Alex Rodriguez

This just isn’t the time for Yankees to trade Alex Rodriguez


As far as I can tell, Alex Rodriguez committed two crimes this month. He played pretty horribly in the playoffs, which hardly put him among the minority of Yankees hitters, and he embarrassed his team by reportedly trying to get a woman’s digits from the dugout.

In the case of the latter, absolutely no one would have have cared it he had hit .400 in the postseason instead of .100. He’s not the first or the 100th player to try to hook up from the dugout or bullpen. And one imagines he didn’t suddenly get the idea to try it for the first time in his 2,595th major league game.

As for the former, well, he stunk up the joint, no doubt about it. And because of his salary and stature, he makes for an easy target. But it should be remembered that he was just 2 1/2 months removed from suffering a broken left hand. Even if that doesn’t explain the slow bat, it still gives him a better excuse for his struggles than anything Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be able to come up with.

Going forward, Rodriguez projects as a wildly overcompensated complimentary player. He’s 37, his OPS has declined five years running and he hasn’t played in more than 140 games since 2007. The $118 million he’ll make these next five years probably makes him a good $70 million-$80 million overpaid.

That said, his defense at third isn’t bad and he’s never not been an above average hitter. Kevin Youkilis is pretty easily the best third baseman available in free agency, and if he’s a better bet than A-Rod for 2013, it’s only slightly. Both are injury prone, and Rodriguez was the superior hitter of the two this year. And considering what the Yankees would have to pay to get another team to take Rodriguez, they’d almost certainly have to spend more to replace him with Youkilis than they would if they kept him.

After Youkilis, there’s Scott Rolen, who will probably retire, and some singles-hitting stopgaps like Marco Scutaro, Jeff Keppinger, Placido Polanco and Maicer Izturis. The Yankees can re-sign Eric Chavez, but he’s not going to start.

So, if the Yankees actually want to improve their third base situation this winter, it’d likely mean giving up  at least two of their best prospects for San Diego’s Chase Headley. They could also try a prospect-for-prospect deal with the Rangers for Mike Olt, but again, that would hardly guarantee an immediate upgrade.

The way I see it, this is the worst possible time for the Yankees to trade Rodriguez. They’d have to eat the vast majority of his salary to make a deal, and they’d likely worsen the on-field product at the same time. There’s nothing to be gained except for appeasing the media and some loudmouth fans who won’t be any less likely to attend games next year just because A-Rod is still at the hot corner.

Now, there likely will come a time when eating Rodriguez’s salary in order to facilitate a deal will make sense, and the Yankees should definitely be on the lookout for a third baseman of the future if there’s one to be had. But if they trade A-Rod this winter, they’ll likely be worse for it.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza

Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.