By Glenn Giangrande
I don’t care what the numbers say. I firmly believe Alex Rodriguez should have underwent his major hip surgery the first time around.
People, who would argue in favor of A-Rod’s decision to have a first, “less invasive” procedure ahead of another operation after the season, would probably start with a couple of factors — the Yankees’ performance when he first returned to the lineup and the positive effects he had on Mark Teixeira, whom he was batting behind. Well, the Yankees have reverted to the scuffling form they showed in April, going 4-8 over their last 12 games heading into Tuesday’s game in Atlanta. They would be 3-9 if not for Luis Castillo’s game-ending error in the first game of the Subway Series on June 12, and save for a couple of big games versus the Mets in that stretch, their offensive numbers are down sharply. As for Teixeira, he has said that A-Rod’s presence has been a big help, but let’s be honest. Big Tex was eventually going to start hitting regardless of who’s batting behind him, even if the caliber of pitches he’d see would be down. He’s a known slumper in April, so who’s to say he wouldn’t have turned it around even without Rodriguez? It’s unfair to assume that A-Rod was the sole answer to Teixeira’s early-season woes.
Now the Yankees are being forced to give A-Rod steady rest, and he’s started to become a distraction again, albeit a mild one. Players with tired bodies should not be out on the town until 2:30 a.m., regardless of how famous they and their company might be. There were rumors about the possibility of Rodriguez’ two-game sitdown in Florida being some sort of punishment, and the conference call in which he was told that he’s “hurting the team.” There’s plenty of time for the superstar to get himself right, and as Michael Kay has pointed out on the YES broadcasts, A-Rod’s timeline is comparable to that of a Major Leaguer just coming out of Spring Training. But, with the prospect of another surgery looming, Rodriguez could wind up doing worse damage to his hip by playing, hurting himself and the Yankees in the process.
By Jon Lane
Or in my case hours later. Thanks to mad traffic getting out of the Bronx – even 45 minutes after Alex Rodriguez’s pop fly shockingly bounced off the heel of Luis Castillo’s glove – and an incident on the Long Island Rail Road, I walked into my door after 3 a.m.
Friday night came down to this: The Yankees did not deserve to win. Five pitchers combined to walk nine batters, Mariano Rivera inexplicably continued to not get it done in tie games and A-Rod was a routine catch from again being vilified for failing to deliver in the clutch.
Then Castillo dropped the ball and Mark Teixeira – running hard from first base, in other words doing what he’s supposed to do but more and more players refuse to do – raced home with the winning run. But considering the Yankees’ performance in Boston and against the Mets, in this case it was better to be lucky than good. To quote Derek Jeter, “We feel like we stole one.”
“It’s hard to believe, because we tried to give the game away all night, and they took advantage of all the mistakes that we made,” said Joe Girardi. “And in the end, we got the big gift. “I understand that we kind of got a gift tonight. And you can’t pitch like that and expect to win.”
As for the Mets, Jerry Manuel refused to ostracize Castillo – so much for him throwing his players under the bus – while angry fans lit up sports talk radio demanding that Castillo, in the midst of a bounce-back season, be immediately released. An old cliche in baseball is that momentum is as good as the next day’s starting pitcher and if the Mets take the next two games less people will be talking about Castillo and more about the Yankees’ June swoon.
But remember, the Mets choked away the NL East two years in a row, falling short of a playoff spot by one game both times. They can’t look at Friday and say, “It’s one game and it’s early.”
“We’ve had three games this week where we should have had three wins over rivals and we came up short,” said Manuel, citing other blown chances the prior two nights against the Phillies. “This is going to be a good test for us.”
And a bigger one for Castillo’s psyche. After the game he was alone in the clubhouse at his locker, elbows on knees and eyes reddening. The lone consolation is that the Mets don’t return to Citi Field until June 19. It’s up to he and the Mets to give their angry and jaded fan base something a lot more positive, or slightly less negative, to discuss.