Are the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez gearing up for their own version of Brexit? Can we call it Alexit?
A breakup certainly seems more likely every day as the Yankees on Monday benched Rodriguez for the second straight game against a righthander. Not Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux or Walter Johnson, mind you, but the Twins’ Tyler Duffey and his 6.18 ERA on Sunday and Texas’ Chi Chi Gonzalez on Monday.
Gonzalez was making his first start of the season. The Yankees have decided Alex Rodriguez cannot hit a guy with a 6.18 ERA and a guy who until Monday was pitching for the Round Rock Express.
It’s mostly about Rodriguez’s numbers against righthanders, general manager Brian Cashman explained, and the Yankees need to “tinker” with the club hovering around .500 and the Aug. 1 trade deadline five weeks away.
“We’ve got to get this 2016 going,” Cashman said. “We’re struggling. It’s almost July. So we had a meeting the other day and one of the things we came up with was obviously Alex, I think, is a .580 OPS against righthanded pitching this year.”
It actually was .584 going into Monday, which if you’re not a student of OPS is low, low, low. So the Yankees decided that to get 2016 going, they had to bench A-Rod against righties, move Carlos Beltran to designated hitter and install super-hot slugging prospect Aaron Judge in rightfield.
Except they forgot the Aaron Judge part.
No, the Yankees benched a player with 695 career home runs for another Aaron: Aaron Hicks. This Aaron, going into Monday, had been to the plate more than 1,000 times and had a career .219 batting average. He had a .606 OPS vs. righthanders. Both went down when he went 0-for-5 in the Yankees’ 9-6 loss, giving him a .212/.265/.325 slash line this season.
If Hicks can hit enough to be an everyday player, he has kept it well-hidden since 2013.
Hicks gives the Yankees superior defense to Beltran, who will get to rest his legs by not having to move around in the outfield. That part of the decision is irrefutable. And with the Yankees getting ready for interleague play this weekend in San Diego, they want Beltran upright.
What is refutable is the decision to keep Judge down on the farm. The 24-year-old has been piping hot for the entire month of June and hit his 16th Triple-A home run Monday night. In the past seven games, Judge has hit .429 (12-for-28) with a double, a triple, six homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.179 slugging percentage.
But when Cashman was asked if Judge is an option, he said: “Not sure yet. He’s really on a nice roll right now. There’s some things that he’s definitely improved upon, but again our first alternative would be to see what Hicks can do anyway. And [Rob] Refsnyder, in fairness, also.”
But back to A-Rod. Without a place in the lineup, all he has done the last two days is take batting practice, do extra work in the cage and make himself very accessible to the media.
On Monday, the soon-to-be-41-year-old appeared in front of his locker, which is a rarity before most home games. Like a political candidate, Rodriguez had his message ready:
“You haven’t heard the last of me.”
“[I have] enough in the tank to help this team win. And there’s a lot of games to be played and I will help this team win.”
“I’ve always enjoyed proving people wrong. I’ll be ready when my number’s called.”
Cashman said the Yankees have not discussed releasing A-Rod and eating the more than $30 million he is owed through next season. But it would be counterproductive to keep him on the roster if he’s not going to play.
“It’s not something that’s come up,” Cashman said.
If A-Rod’s truly done, it will, and it will lead to one of the most fascinating breakups in recent history. At least this one won’t affect the stock market. We think.