I’ve got a wild idea that no one in baseball has probably entertained when it comes to solving the enigma that is Alex Rodriguez and his place in the Yankees lineup. A thought that Skipper Joe would probably not even entertain when it came time to write the lineup card, lest he be sent to the guillotine by Cashman and the Steinbrenners.
Bat him leadoff.
How dare I think so radically? Well for one, ARod (13 SB) is second behind Ichiro (14 SB) in stolen bases followed by Eduardo Nunez and Curtis Granderson. Nunez probably will be used sparingly (barring major injuries) and will likely hit ninth so forget about him. Granderson has become too much of a liability in the lineup to be hitting leadoff with his propensity to strike out (nearly 30 percent of his at bats). And besides, you don’t want a guy with his power and ability to drive in runs at leadoff.
Jeter has done a great job this year hitting leadoff and moving him down to second might create a bit of a rift in the lineup. But maybe a rift is exactly what the offense needs.
Although I predicted otherwise, our anemic hitting with RISP may not go away judging by our pathetic attempts to drive in runs with the bases loaded Monday night. Given that it has happened throughout the season, there is no time like the present to do some tweaking.
Doing what’s ‘right’ hasn’t seemed to impact our offense in the playoffs thus far. Despite the fact that Josh Johnson had a meltdown in the ninth inning Sunday, the Yankees fortunate (yes, fortunate) to be home today with the series tied at one apiece.
Maybe its time to try some ‘wrong’.
So put ARod, still a base stealing threat and faster than Jeter, at leadoff and hit Jeter behind him. Jeter leads the team in hits and is third in OBP. If he doesn’t get a hit to move ARod over (or knock him in should he steal second), then a walk puts a runner in scoring position for either Robinson Cano or perhaps Mark Teixeira.
Since there are multiple stories and discussions over what to do with A-Rod and the endless debate over damaging his ego should he move down in the lineup (which clearly didn’t work for Torre), then move him up. The argument that he’s only comfortable hitting in the three, four, or five hole is absurd. Comfort? I’d hate to see what passes for distress.
Leadoff isn’t completely foreign to him. He did it several times in 1998 and once in 1999 for the Seattle Mariners. Its also become excepted throughout baseball that ARod is no more than a singles hitter at this point in his career. He still possesses the ability to hit the long ball from time to time and his slugging percentage still sits at a respectable .430 this year. But that’s not enough for a guy to hit in the middle of the lineup.
Here is what the lineup might look like with Rodriguez hitting leadoff:
Ichiro- .322/.340/.454 (with Yankees)
If the leadoff experiment fails then management has more than enough evidence to sit ARod down and talk to him, like a big boy, about why he’s now a bottom of the order hitter. Heck, have an intervention if you need to. Maybe invite Kate Hudson in on the discussion since she seemed to be with him during his most successful postseason as a Yankee.
As good an idea as this might sound, there is no way Girardi would get away with it. While he certainly has more than his fair share of leeway, when things get tight, he becomes a pawn for the puppet masters. Forget the fact that the (New York) media would have a field day with this over the perceived panic the organization is allegedly experiencing. If it failed, even once, poor Joe would have A LOT of explaining to do. That’s the major downside of being a manager in a big sports city and why Joe’s job is a lot tougher than most people assume.
If the Yankees bow out in the first round once again, the main topic will be the middle of the order issue; mainly the ‘handling’ of ARod. If that’s the case, why not at least demonstrate to the media and fans that you at least tried?
And if it works, you become the mastermind.
Roll the bones, Joe.