Of all the insults lobbed at Alex Rodriguez through the years, with the bulk of them richly deserved, none probably delivered the sting felt by the words he heard from his own manager before Tuesday’s game at Fenway Park.
As promised, Joe Girardi spoke with A-Rod about his plan to play him this week, the final four games of his (Yankees) career, and the conversation did not go well. Rodriguez was told he will get just one start at Fenway — against knuckleballer Steven Wright Thursday — then Friday’s goodbye in the Bronx.
The reason? “We’re trying to win,” Girardi said.
Rodriguez has heard every insult through his PED-stained career, at every stadium. But the mocking, singsong chants of “We Want A-Rod!” that echoed through Fenway in the ninth inning as the Yankees rallied Tuesday night must have felt worse than the loudest boos during A-Rod’s glory days. A rival’s respect had curdled to ridicule.
A-Rod sat anchored at the far end of the dugout while Girardi stood at the other side. The manager never glanced in Rodriguez’s direction, even staying with Aaron Hicks (.192) with one on, two outs and the Yankees down, 5-2.
After 22 years in the spotlight, A-Rod is not easily offended. But having to ride the bench into the sunset of his Yankees career just feels wrong and unnecessary.
One day, Hal Steinbrenner suggests to ESPN that Rodriguez might be deserving of Monument Park. The next? Girardi reneges on his earlier pledge to “find a way” to play A-Rod in his last four games (even if they won’t be, in our humble opinion).
We don’t get the point of the good cop, bad cop routine with Rodriguez on the clock. Very soon, A-Rod won’t be the Yankees’ problem. They can’t survive another eight at-bats or so? As of Tuesday night, the Yankees were facing a 4 1⁄2 -game wild-card deficit, but with a 1.9-percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraph’s calculations. Yet, Girardi apparently believes A-Rod is too big a liability.
“It’s surprising and shocking,” Rodriguez said. “He has his opinion, I have mine. But like I’ve said from the time I came back from my suspension, it’s up to Joe and I’ll do whatever he wants . . . I’ll be ready if he needs me.”
If Rodriguez has learned anything in his post-Biogenesis years, it’s the usefulness of diplomacy. But sometimes, he can’t help himself. On Sunday, amid the tears, A-Rod tugged back at the leash pulling him off the Bronx stage, hinting that he was not entirely comfortable with Hal’s blueprint for his future.
It happened again Tuesday. Rodriguez said that he expected to play at least two out of three at Fenway with the Red Sox starting lefthander Drew Pomeranz in the middle game. When someone asked why he was best suited to face Wright’s knuckleballs, Rodriguez replied, “Maybe a slow bat? A long swing?”
A-Rod isn’t above taking a few digs at himself, so he could have been going for laughs from the dozens of reporters. But Hal settled on a more palatable resolution to the escalating A-Rod issue, and here we are.
It’s an awkward place. Girardi counting the minutes until A-Rod’s gone, and becoming less guarded about sharing that sentiment. Rodriguez, ironically, feeling cheated. Maybe his real retirement, from the next team, will go more smoothly “I think I can still play,” Rodriguez said.
Too bad the guy writing the lineup card doesn’t think so.