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Sweeny: Winfield-Esque Comeback? Odds Aren’t In A-Rod’s Favor

Alex Rodriguez (credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

Alex Rodriguez (credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

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By Sweeny Murti
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The Yankees announced Wednesday that Alex Rodriguez’s left hip surgery “went as planned and without complication.”

Teams used to announce that a player had “successful surgery,” but it’s probably better that they stopped pronouncing it as such. After all, did they ever tell us “the surgery was botched by that quack?”

Besides, the only way of knowing if A-Rod’s surgery was “successful” will be when we see him back on the field, which is estimated to be about six months from now, or just after the All-Star break.

There will be plenty of time between now and then to delve into the minutia of A-Rod’s rehab (“Rodriguez ran 40 laps in the outfield today … Rodriguez fielded 200 ground balls today … Rodriguez did 2,000 jumping jacks today) and plenty of time to hear him say how everything feels great and he’s looking forward to coming back 100 percent.

But here’s one thing that struck me the other day. If A-Rod comes back on schedule after the All-Star break — let’s assume July 19, first game of the second half — then he will have played only 33 games in the previous 12 months (remember the broken hand that knocked him out most of the second half last season).

Only 33 games in 12 months. Only 130 Major League at-bats (and four home runs) in 12 months. At age 37. No matter how well the doctors repaired A-Rod’s hip, will he be able to regain something resembling his old self after missing so much game time at that age?

Off the top of my head the only player I could recall in recent history that went through something comparable was Dave Winfield, who actually missed the entire season in 1989 — at age 37 — due to a back injury. How did Winfield respond?

He capped his Hall of Fame career with four impressive seasons from 1990-1993, averaging 145 games per year, .273 BA, .342 OBP, and .465 SLG (96 home runs total in four years). It adds up to an OPS of .808 over four seasons from ages 38-41. That’s what you’d call a successful comeback.

The Yankees will have A-Rod under contract for four and a half more seasons upon his projected return this July. A Winfield-like comeback would be a lofty goal. The complexity of this second hip surgery in four years makes it hard to believe it’s possible, especially when you consider that his production has dipped every year since 2007 already.

If he gets back on the field as projected this summer, then at least on one level the Yankees can say A-Rod’s surgery was “successful.” But the return on the investment is still a long way from being determined. And the odds aren’t in his favor.

– The losses of free agents Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano have netted the Yankees two additional draft picks this June, so the Yankees now own picks 27, 31, and 32.

While this is traditionally the same area the Yankees have drafted in for a decade and a half, three picks in such close proximity increases the odds of pulling a gem in a draft that usually doesn’t give you sure things outside the first handful of players taken, if that.

Players taken between the 27th and 32nd selections since 2000 include Adam Wainwright, Carlos Quentin, Colby Rasmus, and Daniel Bard.

The baseball draft might be the hardest exercise in evaluating talent of any of the major sports, but the players are out there. The Yankees now have a greater chance of finding a few. And the extra $8 million or so in pool money they acquire with those picks might be the most valuable piece of all.

– Nervous that the Yankees lost Soriano? Remember, they are replacing him with Mariano Rivera.

– Michael Morse would have been a nice fit for 2013, but as a free agent after this season my guess is the Yankees weren’t willing to part with too much quality on the prospect side and that’s where they fell short (Morse was traded to Seattle Wednesday night). And as a player who likely won’t be worth the $13-14 million qualifying offer next year, he would not bring back a draft pick if he walked after one year.

I’m still not convinced that Brian Cashman doesn’t have a stealth move in him before Opening Day. The lineup is a little short, and he knows it. I’ve spoken with people around the game all winter, and they feel like the Yankees still have something up their sleeve.

– The Yankees recently announced two exhibition games on the way back from Florida before Opening Day. The Yankees will play the Nationals in Washington, D.C. on March 29 and then play The Black Knights of Army at West Point on March 30.

The game at West Point will be a special event. Lots of history around that place, including baseball. Check out this story from the Army Sports website.

– And don’t forget about another great night of baseball and music with Bernie Williams. The Yankee great has teamed up with the Hillside Food Outreach for the 11th straight year to raise money for hungry families in the Hudson Valley areas. Speak Out Against Hunger takes place on Saturday, January 26 in Danbury, CT. Bernie’s special guest this year is David Cone. Former Yankees Tim Raines and Cecil Fielder will also be in attendance.

Its always a fun night featuring a lively Q&A with the guys that I am always fortunate enough to moderate, as well as a musical performance by Bernie and his band.

You might even win a chance to come to work with me for a day in the auction! Support the great cause and look for ticket information here.

Sweeny Murti
@YankeesWFAN

Think A-Rod has a monster comeback in him? Sound off in the comments!