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O'Connor: Better off without A-Rod?
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Last updated: Friday March 6, 2009, 12:33 PM
By IAN O'CONNOR
RECORD COLUMNIST
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TAMPA — Alex Rodriguez was said to have been surprised when he got the grim news on his bum hip, surprised but eager to play on. Chances are, his determination will meet its match in human frailty.

Sooner rather than later, a surgeon’s blade will likely cut Rodriguez right out of the Yankee lineup, and cut him out for four long months.

No team that measures its public disclosures as carefully as the Yankees talks about major surgery for its franchise player unless that scenario has a better than 50-50 shot of unfolding.

So the smart money says the aspiration of the cyst in Rodriguez’s right hip, a growth described by Brian Cashman as “rather large,” will not solve the problems magnified by the labrum tear found in the same region.

And yet this is no cause for the mass hysteria that greeted Y2K. The team could lose its most feared and productive hitter, and yet the sky isn’t falling on Tampa, the Bronx, or on any other corner of the Yankees’ vast universe.

Why? Because an extended A-Rod absence would swing open a door of delicious opportunity, that’s why.

The Yankees could go back to being the Yankees. They could go back to being the team that won four championships in five years with reliable pitching and a harmonious band of position players that didn’t need a slugger whose favorite teammates are Me, Myself and I.

“It was all about the team for us,” Tino Martinez said. “There were no real stars. You had Bernie [Williams] and [Derek] Jeter, but not superstars. We just figured out ways to get a lead and win games. “Position by position, this year’s team has much more physical talent than we did. It’s a way better team than our championship teams. But we knew how to come together, and that’s the trick.”

A trick the 2009 Yankees should be able to turn with Cody Ransom or some other potential Scott Brosius-to-be at third.

“If Alex ends up being out,” Martinez said, “they still have enough offense here and the pitching staff to be in great shape.”

Seattle won 116 games the season after Rodriguez took $252 million to play for the Texas Rangers, who managed three consecutive last-place finishes despite the steroid-fueled rockets launched from A-Rod’s bat.

This isn’t the NBA. You can’t build a World Series winner around a Michael Jordan or a Kobe Bryant. A-Rod and Barry Bonds, the two greatest — if chemically enhanced — position players of their time, have combined to win as many World Series rings as the Cubs have won since 1908.

Baseball belongs to the Everyman likes of Brosius, a three-time champ and World Series MVP, as much as it belongs to the gods. Joe Girardi understands that more than most, as he played on three of the four title teams in Joe Torre’s wonder years.

“When I was here on the championship teams,” Girardi said, “I can’t really say that … we had a bat that big. We might’ve had a guy that one year had a huge year, but not the numbers that [Rodriguez] puts up traditionally.

“Pitching is very important when it comes to championships, and we feel good about our pitching. We still need to score some runs, but I think there are a lot of productive hitters out there.”

The Yankees have no interest in devaluing an asset like Rodriguez, not when they have nine years to go on a contract worth more than $300 million. So they’re not about to declare themselves a better, happier team with A-Rod on the bench.

But facts are facts: The Yankees haven’t reached the World Series in Rodriguez’s five seasons, and they reached six in the eight seasons before he arrived.

Coincidence, or guilty as charged?

The Yankees still are hoping Rodriguez can make it through a full season before surgically repairing his torn labrum. They’re hoping the aspiration, some rest, a few exercises, and a reduced workload will allow their man to take his 600 at-bats before hostile fan bases across the land.

Toward that end, the Yankees pulled A-Rod from the World Baseball Classic, leaving his hopes of playing for the Dominican team in a cloud of infield dust.

Rodriguez was only feeling stiffness, not pain, everyone insisted, but caution remained the order of the day. “At this point in time,” Cashman said, “we are going to go the conservative route.”

Only the general manager talked a lot about the aggressive route — surgery and four months on the shelf. Mike Lowell and Chase Utley needed to go under the knife with tears in their hips. After trying and failing to throw through the pain, Jorge Posada needed surgery on a labrum tear in his shoulder.

So yes, A-Rod is standing in harm’s way. “Surgery,” Cashman said, “is not off the table.”

It’s in the middle of the table, in fact.

Cashman said the team found a hip “irregularity” in an A-Rod MRI last season, but that it was filed away as an “incidental finding” for an asymptomatic patient who didn’t require surgery.

Only when A-Rod began complaining of stiffness in recent weeks did the Yankees order up another MRI on Saturday, and the pictures showed enough trouble to send the third baseman to a Colorado specialist, Dr. Marc Philippon.

After Philippon delivered the bad news about the tear and the possible procedure, a stunned Cashman thought to himself, “Wow, surgery’s an option here. Holy cow.”

The GM conceded that A-Rod’s condition could get worse before it gets better. “Anybody that has a labrum, if it’s healthy, you can tear it,” he said. “If it’s not healthy, and you have a small tear in it, you can tear it worse.”

Either way, the Yankees can survive this. They did it in the past.

“Championship teams have to overcome things,” Girardi said. “We can go to ’96 when [David Cone] had his aneurysm; we had to overcome that. We had to deal with [Darryl Strawberry’s] issues when he had the cancer.

“You don’t want it to be that way, but that’s the reality of sports.”

