ALEX RODRIGUEZ – Age 33
In his three previous seasons, A-Rod has averaged 41 home runs, 127 RBIs and a .302 batting average. It is pretty safe to say he will not touch those numbers this season due to the games he missed after hip surgery.
But he did return to the lineup on May 8 and in 58 games he has 17 home runs, 50 RBIs and has a .256 batting average. There is every indication that despite missing 28 games at the start of the season, A-Rod still has a chance to hit 30 or more home runs and drive in more than 100 runs.
I am going to say something Joe Girardi and the Yankees would disagree with vehemently: Alex Rodriguez came back from the surgery way too soon and had no business being on the field until June 1.
However, given the fact that Cody Ransom was handed the job at third base and played so horribly, Girardi and the Yankees can now argue that 25%, 50% or 75% of A-Rod was better than any percentage Cody Ransom was providing.
The record of the team bears that out. The team was 13-15 when A-Rod returned. Their record now is 51-37. So they are 38-22 with A-Rod back, a .633 percentage.
Truth be told, A-Rod’s season did not actually begin in earnest until June 21 after he did not start two games by order of the Yankees. Girardi inexplicably played A-Rod every day since he returned to the Yankees and he was understandably fatigued. But he never said anything and his batting average plummeted
As of that game June 21 in Miami, Rodriguez was hitting .212 with 9 home runs and 27 RBIs. Since then the All-Star third baseman has raised his average to .256. He is 27 of his last 63 (.343) with 8 home runs and 23 RBIs. In other words, for the first time this season, we are seeing the real Alex Rodriguez.
That also bodes well for the second half, too.
Girardi is promising that he will rest Rodriguez more often and use him at DH to take pressure off his legs and keep him fresh for the second-half pennant push.
The main beneficiary of Rodriguez’s return is Mark Teixeira, who immediately started seeing better pitches to hit the day A-Rod returned. He has also recovered from a dreadful start and he Rodriguez promise to put up numbers that may rival David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez the rest of the way.
Where Rodriguez had just as many problems when he returned was on defense, He was obviously stiff and slow to react on hard hit balls. He was unable to make quick charges to the ball and throw out runners at first.
But, just as Rodriguez’s bat seemed to recover with his two-day rest in June, so did A-Rod’s defense. He has been making more plays to his left and he seems more comfortable charging the ball on slow rollers.
Even with his sluggish start in the field, Rodriguez has made only five errors, most of those on throws. His range is still not what it was prior to the surgery. But it does seem to be improving each month. The Yankees, though, have to be pleased with his progress in the field and he certainly is not liability at the position.
In fact, Rodriguez’s return actually means this may be the best infield defense the Yankees have ever had in the infield with three of the four infielders as former Gold Glove winners. No other team in baseball can claim that.
Because of A-Rod’s missed time, his slow start and his low batting average early in the season, I am giving him a C for the first half. This is not disparaging him in any way. It simply is a fact that he was not productive until late June.
But the promise of a productive second half is there. He needs only to stay rested and keep focused at the plate.
CODY RANSOM – Age 33
Ransom was named as the starting third baseman to replace Alex Rodriguez in spring training on the basis of a solid spring and the fact he hit .302 in 43 games late last season. Ransom was not a young prospect but a older player who is capable of playing all the infield positions. He certainly was an upgrade as a reserve from Wilson Betemit last season.
However, when given the opportunity to contribute in A-Rod’s absence, Ransom flopped miserably. He was the starter from Opening Day until April 24 when he pulled a quad muscle running the bases on a rainy night in Boston.
He was hitting a paltry. 180 with no home runs and 6 RBIs when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Ransom also was very shaky in the field at third base. He seemed to be back on his heels on every ball hit to him and looked tentative.
Once Ransom was disabled the position at third base was split up between Ramiro Pena and Angel Berroa. Pena was the superior player of the two. Offensively, he showed a good ability to work the count and get on base. In the field, Pena showed he could make the tough plays at third even though he is a better shortstop.
I would give Ransom, Pena and Berroa and overall grade of D in replacing A-Rod. It is not because I expected any of these three to replace A-Rod’s numbers at the plate. It was just that Ransom and Berroa were exceptionally bad replacements. Pena showed promise but he was just adequate.
Perhaps if Giradi and General Manager Brian Cashman had reacted more quickly in spring training they could have avoided this mess at third base. Instead of looking to make a deal to get an experienced backup third baseman they chose to plug the leak from within. It flopped and the team suffered as a result.
There were a number of people who suggested that former third baseman Teixeira could play third and Nick Swisher could play first just until A-Rod was able to return. It was rejected by Girardi and we will never know how much this would have improved the team’s offense and defense at third and first.
The Yankees now have Ransom back off the DL, Pena is back at Triple A and Berroa has been released. However, the Yankees do have Eric Hinske to play this position now along with Ransom.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: C-