If there was any question as to how Alex Rodriguez was handling being benched during the New York Yankees' recent playoff games, we might have an answer now. The $275 million man appears to have checked out.
According to a report in the New York Post, Rodriguez had other things on his mind after he was replaced by pinch-hitter Eric Chavez in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday (Oct. 13). With the Yankees down 4-0 to the Detroit Tigers at the time, A-Rod was apparently more concerned with what he might be doing after the game than supporting his teammates as they attempted to rally.
The Post reports that Rodriguez was flirting with two women sitting two rows behind the Yankees dugout, employing a ball boy to toss a baseball to the ladies (who are pictured in the article) with an accompanying note asking for their phone numbers.
As this was going on, Rodriguez's teammates were focused on the task at hand: trying to tie and win the ballgame. In the ninth inning, Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez each hit two-run homers off Jose Valverde to tie the score at 4-4. Meanwhile, A-Rod was allegedly exchanging notes with a girl, as if he was in junior high school.
But was Rodriguez flirting with women behind the dugout while Derek Jeter fractured his ankle and was assisted back to the dugout? As outrageous as A-Rod's behavior was after being benched, it would have been outright distasteful if it was going on during one of the darker moments of the Yankees' 2012 season.
Apparently, even Rodriguez knows where the line has to be drawn when it comes to unprofessional conduct. The Post's source said that "the flirtation stopped once Derek Jeter got hurt."
This seems more like the sort of thing we would read about ballplayers in the 1950s and 1960s, reported on with a wink and a nudge. Such a story might have contributed to the mythology of a baseball player. It may have even served to portray the athlete in a sympathetic manner. "Failing on the field, the mighty A-Rod sought solace in female companionship..."
Obviously, we live in a much different era of media coverage and fan perception now. That's not to say that Rodriguez's alleged behavior would have been viewed positively. But would it fuel the outrage that will surely develop toward A-Rod now?
What are the Yankees to make of this? It seems difficult to believe that none of Rodriguez's teammates, a team official or some dugout staffer wouldn't have noticed what was going on and called A-Rod out for checking out the ladies in the stands while a game was being played.
Then again, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise, given what we know about the 2011 Boston Red Sox and their fried-chicken-and-beer follies in the clubhouse.
But maybe everyone else in the dugout was, you know, focused on the game, preoccupied with trying to win Game 1 of the ALCS and trying to advance one step closer to the World Series. Virtually every playoff game has been a fight for the Yankees this postseason. No one should realize that better than Rodriguez, whose struggles have helped put his team in such situations.
Of course, a major league dugout is a big space, especially in the newer ballparks. A family of eight could probably live comfortably in the dugouts at Comerica Park—with room for guests. If most everyone else in the Yankees dugout was bunched toward the end of the dugout closer to home plate, maybe A-Rod was able to exchange numbers with the ladies in relative privacy.
Perhaps no one wanted to be a tattletale either. "Hey Skip, A-Rod's talkin' to girls over there." Presumably, those are all men in the dugout who know that everyone is responsible for his own behavior.
Well, except Rodriguez, it seems—and maybe the ball boy A-Rod was using to pass notes to the ladies. He's probably just a kid whose job it is to do whatever the ballplayers ask of him. Maybe he even thought it was funny. It's the adults who are supposed to know better.
Where do the Yankees go from here? The obvious move is to keep Rodriguez on the bench, to punish him for not being a team player. But his poor performance already had his spot in the lineup in question, and manager Joe Girardi has to keep hoping that A-Rod will eventually turn himself around at the plate.
Between his benching and this latest revelation, however, it does seem that Rodriguez's Yankees career may have reached its end. How far can it go after this? The team doesn't seem to want him, and now it appears clear that he doesn't want the Yankees either.
The two sides almost certainly have to part ways now, unless this can be written off as a one-time instance in which Rodriguez reacted poorly. But will the front office and Rodriguez's teammates in the Yankees clubhouse really see it that way?
At the very least, maybe the Yankees can do Rodriguez a solid favor and trade him to a city where attractive young women also sit behind the home team's dugout. Before splitting with Scott Boras, maybe A-Rod even had such a clause written into his $275 million contract.
Maybe it was written on a baseball passed over to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. That seems to be the way A-Rod does his business.
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