It's Gonna Be a Long Winter for A-Rod

Rodriguez's strikeout ends the Yankees season

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Speaking with the media after the Yankees' 3-2 loss in Game 5, Alex Rodriguez talks about the pain of losing at home in a game he believes they should have won. (Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2011)

    It feels like we've done this dance before.

    Leaving Yankee Stadium after Thursday night's 3-2 loss to the Tigers that ended the 2011 baseball season in New York, two sounds were audible on River Avenue.

    Jeter: "It's Disappointing"

    [NY] Jeter: "It's Disappointing"
    Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson talk about the loss with Bruce Beck after the game. (Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2011)

    One was the crowd of people moving toward the subways chanting "A-Rod sucks" as loudly as they could and the other was a homeless man sitting next to the entrance to the 4 train telling everyone who went by that A-Rod was a bum.

    It was probably a good ploy to get a little money in his cup. Alex Rodriguez was the focal point of the crowd's anger after he struck out against Jose Valverde in the bottom of the ninth to end the Yankee season much earlier than anyone would have hoped.

    Inside the Stadium, A-Rod's strikeout earned loud boos as did his two previous whiffs in a game that ended a miserable series for the Yankee third baseman. Rodriguez managed just two hits in the five games, finishing with a .111 batting average and six strikeouts in the series.

    Rodriguez was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position over the five games, a mark of futility magnified by the fact that the three Yankee losses all came in games decided by a total of four runs. He didn't come up with a single hit in a key spot and it was clear by the end of the series that he was back to being the playoff pariah he was before the run to the 2009 title.

    Plenty of people saw the disaster coming before it actually happened. Since returning from the disabled list after knee surgery, A-Rod had been a non-factor at the plate in the regular season and his swing never appeared during the Yankees' brief stay in the playoffs.

    That was a killer, even if there was plenty of blame to go around. Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and CC Sabathia were also terribly underwhelming against Detroit, the Yankees blew chance after chance to score runs in Game Five and there were several reasons to point a finger of blame in the direction of Joe Girardi for the way he managed the team to their eventual demise.

    But A-Rod has always been treated differently than his comrades and that was unavoidable as the boos rained down on him Thursday night; A-Rod ended the Yankee season with an out for the second straight year, an easy way to bring back all of the pre-2009 playoff failures and his massive contract for those looking for a scapegoat for the Yankee loss.

    That contract might have been the biggest reason for the negative reactions on Thursday night. Not only does A-Rod make upwards of $30 million, his deal runs throughout the 2017 season when he will be 42 years old. This year's injuries and ineffectiveness gave an unwelcome preview to the Yankees future and his playoff failure made it impossible not to think about what life will be like with a highly paid player with declining skills in the middle of the order.

    Angst about A-Rod's performance will linger well into the off-season as the Yankees try to put together a team that can take them deeper than the 2011 group. There are plenty of other questions to answer about the team, starting with what to do about Sabathia opting out of his deal, but A-Rod will loom as large as ever in the wake of this performance.

    The fact that he was obviously playing hurt and trying to help the team even though he wasn't 100 percent? That won't matter a bit when he's raked over the coals in the days, weeks, and months to come.

    Moments like the last out of the game and the strikeout with the bases loaded in the seventh inning have always seemed to land on A-Rod and, outside of the 2009 postseason, he has always failed to come through for the Yankees. That doesn't erase all of the good things he's done, but it certainly overshadows them in the hearts and minds of the people watching the games.

    He's not going anywhere, not with that contract, so the Yankees are going to have to hope this was all fallout from his knee surgery. If it was simply the ravages of time, the next few years are going to be quite uncomfortable for a player who thought he had put an end to all the disgust when the Yankees paraded up Broadway in 2009.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.