A-Rod benched again; Is it personal?

Although everyone involved denies it, it is certainly starting to look like Alex Rodriguez is persona non grata with the Yankees.

Joe Girardi benched him tonight, for the third time in the past five postseason games, and for the second time when the Yankees were facing elimination. Girardi and GM Brian Cashman maintain it is solely a performance-based decision, but as our own Ian O'Connor is reporting, a Yankees source has confirmed that the incident reported by the New York Post in which A-Rod was said to have propositioned two women at Yankee Stadium while the team was in the process of losing Game 1 to the Tigers did indeed take place.

Which raises the question of whether the benching of the man with more home runs than all but four other men in the history of baseball is punitive, as well.

I asked Girardi point blank if he was punishing A-Rod for the alleged transgression.

"I’m not going to comment on that," Girardi said. "But as I said yesterday, I’m looking at his at-bats against right-handers. That’s what I’m looking at. If he hadn’t struggled, he’s in there."

I then informed Girardi of O'Connor's story and asked him if he witnessed the incident.

"I was not aware of any incident, or alleged incident, or whatever people want to say," Girardi said.

A-Rod's numbers against tonight's starter, Max Scherzer, certainly warrant a benching -- 1-for-12 lifetime with four strikeouts -- and his splits against right-handed pitching (.256/.326/.391) as opposed to left-handed pitching (.308/.410/.514) this year are certainly striking.

But his numbers against Justin Verlander (.267, 3 HRs, two of them this season) seemed to warrant giving him the same chance Girardi has given other struggling players in his lineup, such as Curtis Granderson, to fight his way out of the slump on the field rather than on the bench.

"Even if I had no resume, I always feel like I deserve a shot, because I have tremendous confidence in my ability and I feel like I started swinging the bat better at home," Rodriguez said on the field before tonight's game. "I've played this game for a long time, and bottom line is any time I'm in any lineup I think that lineup is better and has a better chance to win, no matter. I don’t care if it's an All-Star game, I feel I can bring that type of impact."

Which raises the question of how what impact all of this has had on the Girardi/Rodriguez relationship, which has five more years to run, barring a trade to the Miami Marlins.

Girardi said he thought his relationship with A-Rod was still good. "I don't sense that there's a problem," Girardi said. "But only time will tell."

A-Rod stopped short, however, of giving their working relationship a ringing endorsement.

"The thing I will give Joe a lot of credit for is he has been very good to me over the years," he said. "So he has a lot of equity with me. For me, it’s just tough. I’m a competitor. And I really feel in my heart that whenever I’m in that lineup the team’s a better team. Without a question. So we’ll disagree there till the end, but I like Joe, I support Joe and our job right now is to come together like a family. We’re here to win a game. I will be ready. I feel like at any point any time I’m in the box, there’s damage in the near future."

The damage may have already been done.