The reality of the Yankees, the championship Yankees under Torre, centers around pitching and chemistry and a one-for-all, all-for-one ethos.

If the Yanks find that karma again in a world without A-Rod, maybe the third baseman will learn a thing or three about winning from his extended stay on the bench.

E-mail: oconnor@northjersey
 

Page 1 2 >> Fit story on 1 page

TAMPA — Alex Rodriguez was said to have been surprised when he got the grim news on his bum hip, surprised but eager to play on. Chances are, his determination will meet its match in human frailty.

AP
Would the Yankees be better off without him?

Sooner rather than later, a surgeon’s blade will likely cut Rodriguez right out of the Yankee lineup, and cut him out for four long months.

No team that measures its public disclosures as carefully as the Yankees talks about major surgery for its franchise player unless that scenario has a better than 50-50 shot of unfolding.

So the smart money says the aspiration of the cyst in Rodriguez’s right hip, a growth described by Brian Cashman as “rather large,” will not solve the problems magnified by the labrum tear found in the same region.

And yet this is no cause for the mass hysteria that greeted Y2K. The team could lose its most feared and productive hitter, and yet the sky isn’t falling on Tampa, the Bronx, or on any other corner of the Yankees’ vast universe.

Why? Because an extended A-Rod absence would swing open a door of delicious opportunity, that’s why.

The Yankees could go back to being the Yankees. They could go back to being the team that won four championships in five years with reliable pitching and a harmonious band of position players that didn’t need a slugger whose favorite teammates are Me, Myself and I.

“It was all about the team for us,” Tino Martinez said. “There were no real stars. You had Bernie [Williams] and [Derek] Jeter, but not superstars. We just figured out ways to get a lead and win games. “Position by position, this year’s team has much more physical talent than we did. It’s a way better team than our championship teams. But we knew how to come together, and that’s the trick.”

A trick the 2009 Yankees should be able to turn with Cody Ransom or some other potential Scott Brosius-to-be at third.

“If Alex ends up being out,” Martinez said, “they still have enough offense here and the pitching staff to be in great shape.”

Seattle won 116 games the season after Rodriguez took $252 million to play for the Texas Rangers, who managed three consecutive last-place finishes despite the steroid-fueled rockets launched from A-Rod’s bat.

This isn’t the NBA. You can’t build a World Series winner around a Michael Jordan or a Kobe Bryant. A-Rod and Barry Bonds, the two greatest — if chemically enhanced — position players of their time, have combined to win as many World Series rings as the Cubs have won since 1908.

Baseball belongs to the Everyman likes of Brosius, a three-time champ and World Series MVP, as much as it belongs to the gods. Joe Girardi understands that more than most, as he played on three of the four title teams in Joe Torre’s wonder years.

“When I was here on the championship teams,” Girardi said, “I can’t really say that … we had a bat that big. We might’ve had a guy that one year had a huge year, but not the numbers that [Rodriguez] puts up traditionally.

“Pitching is very important when it comes to championships, and we feel good about our pitching. We still need to score some runs, but I think there are a lot of productive hitters out there.”

The Yankees have no interest in devaluing an asset like Rodriguez, not when they have nine years to go on a contract worth more than $300 million. So they’re not about to declare themselves a better, happier team with A-Rod on the bench.

But facts are facts: The Yankees haven’t reached the World Series in Rodriguez’s five seasons, and they reached six in the eight seasons before he arrived.

Coincidence, or guilty as charged?

The Yankees still are hoping Rodriguez can make it through a full season before surgically repairing his torn labrum. They’re hoping the aspiration, some rest, a few exercises, and a reduced workload will allow their man to take his 600 at-bats before hostile fan bases across the land.

Toward that end, the Yankees pulled A-Rod from the World Baseball Classic, leaving his hopes of playing for the Dominican team in a cloud of infield dust.

Page 1 2 >> Fit story on 1 page

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  1. donttradecano says: Why do people seem so shocked that Brosius came here and produced? The numbers he later put up in New York are right along with his career numbers minus the down year in 1997, where he still hit 11 home runs. You guys can keep harping on "the dynasty teams had no superstars and hugged their way to a championship" even though that's not true at all. Those teams had Bernie, Jeter, Posada at key defensive positions. A pitching rotation that featured the best closer of all time, and at one point or another David Cone, Wells, Clemens, Pettite who were all very good pitchers, and stars at one point in there careers. Not to mention one of the best bullpens of the past 15 years. And i really wont mention the star studded bench of Raines, Hayes, Fielder and Strawberry in 96.
  2. donttradecano says: Please, I could right these articles that make points that have no backing. You state the Yankees won with great pitching, which they did, then say they haven't won since Arod got here. Do you know why? NO PITCHING. Learn about baseball before you write about it. “A trick the 2009 Yankees should be able to turn with Cody Ransom or some other potential Scott Brosius-to-be at third.” Brosius 1994: 14hr 49 rbi .238 .289 .417 1995: 17hr 46 rbi .262 .342 .452 1996: 22hr 71 rbi .304 .393 .516
  3. queldommage says: So what's stopping the Yankees from signing Scott Brosius or Charlie Hayes today? I am sure they have just as much character today as they did in 2001.
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