Column: Alex Rodriguez a huge upgrade
While Alex Rodriguez and Major League Baseball play the waiting game and exhaust the appeals process regarding the Yankee’s 211-game suspension, Yankee fans should be asking themselves what the slugger’s return to the lineup means to the team on the field.
Here’s the best way to think about it: Do you think A-Rod can hit over .215 the rest of the way?
If you answered “Yes,” then it’s time to get excited that A-Rod may not need to serve any of his suspension until next season, if at all.
That .215 figure was the Yankees’ cumulative batting average from third baseman before A-Rod made his season debut last night, bad enough for second-to-last in the majors.
The other pre-Rodriguez third base numbers aren’t much better. The team is last in slugging percentage (.285), RBIs (32) and OPS (.557), 29th in home runs (4) and extra-base hits (20), 28th in on-base percentage (.272) and tied for 25th in runs scored.
The bar isn’t very high for even a 38-year-old A-Rod to give the sagging Yankees offense a boost. It’s been years since A-Rod had even a one-month stretch in which he played as poorly as the Yankees’ third basemen. Taking into account only months in which A-Rod played at least 20 games, you’d have to go back to June 2009, when he hit .207 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 25 games.
Of course, it will be tough to be confident in A-Rod’s ability to play in 20 games this month or next given his recent medical history. He’s coming off hip surgery in January and a quad injury last month. Oh yeah, and he might just have to begin serving a suspension before the season is through.
Even when Rodriguez plays, it’s almost inconceivable to imagine him manning the hot corner much more than half of the time he’s in the lineup. He got the start at third last night, but will need to DH more than once in a while.
Does A-Rod’s return make the Yankees a playoff team? Maybe not, but the product on the field will be definitively better than it has been in months.
Scott Fontana, amNY’s sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.