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Why Alex Rodriguez Needs Another Huge October to Validate Yankees Career

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Why Alex Rodriguez Needs Another Huge October to Validate Yankees Career
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The 2009 season was Alex Rodriguez's very own Rubber Soul. It wasn't his best season by any stretch of the imagination, but the 2009 campaign ultimately saw the New York Yankees star third baseman prove he could do something many people didn't think he could do.

At long last, A-Rod was clutch in the postseason. He posted a 1.308 OPS while hitting six home runs and driving in 18 runs, and it seemed like every hit he came up with was a big one. 

And in the end, A-Rod won his first World Series. He said at the time that he couldn't have been prouder of the organization and his teammates, but one is safe in assuming that the triumph was all the more sweeter for him knowing that the Yankees could not have done it without him.

Now here we are three years later, and A-Rod is basically a forgotten man in Yankee-land. He missed a good chunk of the 2012 season with a broken hand, and he hit just .272/.353/.430 when he was healthy. He finished with fewer than 100 RBI and fewer than 30 home runs for the second straight season.

As for what's past, well, there's really not much of a shining light there either. A-Rod's performance in the 2009 postseason is one of the great moments of his career—if not the greatest moment of his career—but there's no escaping the nagging feeling that it just isn't enough.

Not for a player as great as him. Not for a team as huge as the Yankees. Not for the amount of money he's been paid and will be paid.

No, A-Rod needs to do more to make his tenure with the Yankees all worth it. He owes the Bronx Bombers at least one more excellent postseason.

Yeah, I know. Boo hiss. I understand that you Yankees fans out there are well past the point of being tired of writers ripping A-Rod. It's been done a lot, and at this point, ripping him is way, way too easy. Picking on A-Rod is beating a dead horse, to put it lightly.

Realize this, though: The complaints people have to air about A-Rod may be annoying, but that doesn't mean they're not true or made up of totally invalid points. In this case, saying he needs to add to his Yankees legacy is definitely fair.

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
One of A-Rod's three punchouts on Sunday night in Baltimore.

Especially seeing as how A-Rod isn't exactly off to a roaring start in the 2012 postseason. He went hitless in four at-bats in Game 1 of the Yankees' ALDS matchup against the upstart Baltimore Orioles, punching out three times in the process. The players immediately below and above him in the Yankees lineup, meanwhile, collected six of the club's 10 hits.

As much as they may be sick of the A-Rod bashing, I presume many Yankees fans rolled their eyes and said "Here we go again" while watching Rodriguez try and fail to make an impact in Game 1. It was an all-too-familiar sight.

The Yankees have seen such performances from A-Rod in the postseason more times than they would care to count. Outside of his performance in the 2009 postseason, A-Rod has a track record of playoff failure with the Yankees as long as it is depressing.

A-Rod got off to a great start in the 2004 playoffs, but he collected just one hit in his final 12 at-bats in the ALCS as the Yankees were dispatched by the Boston Red Sox in the greatest comeback in baseball history.

In 2005, he posted a .635 OPS and no homers or RBI as the Yankees lost the ALDS in five games to the Los Angeles Angels.

In 2006, he posted a .205 OPS (not a misprint) and once again hit no homers and racked up no RBI as the Yankees were dispatched by the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS in only four games.

A-Rod finally snapped his home run and RBI drought in the 2007 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, but it was too little, too late as the Yankees lost in four games.

In 2010, A-Rod hit .190 with a .606 OPS as the Yankees lost the ALCS to the Texas Rangers in six games. He had hit just .273 with a .580 OPS the series before, a sweep of the Minnesota Twins.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
And that was that.

Last season, A-Rod hit just .111 with a .372 OPS in the five games the Yankees played against the Tigers in the ALDS. Fittingly, he struck out swinging in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5 to end the Yankees' season.

So to this point, A-Rod has tackled seven postseasons as a member of the Yankees, and only one of them has been worth a damn. If this trend keeps up, he's going to go into the books as the red-headed stepchild of the Yankees stars that have come and gone over the last two decades.

More to the point, he's set up to go down as just another guy who helped Derek Jeter win championships. And remember, when A-Rod first joined the Yankees in 2004, he wanted to be the guy to help Jeter win more championships.

"Derek has four world championships," said A-Rod at his introductory presser. "I want him to have 10. I'm here to help him."

That was 10 as in six more than Jeter had at the time. Eight years later, A-Rod has succeeded in adding only one championship ring to Jeter's collection (and to his own).

One championship in eight years isn't such a good rate when it comes to the Yankees. They've won 27 World Series titles in the previous 111 years of their existence, or one every 4.11 years. The Derek Jeter Yankees had won four in eight years before A-Rod came along. 

One championship in eight years also isn't such a great return on all the money the organization has invested in players in recent years. Per Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Yankees' Opening Day payroll hasn't dipped under $184 million since A-Rod joined the club in 2004, and it's climbed over $200 million six times. The club hasn't quite been living beyond its means, but it has to be disappointed that all of its millions haven't bought more success.

Is it entirely A-Rod's fault that the Yankees haven't won championship after championship during his tenure?

Of course not. I obviously have no aversion to criticizing him, but I'm not malicious enough to pin the Yankees' assorted disappointments over the last eight years squarely on him.

A-Rod certainly hasn't helped matters by struggling in the postseason six times out of seven, but some years, the Yankees haven't had the pitching, and other years, they simply haven't been the best team. As much as one guy can make a difference in baseball, one guy can also make no difference at all.

The fact that the Red Sox established themselves as the true power in the AL East for a few years there didn't help, and then the Tampa Bay Rays had to come and complicate things by establishing a winning tradition of their own. This season, the Baltimore Orioles have emerged as a challenger to A-Rod and the Yankees.

This highlights another unfortunate reality of A-Rod's career with the Yankees: He arrived too late.

One can only imagine what life would be like if he had joined them as a free agent after the 2000 season, when he was the best player in the world and the Yankees were fresh off their third straight World Series. They would have been adding yet another cornerstone player, and at that point in time, nobody would have had the money or the wits to stand in their way.

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
A-Rod won MVPs in 2005 and 2007. And for some reason, he got this nifty guitar as well in 2006.

Instead, A-Rod joined the Yankees in 2004, and he was only able to give them four of his prime years between 2004 and 2007. An average season for him in those years consisted of 157 games played, 43 home runs and a .976 OPS. An average season ever since then has consisted of 124 games, 23 home runs, and an .873 OPS.

And things aren't going to get any better. A-Rod is getting older and more feeble each year, and he still has five years left on the 10-year contract he signed with the club in 2007. They won't be rid of him until 2018, and between now and then, they're going to have to pay him $114 million.

There's no hope whatsoever of A-Rod giving the Yankees good value for that kind of money. Not at the rate he's declining. By the time he comes to his final year with the Yankees, he may be incapable of playing full-time, much less worth playing full-time.

The clock is ticking. A-Rod needs to do what he can while he can. If he wants his Yankees career to be viewed in a positive light when all is said and done, he needs to deliver more October heroics sooner rather than later.

He has his Rubber Soul. Now he needs his Revolver.

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

 

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