Arod is saving Yankees from irrelevance-Joel Sherman
|Arod signs 2/26/15|
"By far the smallest crowd since the Yankees moved their spring camp to the west coast of Florida two decades ago greeted their first full workout, and the largest applause went to Hideki Matsui and then Alex Rodriguez.
So, if you are scoring at home, the fans appear less interested in this club than at any time in a while and their greatest demonstration of appreciation was for a guy who no longer plays and a guy who the Yanks hope stops playing.
In this way, the Yankees should be careful what they wish for. Right now, A-Rod is giving the organization great cover. If he weren’t here, there would have been far more questions asked of those in charge about why Yoan Moncada is a Red Sox and why there is so little interest in the team. The fans, after all, buzzed about Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann as much as they did Jonathan Galvez and Nick Noonan, which is to say not at all.
Joe Girardi’s post-workout press conference began with nine questions about A-Rod and then one about a retired player, Derek Jeter. When asked if he was happy to have Rodriguez in camp, Girardi answered broadly by speaking of how pleased he is to see everyone. When it was noted to him that he didn’t really answer the question about A-Rod, Girardi brandished what are his two tells when he is about to be misleading — his voice went higher and he grew angry, in this case, criticizing the meaning of the question.
Brian Cashman answered a series of A-Rod questions and then also grew annoyed when asked if he was happy that the disgraced slugger was back, saying soon after, “I don’t really want to talk about Alex anymore.” This from a general manager appreciated by the media for his willingness to handle questions in all varieties of Yankees storms.
When asked if he could imagine shutting down inquiry about any other player in camp on Day 1 of full workouts, Cashman said he was doing this because of the repetitive nature of the questions. But it is hard to believe if folks had repetitive questions about Nate Eovaldi’s splitter or Mark Teixeira’s wrist, that Cashman would cease discussion.
As much as they talk about normalcy and moving on when it comes to Rodriguez, Yankees officials are not truly embracing that. Several times in the last week, a Yankees executive has expressed displeasure to me about something I wrote that they perceived as pro-Rodriguez — and these are in columns in which I referred to A-Rod as narcissistic, egomaniacal, dishonest and insecure or hardly endorsements of Rodriguez as a human.
In a private moment, when I told A-Rod about the reactions by Girardi and Cashman when asked if they were happy he was here, Rodriguez offered a “No comment” in reply.
But it underscores just how uneasy this camp could end up being. How could it not be? On truth serum, any Yankees official would say what they wanted for A-Rod in this camp is for his hips to break down again, forcing his retirement and their best chance to recoup most of the $61 million they still owe him.
That is a totally logical position for them to have right now. That would be best for the sanity and finances of the franchise. But you cannot exactly have a tension-free relationship when everyone knows what hovers. When I asked Rodriguez what he thought of this, he offered another “No comment.” For now, Rodriguez is avoiding his familiar self-destructive responses and darkest angels.
The Yankees will strive for the same through gritted teeth. A-Rod is their necessary evil. Are they happy he is here? No. But he is here because the Yankees signed him to a 10-year contract and not at gunpoint. Their officials should just acknowledge that the history with this player demands they be leery of what might happen, but as long as he is in uniform, they will try to do their best by him and hope he thrives. Heck, they didn’t love Jim Leyritz and won a title with him in 1996, nor David Wells and won it all in 1998, or a fella named Alex Rodriguez in 2009.
Plus, I wonder if these Yankees need A-Rod more than he needs them. They built a team with Chase Headley at third and on which Carlos Beltran or Garrett Jones could DH. But even when the spring games begin — despite protests from so many fans about having A-Rod fatigue — what will make them click on YES? Maybe what Masahiro Tanaka’s arm looks like or Didi Gregorius’ glove.
But at a time when the tiny crowd Thursday at Steinbrenner Field possibly said something about fascination with this squad, will there really be anything fans want to tune in more to see than A-Rod at-bats? Does he still have it or not?
For better or worse for this franchise, the necessary evil is their biggest star. He took the field for the first time in a while in full Yankees garb and his name was screamed often from the crowd. No one else on the roster drew such a reaction.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2015 Yankees." Image above, NY Post, Wenzelberg
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