Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Yankees and A-Rod

I was surprised as anyone to see the Yankees go down in four games to Detroit. I knew that New York's pitching was very suspect, but I thought that Detroit's pitching was hurting a little and that the best offense in baseball would get to it. Boy, was I wrong. Sure the Yanks got to them in game 1, but that was because Detroit's rotation was not setup for the playoffs. Detroit had battled Minnesota for the AL Central crown and had gone to extra-innings on the last day of the season trying to hold off the Twins. Once their big three starters got into the series in game 2, things changed.

Detroit was lead all year by Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Jeremy Bonderman. Verlander and Bonderman looked tired at the end of the season, Verlander sported a 5.82 ERA in August and September, while Bonderman had a 4.98 ERA. Meanwhile Rogers had struggled against the Yankees in the past. It didn't look good for the Tigers.

But you know the saying, that's why they play the game. The big three were 2-0 with a 2.10 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, and 17K in 21.1 IP in the ALDS. That's dominant. That was the story of the ALDS. The Yankees offense was silenced by the Tigers pitching.

So now things get interesting. Not just because we get a very interesting ALCS between Oakland and Detroit (though I'm guessing Fox is wishing New York was still in there,) but because we get the ultimate soap opera. Once the Yankees have fallen short and we get the soap opera of Steinbrenner trying to fix his team. Already we're hearing that Joe Torre is out, which is pretty shocking. But the big drama is around Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod's 1-14 ALDS punctuated a season where Yankee fans have been furious with A-Rod. That despite A-Rod putting up huge numbers once again, and just a year after he won the AL MVP. All A-Rod has heard has been boos because "he doesn't come through in the clutch." This is only going to get an order of magnitude worse with A-Rod's 1-14 in the Yankees' ALDS loss.

So what should the Yankees do about A-Rod? Of course the whole thing is ridiculous. A-Rod is one the best offensive players in the game. He's going to challenge many career records for home runs, RBIs, etc. However, it is quite possible that because of all the negative feelings towards him, he may have an even harder time playing to his ability in New York. This is the fault of the Yankee fans and of Joe Torre. Torre should have left A-Rod in the cleanup spot no matter what this year. Playing him the 8th spot against Detroit is unacceptable.

Thus the Yankees may have to trade A-Rod, even though it is a stupid thing to do. Obvously they need pitching. Any team with a promising young pitcher would be fools NOT to trade for A-Rod -- if they can afford him. That's the rub. There aren't many teams that can take on 25M/year salary. So the Yankees will probably have to take on part of A-Rod's salary in order to trade him. I think a Matt Cain for A-Rod trade would be interesting. Maybe the Cubs can convince them to take Mark Prior for him.

A Roy Oswalt for A-Rod trade would be pretty interesting too. A-Rod's stats have suffered in Yankee Stadium (as was predicted by many when he was traded there) because it is a tough place for a right-handed power hitter. His numbers would explode at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Lance Berkman and A-Rod would make for the most lethal 3-4 combo in baseball. Oswalt would not only be the ace of the staff for the Yankees, he would put up huge numbers because he would suddenly have run support. Plus, he's thought of as a "clutch" pitcher who has performed well in the postseason. Again, the Yankees would have to pay part of A-Rod's salary, since there's no way Houston could afford to pay him.

That's only part of the story for the Yankees. They need to figure out if Jason Giambi can play 1st base or not. If not, they need a 1st basemen and they need to trade either Gary Sheffiled or Hideki Matsui (or Bobby Abreu, but I doubt that one.) Sheffield looked terrible at 1st base. That's another strike against Joe Torre.

They also need to move Randy Johnson out of the starting rotation. He cannot hold up for a full season at his age. He could be a terrific relief pitcher, though obviously Mariano Rivera is going to close games as long as his health allows. Mussina and Wang are the only two pitchers that should be in the rotation next year. They should throw some money at Jason Schmidt. That could be a nice rotatoion: Oswalt-Schmidt-Mussina-Wang-whatever.

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