A-Rod continues to ride the bench


A-Rod continues to ride the bench

DETROIT -- Not long ago, he was considered The Best Player in The Game, and as such, was paid accordingly. It was widely assumed that before too long, he would also be baseball's new home run king.
When he enjoyed a fabulous post-season in 2009 -- .365.500.800 -- when the Yankees won the World Series, he seemed to exorcise the lone black mark against him: that he couldn't perform on the October stage.
But that seems like a long time ago for Alex Rodriguez.
Now, Rodriguez is the game's most overpaid role player, as likely to be out of the lineup as in.
Wednesday night, with the Yankees trailing the Detroit Tigers three games to none and facing elimination, Rodriguez was out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row and third time in the last five games. Eric Chavez got the start at third base instead.
Before Wednesday, the Yankees had played nine post-season games and Rodriguez was benched for three and pinch-hit for in three others.
Is this any way to treat a player in the middle of a 10-year, 275 million deal?
A look at the stat sheet suggests: yes.
Rodriguez was 3-for-23, a .130 batting average. All three of his hits were singles. Against righthanded pitching, Rodriguez has been completely hapless, hitless in 19 at-bats with 12 strikeouts.
So, again, he sat.
"We will go forward,'' said Yankee GM Brian Cashman, "Alex will go forward. One thing about this game is that you're going to have some good times and you're going to have some tough times. But when you're going through the tough times, it doesn't have to be the end-all, be-all. Opportunities will exist to continue to get back off the mat and get back in the right and battle.
"Alex is going to wait for that opportunity.''
For now, Cashman said Rodriguez would be used only against lefties. One problem: all four of the Tigers starters are righthanded, meaning his only chance to see playing time will come late in games, against a lefty relievers.
"That doesn't mean that he's done, that he's finished, that he's not capable,'' insisted Cashman. "He is still a big threat, but for whatever reason, right now we're adjusting to what we are seeing.''
What the Yankees are seeing, however, isn't exactly a new development. Against righthanded pitching during the season, with a very ordinary .717 OPS.
Rodriguez was asked what being benched in back-to-back playoff games had done to his relationship with Joe Girardi.
"Joe has been very good to me over the years,'' said Rodriguez, "so he has a lot of equity with me. For me, it's just tough. I'm a competitor. It's all I've known since I was five years old. And I love to compete and I really feel in my heart that any time I'm in the lineup, the team is a better team, no question. We'll disagree there today, but I like Joe and I support Joe.
"And I will be ready, I will be available.''
What puzzles some is that others -- Robinson Cano, for example -- has been given the chance to break out of his slump, while Rodriguez has been banished to the bench.
"(Even) if I had no resume,'' said Rodriguez, "I always feel like I deserve a shot because I have tremendous confidence in my ability and I feel like I started swinging the bat better at home and I feel like anytime I'm in the box, there's damage in the near future. That's just the way I feel. I never changethat feeling.''
Being benched, however, wasn't the only bad news for Rodriguez this week.
A report in the New York Post Monday suggested that Rodriguez had spent some of Game 1 of the ALCS flirting with two women behind the Yankee dugout, attempting to secure their phone numbers.
Then, Wednesday, numerous reports surfaced that Yankees president Randy Levine had spoken to the Miami Marlins recently about taking Rodriguez -- and the remaining five years, 114 million still due on his contract -- off the Yanks' hands.
"There's blood in the water,'' shrugged Rodriguez.
And the game's highest-paid star on the bench.

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As the annual winter meetings get underway today, the market for arguably the best free-agent hitter may be -- against all logic -- lessening.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers a year over the last five seasons, should be a player in demand.

But in quick succession, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, two teams thought to be in the market for Encarnacion, opted to go with older hitters who required shorter deals -- Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

Further, the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Steve Pearce to a two-year deal Monday, coupled with their earlier acquisition of Kendrys Morales, closes the door on a potential return to Toronto for Encarnacion.

Seemingly, all of that would position the Red Sox, in search of a DH to replace the retired David Ortiz, to swoop in and land Encarnacion for far less than they could have imagined only weeks ago.

And yet, it appears as though things would have to change considerably for the Red Sox to reach agreement with Encarnacion.

While the first baseman-DH is known to be Ortiz's first choice as his replacement, for now, the economics don't work for the Sox -- even as Enacarnacion's leverage drops.

Encarnacion is expecting a deal of at least four years, with an average annual value around $20 million.

The Red Sox, industry sources indicate, are very much mindful of the luxury tax threshold. The Sox have, however modestly, gone over the threshold in each of the last two seasons, and even with a bump due to last week's new CBA, the Sox are dangerously close to the 2018 limit of $195 million.

Should the Sox go over for a third straight year, their tax would similarly ratchet up.

That, and the fact that Encarnacion would cost the Sox their first-round pick next June -- for this offseason, compensation for players given a qualifying offer comes under the old CBA rules -- represents two huge disincentives.

It's far more likely that the Sox will seek a cheaper option at DH from among a group that includes Pedro Alvarez and Mike Napoli. Neither is in Encarnacion's class, but then again, neither would cost a draft pick in return, or the long-term investment that Encarnacion is said to be seeking.

Boomer Esiason witnessed Pete Rose hire people to sign autographs

Boomer Esiason witnessed Pete Rose hire people to sign autographs

Boomer Esiason tells Toucher & Rich a story from his early days in Cincinnati when he witnessed Pete Rose overseeing five guys he paid to sign a stack of photographs for fans.