- Last Updated: 6:27 AM, June 16, 2012
- Posted: 12:22 AM, June 15, 2012
Alex Rodriguez is trending the wrong way as a player, so maybe he will not even be under consideration to play for Team USA in next March’s World Baseball Classic.
The team could fill third base with some combination of players in their prime (David Wright/Ryan Zimmerman), on the rise (Mike Moustakas/David Freese/Chase Headley/Will Middlebrooks) or emeritus (Chipper Jones, who is retiring after this season).
Heck, before it was revealed he needed hip surgery in March 2009, prior to the last WBC, A-Rod had opted to play for the Dominican Republic. So he could do that again. Or he could simply decide he has been there, done that (he was on Team USA for the inaugural WBC in 2006) and cite his health in not wanting to disrupt spring training.
But it sure did get a bit more fascinating yesterday when Team USA named Joe Torre manager.
For the relationship between Torre and A-Rod is believed to be the inspiration for that recent “Hatfields & McCoys’’ mini-series.
Torre, after all, was the guy who batted Rodriguez eighth in a 2006 playoff game. He ridiculed Rodriguez in his 2009 autobiography. And just earlier this month, on Yahoo! Sports TV, Torre criticized A-Rod for being outside the Yankee core by caring more about personal stats than winning.
In a conference call yesterday, Torre said he felt badly enough about the last incident that he stopped A-Rod recently at Yankee Stadium to express that sentiment.
He felt the two left on good terms and said about including Rodriguez on Team USA, “If that situation presents itself and we felt that was the way to go, I would not hesitate to go that way. And I hope he wouldn’t either.”
But if you want to dig down to find a truer sentiment, Torre was much more effusive about including Derek Jeter on Team USA, though Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki clearly deserves to start and J.J. Hardy and Jed Lowrie could be in consideration to back-up.
Said Torre, “Obviously Derek is special. Derek only does things one way, the best he can to win a game.” Yes, Derek plays to win and who is it that Torre recently said plays for stats?
Team USA won’t be so easy to pick
Beyond Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter, Joe Torre will face plenty of tough roster decisions if he is able to sell the majority of stars to play for Team USA.
Nowhere will it be more interesting than the outfield, where young Bryce Harper and Mike Trout overcrowd an already deep group that includes Ryan Braun, Andre Ethier, Curtis Granderson, Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Mark Trumbo.
It is possible Braun will play for Team Israel because non-Isrealis with Jewish heritage can play for the country. That group also includes, among others, Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis and Ike Davis.
As for Torre’s selections, it also will be tough starting with pitchers (think, among others, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander).
You wonder if R.A. Dickey has done enough to be included, especially since his rubber arm makes him less likely to be injured in a tournament in which returning players in better shape than they arrived is, according to Torre, his No. 1 priority.
Interestingly, Torre and his Yankees were among the most obstructionist in letting members of the organization play in international tournaments, including the WBC.
Now Torre will have to recruit players to the cause.
Joe shouldn’t be manager
The last Team USA WBC manager, Davey Johnson, ultimately returned to manage in the majors. Torre said he had no desire to do that, feeling he could no longer give the 12-month commitment necessary for that job.
Instead, he will remain MLB’s executive VP of baseball operations even while managing the team. Therefore, I think this was a poor choice by both Torre and MLB. They should always fight to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
But what happens if a high-profile player rejects Joe Torre’s overtures to play and then ends up before the executive VP of baseball ops with, for example, a potential suspension?
Or say one of the major league umps included for the WBC gets in a heated argument with Torre during a game and then has an issue later on with, yep, the executive VP of baseball ops?
We can say Torre is a mature guy who will rule fairly on such matters. And that is probably the case. There are few people in the game I respect more than Torre, notably for his ability to remain level-headed in a storm.
But Torre is also the guy who earlier this month criticized A-Rod, another player who falls under his purview if discipline is necessary and a player he has not managed now in five years.Follow @NYPostsports