Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees, recently told reporters that Alex Rodriguez has had conversations with manager Joe Girardi in regards to playing first base next season. This news should not come as too much of a surprise considering that 3 years and dump trucks loaded with money remain on Rodriguez’s contract and the Yankees would like to get as much of a return as possible on this very disastrous investment. While that’s admirable, if tragically comical, there are a few reasons why this should not happen.
Firstly, while the plan may be to platoon the declining duo of Rodriguez and current first baseman Mark Teixeira (who is also on the hook for an obscene amount of money) while they also split time at designated hitter, there is one thing everyone can agree on: playing first base is about all Mark Teixeira can do well at this point in his career. Since he signed with the Yankees before the 2009 season, Teixeira has deteriorated as a hitter at such an accelerated pace, that the only thing keeping the scathing criticism of New York fans at bay has been the even more publicized erosion of Rodriguez’s talent.
That inevitable turn of events that every player is afflicted with as their career lengthens – the aging process – is exactly what is most affecting Rodriguez. The man is pushing 40 and has had 2 hip surgeries. Picturing Rodriguez playing either corner infield position is difficult to imagine due to the fact that his reflexes are nowhere near where they should be for a starting player at such a position on the diamond, nor is his conditioning after missing an entire year. It’s difficult to see Rodriguez hustling down the line to field a bunt with any sort of agility, or to picture him diving with any dexterity for a quick shot down the line off the bat of Nick Markakis or David Ortiz.
These are issues that the team must take into account, however, one major factor looms large over the New York Yankees, especially magnified over the course of the past 2 years with the departure of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera: the Yankees are old. Rodriguez, Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and CC Sabathia are all in or entering their mid-late 30’s, yet are going to be relied upon most in the near future by the team. Everyday players such as Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann are all 30 or older and don’t appear to be playing as if they were in their primes. The entire Rodriguez ordeal should not be seen as a once-great, tainted ballplayer desperately trying to hang on and collect paychecks, rather it is a microcosm for a deficiency within the entire organization of needing to rely on and overpay players like Rodriguez because they lack the ability to bring up a fresh crop and new generation of New York Yankees.