When Alex Rodriguez went down with a broken hand after being hit by a pitch by Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners on July 24, the New York Yankees held a 7 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles and 8 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.
Many people said that due to Rodriguez’s age and declining skills and decreasing numbers, the Yankees would really not miss all that much without him in the lineup. After all, they have already dealt with so many injuries, so what was one more to the highest paid player in the game, who was only hitting .276 with 15 home runs this season?
Apparently, it was much more of a loss than many pundits of Rodriguez would have led you to have believed.
Maybe it is purely a coincidence. Maybe it is not. But either way, since A-Rod went down with his broken hand, the Yankees have struggled. The Orioles have gained five games in the standings, cutting the deficit to just two in the East. The Rays currently sit 4.5 games back, although they were even closer a few days ago.
So while many people still feel that the Yankees are a lock to qualify for the postseason in October, a slim lead and recent history would tell us otherwise.
Just ask the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves from a year ago. They both possessed double digit game leads last last season, only to both suffer epic collapses.
With that being said, can the man who is still arguably the most overpaid player in professional sports today save the Yankees from suffering a collapse and missing out on making the 2012 MLB Playoffs?
Scoff all you want, but it is quite possible that they will need him now more than ever.
Rodriguez made his first rehab start last night for the Tampa Yankees, going 0-for-3 at the plate while serving as designated hitter. He is expected to play the field tonight or tomorrow to test his injured hand. If all goes well, Rodriguez is expected to make his Yankees return as soon as early this week.
And boy, could they use him.
It is no knock against Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix or Casey McGehee. All three have filled in admirably at times at third base for New York. But although his numbers have drastically declined over the past few seasons, Rodriguez still strikes far more fear into opposing pitchers than any of the three players who have filled in for him during the past five weeks.
Whether you like to admit it or not, Rodriguez is still more important to the Yankees than anyone would lead you to believe.
At this point, we will find out if even Rodriguez will be enough to help the Yankees end their slide and avoid suffering a monumental collapse in franchise history.
Simply put, it is time for Rodriguez to start earning some of that $30 million that he is making this season alone.
And that time is now.