By Steve Silverman
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There’s no reason to panic about the loss of Alex Rodriguez to a broken hand.
While Rodriguez still has the reputation of an elite offensive talent, the numbers don’t bear that out this season. Rodriguez is hitting .276 with 15 home runs and 44 runs batted in. He has an .802 OPS, the lowest that figure has been since Rodriguez was a 19-year-old player in 1995.
Rodriguez is going through the aging process and his production is not what it was. His ability to stay healthy and remain in the lineup has become an issue.
Rodriguez played 99 games last year and while he has 93 games in the books this season, he will be out six-to-eight weeks with his broken hand after getting hit by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez Tuesday night.
The Yankees certainly have the offense to handle his absence. As long as Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are in the middle of the lineup, the Yankees are going to produce runs.
The interesting aspect to the Rodriguez injury is Joe Girardi’s reaction. You might think that Girardi simply would turn the third base responsibilities over to Eric Chavez and be done with it, but Girardi has only given the former Oakland all-star just a tepid endorsement.
The Rodriguez injury may overshadow the shocking acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki.
Having Ichiro in the lineup could mean quite a bit over the next two-plus months. Many baseball observers are dismissing the trade because Ichiro’s production has dropped precipitously over the last two seasons.
The numbers speak for themselves. Ichiro hit .310 or better in each of his first 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, with a high of .372 in 2004 and a .352 season in 2009. His average fell to .272 last year and he’s hitting .261 this season.
There was a certain sameness to the last few years in Seattle. The Mariners had fallen to the bottom of the A.L. West and there was very little in the Seattle lineup that was able to give the offense a boost. Ichiro knew the team was going nowhere and while he was doing all he could, he knew the battle was not going to be won any time soon.
Going to New York with a chance to make a lot of postseason noise should re-invigorate this future Hall of Famer. While the Yankees will have a lot of work to do once they get to the postseason, there is little doubt that they will go into the playoffs as the American League East champions. Ichiro will have a chance to remember what it’s like to play in the spotlight before the heat is turned up to maximum levels in the postseason.
Remember, even though he may not be the hitter he once was, he can play defense and steal bases. He’ll have a chance to chase down balls in left center and then get a chance to show off his arm. Even if he has lost a few miles per hour off of his best fastball, he throws better than any left fielder in baseball.
A little over a week ago, it appeared that Brian Cashman was content to sit tight with the Yankee roster. But while things have changed quite a bit with the way the Yankees do business since Hal Steinbrenner took over from his late father, the Yankees will still try to improve themselves. The Ichiro deal will help, but the Yankees can’t be sure how much until he gets comfortable and see if his old stroke comes back.
The Yankees may not be done. The Yankees are in the market for Cubs pitcher Matt Garza. You can never have enough pitching and Garza is a veteran of A.L. East wars. He appears to have the stuff to get the job done if Cashman can swing a deal with Theo Epstein. The two were rivals for so long when Epstein was running the Red Sox and they are not the best of friends. However, they do respect each other and should find a way to work out a deal.
Cashman knows it’s not about the division title. It’s about finding a way to defeat powerhouse teams in Texas, Los Angeles and Detroit.
Those are the elite American League teams who have the talent to challenge the Yankees on the big stage.
Will A-Rod’s injury force the Yankees off course? Be heard in the comments section below…