The Yankees are acting as if Alex Rodriguez is Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle, the kind of player they can’t win without, despite the sorry fact that so far, he has only been the kind of player they can’t win with.
By announcing that A-Rod will undergo a scaled-down surgical hip repair this morning, then be rushed back into the lineup ASAP, the message they are sending out is an SOS.
As in, Save Our Season. How misguided is that?
In the interest of long-term safety, they could have chosen to shut down their $275-million third baseman for four months, allow him to take as much time as he needs to recover, and try to muddle through with the other $190 million or so worth of ballplayers still on their active roster.
They could have passed the responsibility to their captain, Derek Jeter, to carry this team the way others carried the 2003 Yankees in Jeter’s absence, or they could have told Mark Teixeira that for the foreseeable future, he now would be what he expected to be when the Yankees signed him in the offseason: the big bopper in the middle of their lineup.
Both players, no doubt, would have jumped at the chance.
Or they could have done what Yankees teams have always done in times of crisis: spend considerable money and talent to acquire a suitable replacement.
But the Yankees didn’t do any of those things. Instead, in announcing A-Rod’s fast recovery plan, they made an unmistakable announcement: We can’t win without this guy.
Forgetting, conveniently, that in five seasons, they have yet to win a thing with him.
Why else would they risk subjecting their biggest — and longest-term — investment to not one but two surgeries in an area that could well be career-threatening?
The idea of doing a quick fix now, setting A-Rod on the fast track back to the Bronx and performing the real repair after the season sounds like slapping a patch on a flat tire before setting out on a cross-country drive and figuring you’ll buy a tire once you get there.
It makes little sense when dealing with your car, and even less when dealing with a ballplayer you will be stuck paying, whether he plays for you or not, through 2017.
It sends out a bad message in terms of their confidence in the other players on their $200-million-plus payroll, some of whom actually have taken them where they want to go, and it indicates a misguided faith in the one player who most famously has not.
And it makes you wonder how an organization with such a long and proud history of success could have so completely forgotten how it achieved it.
The great Yankees teams of 1996-2000, the ones who won four championships in five seasons and 14 World Series games in a row, bucked the trend that had infected baseball over the same period.
In their tumultuous history, the Yankees have been described in many different ways. As regal and reprehensible, incomparable and insufferable, awe-inspiring and arrogant. At one time or another, each of those descriptions has fit like a batting glove.
But the way they have dealt with this affair brings to mind only one word, one that has rarely, if ever, been applied to the New York Yankees.