5 Things Alex Rodriguez Must Work on This Offseason
The time is now. It has been well overdue, but the time has finally come for the New York Yankees and their fans to realize that the days of 40-plus homeruns and 130-plus RBI's from Alex Rodriguez are long gone. It is also time to forget how much money he is still owed and how long he will still be wearing pinstripes.
Despite joining the majority of the Yankees in a collective slump during the entire 2012 MLB playoffs, A-Rod found himself at the forefront of all the criticism. His benching in Game 3 of the ALCS sparked the idea that the Yankees could not move forward with him on the team.
It is time to put to rest the idea of A-Rod playing for another team. GM Brian Cashman has clearly and definitively stated that A-Rod is going nowhere.
The time is now to figure out what A-Rod can do to improve on the elements of the game that he can control.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The biggest adjustment Rodriguez needs to make this offseason is to shorten his long power stroke. It is hitting coach Kevin Long's job to realize that Rodriguez can't swing for the fences and needs to focus on driving the ball into the gaps.
It was very evident this past postseason, when A-Rod struck out 12 times in 25 at-bats, that he isn't catching up to the fastball anymore. Even scouts took notice of his declining bat speed.
If A-Rod can shorten his swing and make it more compact and towards the gaps he can instantly become more productive and, because of how strong he still is, the homeruns will just come naturally. He won't hit 40 homeruns anymore but there is no reason, if he can stay healthy, that he can't smack anywhere between 25-30 dingers a season.
Attack Pitches Early and Often
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Whenever you review a job performance to examine the areas that need improvement, an individual must look for specific trends. It is important to find out what works and build off it and what doesn't work to try and avoid it.
For A-Rod the objective is clear: Swing early and avoid a full count at all costs. Whether it was the first pitch, up 2-0 or down 0-2 in the count, if A-Rod was able to put the ball in play it was normally with success. However, A-Rod batted just .137 when the count was full in 2012. In comparison, teammate Derek Jeter batted .420 in those same situations.
The reasons why that happened are plentiful. The pitcher finds a trend that is working as the at-bat progresses deeper. A-Rod puts more pressure on himself to tries to guess the pitch and do something with it. Whatever the reason is, A-Rod must recognize his strengths this offseason and take advantage of them.
The Need for Speed
Nick Laham/Getty Images
If there was a positive to take from last season for A-Rod it was his increase in stolen bases. Rodriguez missed time last season due to an injury, but his legs remained healthy. His 13 stolen bases last year were more than he had in his previous two seasons combined.
With Brett Gardner hurt and prior to Ichiro Suzuki's arrival, A-Rod was leading the way on the base paths. A-Rod is not going to be stealing 40 bases any time soon, but if he can play in at least 140 games next season a return to 20 steals is plausible.
A-Rod still knows how to get on base with a walk and by adding a new dimension to his game not only will it help the Yankees but it is one less area for the critics to attack. That in itself is a major win for the Yankee third baseman.
Lead the Way
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
A-Rod will turn 38 during this upcoming season. It is time for him to start acting his age. There is no question that he is one of the greatest hitters this game has ever seen. A-Rod has knowledge to share and needs to be more upfront with doing so.
I believe he handled his postseason benching very well and his reaction to Raul Ibanez's success in his place was genuine. That is a great start. For A-Rod to finish his career positively with the Yankees he needs to increase his plate production, but he also needs to improve his overall likability.
Forget About This Past Postseason
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
October did not go as planned for both the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriguez. Manager Joe Girardi was put in a position to make several difficult decisions. Girardi had to do his job and try and manage his team to victory. He benched A-Rod, the Yankees still lost.
No player, whether you are a star or a scrub, wants to be benched. As I mentioned earlier, I thought A-Rod handled it the best he could. If there are still issues to be addressed between the two they have an entire offseason to figure it out.
At the start of spring training, A-Rod needs to have forgotten all about October and be mentally prepared for April. Girardi has already stated that A-Rod will be the Yankees' starting third baseman. It's up to A-Rod to make sure he doesn't give him a reason to repeat last October's benching.