As Alex Rodriguez’ walked back to the dugout after striking out to end the 2011 ALDS, you could practically see the headlines writing themselves. Not surprisingly, the New York tabloids didn’t disappoint when it came to assigning a disproportionate amount of blame to Rodriguez, but unfortunately, the “you just knew it had to be Arod” sentiment has also proven to be quite popular with Yankees’ fans.
At this point, it makes little sense to defend Arod’s performance in the clutch. Regardless of evidence to the contrary, those pre-disposed to dislike Rodriquez will dismiss it just because. Similarly, it seems futile to point out that Curtis Granderson’s and Robinson Cano’s outs, which preceded Arod’s, actually had a bigger impact on the Yankees’ chances of winning game five. Even though the first two outs didn’t offer the lasting impression of a sullen, $30 million man walking slowly from the plate as the Tigers charged the field, the fact remains that three Yankees, not one, went down in the final frame.
Based on the comments, conversation, and articles that have followed Rodriguez’ final out, one might get the impression that Arod is the only Yankees’ player to ever make the last out of a postseason series. Apparently, before being saddled with the baggage of a three-time MVP, the Yankees always won in October? In order to dispel that myth, listed below is the last out of every Yankees’ postseason series defeat.
Final Batted Outs in Yankees’ Postseason History (click to enlarge)
Note: Yankees suffered walk-offs in 1960, 1995 and 2001. Babe Ruth was caught stealing to end the 1926 World Series.
The Yankees have now lost 23 postseason series, which itself is a testament to the organization’s sustained excellence. Of that total, three concluded on walk-offs by the opposition (1960 World Series, 1995 ALDS, and 2001 World Series), while one came to an abrupt end when Babe Ruth was thrown out trying to steal second base. If Arod ended a World Series in such a manner, the ground would probably open up and swallow him whole.
The Arod haters will likely seize on the fact that the third baseman is only the second player in franchise history to make the last out in two playoff series, but it’s worth noting that Rodriquez’ combined WPA of -5% would only rank fifth among them all (also for comparison, Carlos Beltran’s infamous strikeout to end the 2006 NLCS registered a WPA of -18%). Of the 19 batted outs that ended a Yankees’ postseason series, most were inconsequential. On only three occasions did the Yankees have a win probability of at least 10%, but one of those occurred against Sandy Koufax. The other two took place when Bernie Williams flied out to end the 1997 ALDS (just after Paul O’Neill’s iconic double) and Home Run Baker grounded into a double play to end the 1921 World Series (although that was more the result of Aaron Ward’s base running).
In 2009, Rodriguez had one of the most prolific postseasons in baseball history. For most players, it was the kind of performance that would forever define their career. For Arod, however, it barely bought him a year’s worth of goodwill. Without Rodriguez’ contribution that October, the Yankees are likely riding an 11-year championship drought, but apparently, when you make as much money as Arod, success is taken for granted. Perhaps that’s why if ever a player was going to be the subject of irrational discourse, you just know it had to be Alex Rodriguez.