rodriguez than against him

Updated: October 22, 2012, 5:42 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

Yankees fans, it's time to stop the madness.

Alex Rodriguez isn't going anywhere, so you have to stop begging, pleading and wishing for it.

A more productive use of your time would be to beg, plead and wish that for the next five years, A-Rod can slow his physical deterioration to the point where he remains near the level he played at for most of 2012, because it really wasn't that bad.

Alex Rodriguez
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireAlex Rodriguez is your third baseman, Yankees fans, so you'd better hope he bounces back from his October swoon.

I really wish I could be the one to bring you the news most of you obviously crave -- a whopping 73 percent of you voted to dump A-Rod in our Take 'Em/Trash 'Em poll, second only to Nick Swisher's 88 percent among Yankees regulars -- but it would only be pandering to tell you it's likely to happen, or even that it's a good idea.

Much of the hysteria that started during the playoffs was reignited Sunday when Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Ian O'Connor on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, in regards to A-Rod, "If someone wants to make phone calls, we're more than willing to do all that stuff with any of our players, and that's fine."

He also said the idea of trading a 37-year-old player with $114 million left on a contract with five more years to run, plus the right to refuse any trade, was "unrealistic," and that he still considers Rodriguez "an above-average third baseman."

And yet, many of you chose to cherry-pick that "make phone calls" line as an indication the Yankees are shopping A-Rod.

Not the case. Here is what Cashman said to me Monday: "The only way I would even approach Alex Rodriguez about waiving his no-trade clause is if the deal made this ballclub better. And when you take everything into account, I don't see that happening."

Cashman also said it was "99 percent certain" Alex Rodriguez would be the Yankees' starting third baseman in 2013.

So unless something unforeseen happens, A-Rod is not about to become A-Rid anytime soon.

The simple truth is, the Yankees' front office -- independent of the GM, who declared he would not negotiate with Rodriguez if he opted out of his contract following the 2007 season -- made a horrible decision based on business, not baseball, interests, and now is probably going to have to live with the consequences of it for the next five years.

So instead of fantasizing about ways out of the deal, let's examine the reasons A-Rod has become such a lightning rod for the Yankees' postseason failure, and why it seems imperative that he be banished from the kingdom as quickly as possible.

DIMINISHED PRODUCTION: True, A-Rod is not the hitter he once was. But it is unfair and ridiculous to a expect a 37-year-old player to hit the way he did at 27. Or even at 32. These are the expectations of a generation brought up watching steroid-fueled sluggers, one of whom A-Rod admittedly was, perform feats unnatural not only for their ages but, in many cases, their body types and talent levels. What is happening to Alex Rodriguez is what is supposed to happen to players his age.

And even in his decline, his numbers aren't that bad. His .272 batting average placed him in about the middle of the pack among third basemen, and how about this? -- higher than all but two of the regulars in the Yankees' lineup, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. The 18 home runs he hit in 470 at-bats project to 26 over a full 600 AB season, which is more than all but three MLB third basemen hit this season.

HIS OCTOBER SWOON: Yes, he had a lousy postseason, but so do did just about every one of his teammates except for Jeter and Raul Ibanez. And unlike Swisher and most of the others, A-Rod can at least point to one postseason (2009) in which his bat actually carried the team to a World Series title.

HIS OFF-FIELD BEHAVIOR: You can point at his foolish flirtation with two women in the stands at Yankee Stadium after he was removed from Game 1 of the ALCS as a reason he's got to go, but if you think A-Rod is the only ballplayer, or even the only Yankee, who has ever done this, even this season, you are spending too much time on fantasy baseball and not enough in the real world.

In fact, here is a passage from a local ballplayer's autobiography:

"One day during the 1967 season, we were taking batting practice ... at Shea Stadium when I noticed a great-looking blonde sitting in the stands. A ... photographer I knew came up and asked if he could take a picture of me.

'Sure, I told him, on one condition ... if you get her phone number for me, I'll take the picture."'

The photog got the digits, gave them to the player, who eventually married, and soon after divorced, the blonde.

The player? Joe Torre.

THE MONEY: It always comes down to this, but remember: It's not A-Rod's fault that the Yankees will be paying him obscene cash until he's 43 years old. It's the Yankees' fault. And even if the Yankees were to find a sucker to take him off their hands, they would still have to assume a healthy portion of the contract, say $20 million or so a year, which would do very little to relieve their payroll or get them closer to Hal Steinbrenner's stated goal of a $189 million ballclub by 2014.

All it would do is remove A-Rod from the roster, which some would consider addition by subtraction. But one team source I spoke with said, "Alex is not like A.J. Burnett. He's well-liked in the clubhouse and a lot of the young players consider him a leader."

But the most important question is this: If you dump A-Rod, who do you replace him with?

As Cashman said to me Monday, third base is "a very thin position in the big leagues today."

The guys who will be available on the free-agent market -- Mark Reynolds, Placido Polanco, Scott Rolen, Miguel Cairo, Mark DeRosa -- you don't want. They are not even close to being upgrades.

The guys you would want -- Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, David Freese, David Wright -- are not available.

The guys who are left -- Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Kevin Youkilis -- bring headaches of their own.

Youkilis, who has a club option for 2013, is aging himself, and isn't as good a hitter as even the 2012 A-Rod. A trade for Ramirez is intriguing, but after the Dodgers took on three pieces of Red Sox detritus last July, it is doubtful L.A. could even consider adding A-Rod. And Reyes brings two problems -- one, he's a shortstop, meaning you have to move Jeter to third, and two, do you really think the Marlins are going to swap a $114 million player who's 29 for a $114 million player who's 38? It's nonsensical.

The cold reality is, Alex Rodriguez is going to be a Yankee next year, and probably for the duration of his contract.

So instead of wasting your time and energy hoping he will go away, it makes more sense to spend it hoping he will come back in 2013 as good or better than he was in 2012.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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