What they’re saying about the Yankees’ first round exit

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It’s audacious, I realize, to attribute the result in this series to the Tigers winning rather than the Yankees losing. Derek Jeter acknowledged it (see below), but that’s just not how New York rolls. So let us absorb the New York sturm und drang, shall we?

Joe Girardi:  “It’s an empty feeling for everyone in that room. And it hurts. You just got to remember this feeling and we’ll be determined next year.”

Bob Klapisch: “There were culprits up and down the lineup, but none so obvious as Alex Rodriguez, who’d turned into Public Enemy No. 1 by the ninth inning. There he was, swinging so feebly at Jose Valverde’s last fastball he should’ve done himself the favor and stayed in the dugout.”

Joel Sherman: “… the Yankees lost three games by a total of four runs. So they were a star turn away from winning this series; a game-turning pitch, a big hit, and, in particular, Sabathia and Rodriguez never delivered.”

Mike Lupica: we kept hearing about these great swings [Alex Rodriguez] was getting. How he was going to bust out. It makes more sense to call him the same kind of October bust he was for the Yankees before he had his one shining moment in 2009 … if A-Rod thinks doing it once gives him some kind of lifetime pass with Yankee fans, he didn’t hear the boos he got after he struck out in the bottom of the seventh Thursday night.

John Harper: “After a season spent worrying about whether the Yankees had enough pitching, it was the big bats that cost them in the end. Above all, as always, there was Rodriguez, striking out swinging with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, when even a single likely would have tied the game, and then striking out swinging to end the game.”

Wallace Matthews: “When Rodriguez swung through Valverde’s 94-mph, 1-2 fastball, not one honest person in Yankee Stadium could truly say they were surprised.”

Ian O’Connor: “Worried his hitters would be distracted, Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees, had the umpires strip Benoit of his bandage, exposing what Tigers manager Jim Leyland called “a big lump on his face.” But Girardi couldn’t strip the pitcher of his powers, or of his ability to throw an 86-mph splitter on a 1-2 count that would reduce A-Rod to a flailing Game 5 mess and, ultimately, leave him once again as the face of a first-round flameout, the master of another Yankee disaster.

Steve Politi: The finger pointing will begin Friday, and there are plenty of directions to point. The manager and his six pitching changes will be a target. The broken down third baseman who struck out to end the game will be one, too. The lineup that hit 222 home runs during the regular season failing to make one good swing with all those opportunities — there are plenty of culprits, to be sure. But sometimes, there are no easy answers. Sometimes, when a 162-game season comes down to one night in October, the ball off the bat of the star shortstop dies on the warning track.

Tyler Kepner: “For all of the success of the Jeter/Mariano Rivera/Jorge Posada era, the Yankees have lost in the first round more often than they have won the World Series. They have five championships and seven first-round knockouts — in 1995, 1997, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011. Their expectations never change: they win, or the season is a failure.”

Jeff Bradley: “It was almost eerie in the Stadium as the highest-paid player in the game waved at a pitch from Detroit closer Jose Valverde. The crowd was barely making a noise. The old anticipatory thundering applause that’s been know to rattle an opponent was not there. Almost like the crowd had seen enough of A-Rod. And did not believe.”

Derek Jeter: “They pitched, man. They pitched That’s why they’re here, that’s why they’re moving on. They’ve got a great pitching staff. Their starters are tough, their bullpen is good. And Valverde closes the door. You get to this point in the season, it’s usually about pitching for the most part. They were tough on us.”

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.