Dissecting Alex Rodriguez' postseason struggles is as much a rite of autumn as hay rides and apple picking. Fans calling up sports talk radio in New York may not get to criticizing A-Rod every year as the leaves turn (like when he was a monster at the plate during the 2009 playoffs) but critiques of him appear annually on the back pages of the tabloids almost as dependably as Pumpkin Spice lattes turn up on the menu at Starbucks. Actually, given Rodriguez' 1-for-9 start to the ALDS against the Orioles and the reported shortages of that seasonal beverage, doubts about the Yankees' third baseman may be easier to come by over the past few weeks.
Over the years, the most frequently cited reason for A-Rod supposedly turning into A-Fraud once the calendar turned to October was his lack of "clutch" ability. Even for those who haven't sworn off the mainstream narratives of clutchness, this theory was largely discarded after that aforementioned 2009 performance. So, how do we explain the rash of strikeouts against the Orioles, including the one that ended Game 2?
Thankfully, one man has figured out how to explain Rodriguez' inept performance at the plate to start the 2012 postseason.
Hours before Game 3 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, as cries to move Rodriguez down in the lineup could be heard throughout the Big Apple and found in abundance on Twitter, Trump weighed in with his take. As he sees it, the Yankees need the mighty A-Roid of yesteryear rather than the clean but scuffling batter they have at their disposal today.
Shortly after Sports Illustrated broke the news in 2009 of a positive drug test from 2003, Rodriguez admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, indicating that it was "pretty accurate" to say that he used the banned substances from 2001-2003.
If Rodriguez' PED was actually limited to those seasons then it may not be the most useful way to explain the ups and downs of his postseason play. After all, Rodriguez never reached the playoffs with the Rangers between 2001 and 2003. He also won two of his three American League MVP Awards after that stretch. Moreover, his most impressive postseason campaign, when the Yankees won it all in '09, came several months after he had been outed by SI for his previous drug use and would have seemingly been scared straight. Of course, if Rodriguez wasn't being honest about the dates of his PED dependence then perhaps Trump is on to something with this theory.
Regardless of the reason, Rodriguez' playoff stats have certainly been trending back down from his .365 batting average in 2009. He is 1 for 9 so far in New York's ALDS against the O's with five strikeouts. He went 2 for 18 in last year's ALDS against Detroit and 7 for 32 in the 2010 postseason.
Thanks to Rodriguez' woes at the plate, Trump is far from alone in the belief that A-Rod needs to be dropped in the Yankees' lineup. Just look at the back cover of the New York Post on Wednesday.
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Despite the calls to move him down in the lineup, Girardi slotted A-Rod into the No. 3 spot yet for Game 3 on Wednesday night. Of note, Rodriguez was the designated hitter as opposed to the third baseman.
"I trust our guys," Girardi said before the start of Game 3 Wednesday, via The Star-Ledger. "I'm with him every day. I'm with their approach every day and it's important that they trust me. The other thing is we played playoff baseball the whole month of September and the first three days of October and Alex hit third and a we won a lot of games with a lineup that we kept consistent and guys knew where they were at every day and I think there's something to be said for that."
Did Girardi make the right move? Could Trump be right? What do you think the Yankees should do with Rodriguez?