Jack Curry of the YES Network, citing Michael Kay, reports that soon-to-be-retired Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez asked Joe Girardi if he could play third base on Friday, his final game. Girardi said no. ESPN’s Andrew Marchand reported earlier in the week that Girardi said, “My job description does not entail a farewell tour. My job description is to try and win every game and put everyone in the best possible position, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
I would be a lot more sympathetic to Girardi’s position if he treated Derek Jeter the same way. In 2014, Jeter’s final season, the future Hall of Fame shortstop played in 145 games and stepped to the plate 634 times, batting a meager .256/.304/.313. He was worth -0.1 Wins Above Replacement according to FanGraphs, the worst mark among 22 qualified shortstops.
In 2014, the Yankees finished 84-78, 12 games out of first place in the AL East and eight games out of the second AL Wild Card slot. The Yankees didn’t have any eight-win options at shortstop — just Brendan Ryan and Stephen Drew — but the club could’ve vied for a serious upgrade in the offseason leading into 2014, or acquired one at the trade deadline. But they didn’t. The Yankees were wholeheartedly committed to giving Jeter his farewell tour.
This year, the Yankees have already traded Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova. They’re 57-56 in fourth place, seven games back of first place in the AL East and they’re 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot. They’ve given up. Yet Girardi’s concern even after trading away arguably the best closer in the game, the best set-up man in the game, and one of the best offensive players in the league is that he’s trying to win games? His reasoning is incongruous when matched up with how he handled Jeter. There’s no defense behind not letting Rodriguez play every day this week if he wanted to, but even more so, there’s no reason not to let him play the field in his final game.
Lots of people don’t like Rodriguez and lots of people like Jeter, that much is obvious. Playing time, however, shouldn’t be decided by a popularity contest. But that’s exactly what it has been with Girardi’s Yankees.