Alex Rodriguez has reverted to his old October self, struggling at the plate in another playoff series.
With the New York Yankees trailing 2-1 to the Baltimore Orioles in the bottom of the ninth, the highest paid player in the majors was pinch-hit for, a decision made by manager Joe Girardi because Rodriguez had gone 0-for-3 on the night, including two strikeouts.
Raul Ibanez, who bears a striking resemblance to “He Who Must Not Be Named,” would hit a game-tying home run in that at-bat, and followed it up with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th.
But more importantly, why is a guy who was paid $29 million this season being pinch-hit for in the ninth inning of a playoff game?
Girardi’s explanation was to have a low-ball hitter face a low-ball pitcher and try to take advantage of the short porch in right field. Obviously it worked, so Girardi looks like a genius, but why did it need to come to that?
If you are paying a guy that much money, why would you not want him out there in a potential series-deciding situation?
Then again, Rodriguez’s history in October is not exactly working in his favour.
Rodriguez, who has gone 1-for-12 for a .083 batting average in the series, has not had an extra base hit since September 15th, a span of 20 games.
Of course, Rodriguez is no stranger to September and October slumps. After early playoff success during his stint in Seattle, Rodriguez has gone 52-for-208, with 10 home runs and 54 strikeouts in 56 games since 2004.
The October slump eventually led to jokes around the baseball scene, with the New York media nicknaming Rodriguez “Mr. April.”
Other than bonuses, baseball players are not paid regular salaries for the work they do in the postseason. I would be shocked if I was the first to wonder if the guy making more money than anyone else struggles when he is not being paid for his work.
Either way, the lines were often repeated. Over $20 million per year, and no rings to show for it.
But then, everything changed.
During the 2009 postseason, Rodriguez looked like he had finally figured the whole “October” thing out. He batted .455 in the Divisional Series against Minnesota, then went .429 in the Championship Series against Los Angeles. Sure, his numbers fell back to earth a bit in the World Series, but he still posted a .250 average that was good enough to help the Yankees beat Philadelphia to win that elusive first World Series.
Our expectations had finally been met, and it looked like the 10-year, $275 million contract he signed in 2007 was starting to pay off.
Since then, Rodriguez has had only 10 hits in 17 postseason games, with zero home runs and 19 strikeouts.
Oddly enough, he made the Yankees’ final out in each of the last two postseasons, striking out both times.
Maybe everyone should stop reminding Alex Rodriguez that he is Alex Rodriguez once October rolls around. Obviously playing like himself is not working.