Alex Rodriguez meets Death, Ingmar Bergman style. - Jim Rogash
Whatever he did or didn't take, whatever lies he told, his light is slowly going out.
For all the conversation about Alex Rodriguez today, it seems about as relevant to the 2013 Yankees as if we were talking about Joe DiMaggio. I'm not talking about morality now, or the idea of cheating, but purely in terms of how relevant Rodriguez is to the 2013 Yankees, which is probably not at all.
I'm not saying he won't be back for some portion of this year for reasons of health or due to some kind of suspension coming out of this latest news, but rather that even if he is back, it's pretty clear that the days of .300/.384/.560 and MVP awards ended in 2007, and that given the overall deterioration of his body, the days of "pretty good for a third baseman" are likely gone as well. AL third basemen are a weak lot these days, so the .274/.357/.444 of the last two years had real value. Now what we have for this year is maybe a half-season of designated hitter action, and then, as the years roll on through 2017, less and less. At this point, maybe Rodriguez doesn't even get to 2017.
The Yankees made a foolish commitment to Rodriguez after 2007. They've gotten some value for it each year, but on a WAR-per-dollar basis it's increasingly expensive and, given Steinbrenner: The Austerity Generation, it's choking the roster to death. None of that has changed or is going to change, so in that sense Rodriguez will be affecting the outcome of Yankees pennant races for a long time to come. In terms of his actual performance as a player affecting them, however, that seems like an increasingly unlikely thing.
Rodriguez was missing 25 or 30 games a year even before his hips went. His next potentially fully healthy season is 2014, when he'll be 38. Could he suddenly be rejuvenated a year from now? Sure -- but what does that even mean? Will he be able to field his position with the ability of a younger man? Hit like he used to? Run the bases? Maybe he can find some of that, but all seems nearly impossible, first because of the cumulative wear and tear on his body, second because if it's not the hips it will be some other part of him quitting.
I could be completely wrong -- perhaps Rodriguez rolls off the DL towards the middle of the season and hits .350 with a .600 slugging percentage the rest of the way. Certainly such things have happened before -- this is an imperfect analogy, but I always think of the 1985 Cardinals, who got 28 games of .434/.463/.750 from Cesar Cedeno, a former star who was just finished, at the end of that season. I think it's far more likely, though, that this conversation, or any other about Rodriguez, should be largely held in the past tense.