Rodriguez Not A Distraction, Just A Sideshow

By Ernie Palladino
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The chips, as they say, are falling. So it won’t be long now before the Yankees bid a fond farewell to Alex Rodriguez for at least the season, and possibly forever.

Just don’t mistake whatever happens to A-Rod as one of the reasons this team has fallen into the muck of the AL East after bravely battling through the season’s first half. It’s not. The A-Rod case doesn’t even amount to a distraction. They’ve had too many other issues to battle through to even think about Rodriguez.

Now that the big, fat liar Ryan Braun has received Major League Baseball’s punishment, it won’t be long before Bud Selig gets rid of A-Rod. Count on Rodriguez getting far more than Braun’s wrist-slap of 65 games — the remainder of the Brewers’ season. Rodriguez’s admitted history of PED use and an alleged web of banned drug connections that makes a spider’s masterwork look amateurish should ensure a suspension anywhere from 100 games to life.

The mountain of evidence is apparently so deep that even the players union won’t stand behind him, and that speaks volumes about his guilt. Braun, who won his appeal of a 50-game suspension last year because some technician mishandled a urine specimen that showed an astronomic testosterone level, lied and lied and lied that he never used the stuff. But the fact is, when baseball finally nailed him, the league decided to handle it like a first offense.

Rodriguez, a far bigger liar than even Braun because he maintained his only drug use occurred from 2001-2003 with Texas, an assertion we now believe is untrue, will take a bigger, perhaps more permanent hit.

And yet, anyone who blames the sinking Yankees’ season on that, either in part or in total, is dead wrong. Rodriguez hasn’t played for the Yanks this year. He wasn’t expected back from hip surgery until after the All-Star game at the earliest. Given his struggles in his minor league rehab assignment, it’s debatable how much impact he’d have had even if he hadn’t yanked that quad.

No, the problems that have the Yanks still in fourth place, seven games off Boston’s AL East lead and 3 ½ games out of the wild-card race after last night‘s 5-4 victory in Texas, have nothing to do with Rodriguez. They have to do with starters who can’t hold leads and position players who can’t produce quick runs with homers.

In the two losses before they sprayed around three doubles and a triple Tuesday, they had compiled seven runs on 16 hits, all singles. Nary an extra-base job in the lot.

Oh, and that never-ending disabled list that now includes a promising kid in Zoilo Almonte. At least they got Derek Jeter back for one game.

Except for the occasional respite, injuries have worn them down. They are a tired, exhausted team from piecing together too many lineups with the Jayson Nixes and Lyle Overbays of the world.

If Rodriguez is to be blamed for any of this, it’s because of his bat’s absence, not the drug issues. A healthy A-Rod probably would have goosed an offense that has averaged under four runs and just about two extra base hits over the last stretch of 40 games, in which the Yanks have struggled at 18-22.

They’ve already incurred more shutout losses than in the entire 2012 season.

That’s not drugs. That’s a lack of on-field production.

Pulling the trigger on the recently reported trade involving Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano could help, and ironically bring the A-Rod saga full circle as Soriano was the guy the Yanks sent to Texas to get A-Rod. He and his 17 homers and 51 RBIs would look awfully nice in the DH spot Travis Hafner has failed to command.

Anything to get some pop back in that pop-gun lineup.

Just don’t lay it all at A-Rod’s doorstep. His drug troubles, though a constant topic of discussion around the Yankees’ clubhouse, have just as much to do with what’s happening in the standings these days as the future, whether the Yanks’ fortunes rise or fall.

Nothing. The A-Rod situation is not like Braun’s in that respect.

He wasn’t part of the team. He is not a distraction, but simply a sideshow.

It’s the only issue of which he is guiltless.

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