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A-Rod's demotion; scout's take on AL Division series

Posted: Tuesday October 3, 2006 11:42AM; Updated: Tuesday October 3, 2006 1:04PM
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Joe Torre picked a heck of a time to drop Alex Rodriguez to the sixth spot in the batting order.
Joe Torre picked a heck of a time to drop Alex Rodriguez to the sixth spot in the batting order.

Also in this column:
• Rivera a one-inning pitcher
• Scout's take on AL Division Series
• More news and notes

Joe Torre's decision to bat Alex Rodriguez sixth in the lineup against the Tigers in tonight's Game 1 is a slap to A-Rod. It may not be an intentional slap, but it is a slap nonetheless.

The move would have been fine if Torre had batted Rodriguez sixth even once this season. But to spring the demotion on Rodriguez in Game No. 163 -- maybe the first meaningful game of the season -- just isn't right.

A source said Torre considered batting Rodriguez even seventh or eighth in Anaheim late in the season, and that would have made more sense because at the time Rodriguez was floundering. Now he is thriving. A-Rod hit .358 in September. He also is fourth in the league in RBIs with 121, 96 more than Torre's newly appointed cleanup man, Gary Sheffield.

Perhaps Torre thinks he's taking pressure off A-Rod. But the only thing he's doing is putting the focus on him.

A case could be made that Sheffield is as good as Rodriguez (we'd disagree, but a case could still be made) and equally deserving of the No. 4 spot. Rodriguez, who hasn't batted lower than fifth since 1996, said that he was unbothered by the surprise demotion and even noted how Robinson Cano is batting ninth and "would be the No. 3 hitter for 99 percent of the teams."

In any case, Torre's first explanation that he might as well pull the lineup out of a hat fell short. Torre is getting paid $7 million a year to manage the Yankees, and if he actually used the hat method, he should return the money.

Torre's other comment that he wouldn't put individuals ahead of the team sounded good, except that it followed his own words that he spent the past week making lineups geared toward helping players reach individual honors and milestones. But after the milestone talk, Torre changed course, saying, "We have never in any way put anybody's individual needs in front of what the team feels is the best thing for the team."

No Mo eighth inning for Rivera

Good to see Torre say that Mariano Rivera's "a ninth-inning pitcher," and maybe the manager's been cured of pressing the great Rivera for two innings. Torre must know now he shouldn't have used Rivera for two innings in Anaheim with an 11-5 lead during a trip in which Rivera's arm was treated and not 24 hours after agreeing with a reporter that he shouldn't use Rivera for two. If he doesn't, he should.

Tigers like 2000 Yankees?

The Tigers enter the Division Series having dropped five straight, including the season-ending three-game series at home to the Royals with 220 bottles of champagne in the clubhouse waiting to be opened. But, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, "nothing matters between April and September."

Cashman knows that as well as anyone. Cashman recalled that the last time a team ended the regular season on this long a losing slide was in 2000, when the Yankees won the Subway Series.


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