Baseball players are seemingly a stubborn lot. They like to play, and most of them outside of Carl Pavano will play through just about anything. Sore ankles, sore knees, sore arms, sore backs. If it ain’t broken, pencil ’em in.
That’s great for a team’s character. After all, no one wants to see a bunch of multi-millionaires begging out of baseball games because they stubbed a toe or just flat-out don’t feel like playing. We’ll leave to the Stephon Marburys of the world. Meanwhile, as players recover from injuries — as they bring their bodies back from surgery and from rehab stints — they tend to push themselves hard. They want to be on the field; they want to be playing the games they love.
When Alex Rodriguez came off the DL in May, the Yankees had a plan. They would play A-Rod five or six days a week and rest him the other day. Maybe he would DH for some games; maybe he would get a full nine innings off, coming up only if the situation warranted pinch hitting with a player who owns 562 career home runs.
Somewhere along the line though the Yankees strayed from that plan. A-Rod hit a home run in his first at-bat, announcing his return in resounding fashion. He then blasted his wall through a stellar May before hitting a wall in June. Through it all, the Yankees never really rested Alex Rodriguez. Prior to last night, Alex Rodriguez started 38 straight Yankee games. He played third 36 times and DHed twice. The Yankees went 24-14.
In a way, the Yankees couldn’t bench A-Rod. Despite their recent slide, the team with A-Rod seemed as though they could maintain that 102-win pace over more than just 38 games. A-Rod and his surgically repaired labrum could not. Over his last 21 games, Alex has hit just .176/.337/.297 with two home runs and three doubles. In a key moment on Wednesday night, in fact, Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi didn’t feel comfortable sending Rodriguez in what I thought was an obvious steal situation.
Yesterday, citing fatigue, the Yankees finally mercifully rested a man they need to keep healthy for the better part of the next 8.5 seasons. While I take issue with Mark Feinsand’s charge that the Yanks “yanked” A-Rod from the lineup as though he was being punished, the quotes the Daily News scribe heard are telling.
“We just feel that he’s fatigued and that he could use a little blow,” Girardi said to Feinsand. “We talked about giving him one day off and we were thinking about doing it tomorrow, but after we slept on it, talked about it and discussed it, we’re going to give him two days off.”
“Overall, any time you’re tired, it may affect your game. But that’s definitely not an excuse,” A-Rod added. “The most important thing in this process of having surgery is that I have to maintain good communication and be very honest with Joe so we can have a plan in place. It’s a long season.”
I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of the Yankee clubhouse and training room, but to me, these days off were long overdue. In early March, A-Rod underwent a pretty major surgical procedure. Two months later, he was playing nine-inning games in the field everyday for nearly seven weeks. That makes me raise an eyebrow.
Earlier this week, Brian Cashman expressed his displeasure with his players’ unwillingness to come forward with injury concerns. Most notable has been Damaso Marte’s extended absence. He may even need to undergo an exploratory procedure just to find out what the main problem is. Yet, this is a path that runs both ways. The Yankees should make sure they’re doing all they can to keep their players who aren’t 100 percent functioning well. No more fatigue-related benchings.