Wednesday night, Alex Rodriguez blasted two home runs in the same game for the first time in over a year, lifting the New York Yankees to victory a over the Kansas City Royals. It was the 60th time A-Rod has hit multiple homers in the same game, a tremendous feat. But, Yankees fans should not begin to believe this signals a return of the A-Rod who could carry a team on his shoulders.
This almost 37-year-old version of Rodriguez is more of an interior piece to the puzzle than he is the centerpiece or the cornerstone. Do the Yankees need him to be productive? Absolutely! But, do they need him to go on spectacular streaks where he is hitting homers on a nightly basis and driving in three or four runs a game? Absolutely not!
The Yankees have multiple horses to ride to the playoffs. Each of them is integral to the success of the club. The days of Rodriguez hitting 40-50 homers, driving in 120+ runs and carrying a team for lengthy periods are long gone. That said, he can still be very productive and performances like last night are going to be welcomed whenever they transpire. Most likely, those games will be few and far between, just like they had been up until last night. But, the talk of his career quickly winding down is grossly overblown.
It is true that the Yankees will be happy if A-Rod is able to stay healthy and contribute on a more consistent basis. His health remains a question mark due to his previous physical limitations which may still creep up. Despite his slowly deteriorating power, there are positives to draw from the way Rodriguez is playing as a whole, which allow me to believe he can be a major contributor to the team for the remainder of the season.
Chief among them, and a requirement for the rest, is his apparent good health. A-Rod looks to be in great shape for a man who has almost 2,500 games under his belt and who has suffered injuries in the past few seasons. This can be attributed to a few things; his offseason workouts, his in-season training and the days of rest or playing as a DH mandated by manager Joe Girardi.
A-Rod still hits for a decent average (.281) and has a more than respectable OBP (.372). The power may come in spurts now instead of being regular but it is still there. The first home run he hit Wednesday night was a laser and the second was a vintage A-Rod bomb. Now instead of expecting such displays, we find ourselves hoping, and that is OK.
A-Rod has shown that he can still be a factor on the bases. He has five stolen bases without being caught this season, which is more than he had in both 2010 and 2011 (four each). While his range in the field may also be dwindling, he still has a very strong arm at third, which was displayed at the end of Tuesday night’s game, saving the tying run from scoring in the ninth inning.
Rodriguez has had some monumental seasons in his career. He has earned more money playing the game of baseball than any other player and this leads to the undying scrutiny he receives. He has carried teams to the postseason and even placed the Yankees on his back in the 2009 playoffs when no one thought he could.
Those days are over now. The time has come to accept A-Rod’s transformation from a once prolific home run hitter and run-producer under great expectations to carry a team, to a piece of the puzzle who simply needs to do his part. Don’t count on many more games like Wednesday’s power display, but believe that Alex Rodriguez is far from finished and can contribute to the success of this club.