The New York Yankees are facing a somewhat embarrassing scenario as their controversial and soon-to-be retiring(maybe?) designated hitter is set to pass some important statistical marks this season. Dan Ennis reports that a system has been created to address Alex Rodriguez passing Yankee milestones with real-world solutions for the club.
With 687 career home runs, the most among active players, New York Yankees legend Alex Rodriguez is likely to surpass several significant home run milestones this year. This presents a conundrum for a Yankees front office wrestling with opposing impulses to A) celebrate every Yankee accomplishment, no matter how small, and B) keep Rodriguez at arm’s length because he is not a True Yankee. To address this conflict, the Yankee front office has turned to advanced analytics.
In 2008, faced with a lackluster team and the impending departure of fan favorite and Yankee legend Sidney Ponson, the Bronx braintrust developed a computer program that would predict the dates of player accomplishments and generate suggestions for appropriate giveaways and pregame festivities. The eventual result was the Advanced Yankee Activity Likelihood Analyzer (ALAYA). ALAYA generates proprietary performance projections for Yankee players, and since 2010 it has been used to determine the team’s promotional schedule.
Soon after coming online, ALAYA predicted that on June 12, 2011 Mark Teixeira would go 0-4 in a game at Yankee Stadium, dropping his average to .252. ALAYA recommended that June 12, 2011 be billed as “Mark Teixeira Bat Day Presented By Bank of America,” the better to encourage the light-hitting Bronx Bomber. Teixeira underperformed his contract in 2011, but ALAYA had proven its worth.
When Yankee reliever Alfredo Aceves struggled throughout May 2014, posting a 5.10 ERA, ALAYA, to the surprise of Yankee staffers, announced that May 31 would be Yankees Ice Cream Bowls Day Presented By Turkey Hill. ALAYA issued the accompanying promotional plan with the cryptic codeword “MUNCHIES.” On June 3, 2014 Aceves was suspended 50 games for marijuana use. ALAYA was showing signs of being self-aware, having detected what the Yankee front office had missed.
Using techniques perfected by the St. Louis Cardinals front office, the research team at sonsofsamhorn.com has accessed the ALAYA database (password: Rizzuto). The ALAYA plans for 2016 Yankee Stadium promotions are revealing. For example, when Rodriguez hits his 695th home run sometime this season, it will be his 350th homer as a Yankee. ALAYA suggests the following for the occasion:
Clearly, ALAYA compensates for significant Alex Rodriguez successes by invoking memories of the Prime Jeterian Era (1996-2000).
Since the Yankees have already picked the corpse clean when it comes to retiring uniform numbers from those late twentieth century World Series teams, ALAYA has been driven to disturbing extremes. As such, once Rodriguez reaches 350 homers in a Yankee uniform, Joe DiMaggio’s mark of 361 homers as a Yankee will be in danger. ALAYA has already made a recommendation:
The computing power required to generate such precise predictions for a season not yet played must be staggering. The next Yankee legend in A-Rod’s sights is Dave Winfield, who sits at #20 on the all-time list with 3,110 hits. ALAYA has responded, but the report shows signs of strain.
A player as divisive as Rodriguez surpassing DiMaggio and Winfield represents not just a public relations nightmare for the Yankees organization, but a psychological destabilization for an entire fanbase. With every success, A-Rod threatens the cherished belief that pinstripes impart virtue to the man beneath. The ALAYA system struggles to process A-Rod’s triumphs.
Late in the 2016 season, Rodriguez is likely to hit career home run 715. ALAYA predicts this disaster will occur on September 27, in a night game at Yankee Stadium against the hated Red Sox. ALAYA melts down:
The ALAYA report for this event reveals the contradictions faced by the Yankees. A home run against Boston is always to be celebrated. But dethroning the Bambino? Does not compute. The power of New York antipathy for Rodriguez is so strong that ALAYA went inactive after calculating the date of #715.
Reports indicate the Yankees are developing a replacement for ALAYA, a new system better able to handle the contradictions introduced by a hated player dethroning the greatest New York Yankee of all time. This new system is to be named after the principal owner and managing general partner of the franchise, Hal Steinbrenner.
Dan Ennis has written about prospect hype, an legendary fan, why the Red Sox win, sports media, and the original superfan.
Follow Dan on Twitter @DeanDanEnnis.