Schott: Having A-Rod Only Hit Will Haunt Yankees

(Sportsday Wire / Neil Miller)

The Yankees came to the conclusion early in the season that Alex Rodroguez would serve them best as their designated hitter, while rarely playing him in the field.

Coming into spring training, the Yankees didn’t know what to expect from Rodriguez as he returned from his one-year suspension.

They had Chase Headley penciled in as their starting third baseman, which meant that Rodriguez could only be the backup at his old position. Early in spring training, it was determined that Rodriguez would not play there at all.

The Yankees then thought they could use him at first base in a platoon with Mark Teixeira, but after playing his just a couple times there in spring training and a bad outing there in early April, that plan was abandoned.

This meant Rodriguez could just focus on being a designated hitter, to the point where he would not even take any fielding practice during the season.

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said of that decision, “We just thought that’s how he would be most productive, and I said, what we needed out of Alex, even going into spring training, we needed his offense. That was the thing we needed the most, and we’ve gotten it. Let’s not forget that he’s 40 years old, you know, and try to run him out there for defense. There’s probably not going to be a ton of range, and it’s not something he’s going to be comfortable doing.”

That strategy did ultimately pay off, as Rodriguez has put up big numbers, with 32 home runs and 83 RBI, with a .255 average and .358 on-base percentage.

The thing is, though, that this plan was a little short-sighted, as they knew they would have late-season games in in National League parks, at Atlanta August 28th to 30th and at the Mets this weekend.

He did not play in Atlanta, which didn’t hurt the Yankees for two reasons: 1) they swept the series, scoring 38 runs in the process, and 2) he was getting tired and the rest rejuvenated him to put up big numbers in September (6 home runs, 12 RBI) after slumping in August.

All the more reason you want him in there for the biggest series of the season against the Mets while trying to stay alive in the American League East race.

Other teams have this problem, such as the Boston Red Sox with David Ortiz. In credit to the Red Sox, when they play at a National League park in the regular season or World Series, there is no doubt Ortiz will play first base, keeping his bat in the lineup.

Instead of A-Rod at cleanup on Friday night, they had Chris Young come up with two on base and one out. Young did the job, getting a sacrifice fly, but what would Rodriguez have done? Mets starter Steven Matz was on the ropes and if Rodriguez were in there and, let’s say, doubled or got a homer, it’s a completely different game.

Rodriguez will be limited to pinch-hitter duty this weekend. as he did on Friday night, when he drew a walk against Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning when the Yankees tried mounting a comeback before losing 5-1.

The Yankees were also screwed on Friday night, because with the lefty Matz on the mound, they also had to send Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to the bench, making their lineup even weaker.

Girardi said of playing in a National League park this late in the season, “It’s not what you want, it’s not a situation where you don’t want to have your DH, but like I said, it’s something that we’ve had to deal with. We dealt with it when we went to Atlanta, and we dealt with it when we went to other National League ballparks. With where we are in the standings and the time of the year, it’s not something you want to deal with, but you have to.”

This, of course, brings up the larger debate of what to do with the problem of having the designated hitter in the American League and pitcher hit in the National League.

Girardi said of the solution to the problem, “What’s the solution? You know, I actually like the difference in the two leagues. As far as the solution, I wouldn’t change it. There are some things that I would change. One of the things I don’t understand is why our pitchers don’t hit when they go to National League cities in the minor leagues. The first time they hit is maybe four or five years after they’re drafted, and that makes no sense to me. I would have them hitting in the minor leagues. As far as changing at this level, I wouldn’t do anything.”

The larger question is: What will the Yankees do if they reach the World Series?

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