Crushed Ben Rice home run, Anthony Rizzo flop had ironic timing for Yankees

Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees
Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees / Luke Hales/GettyImages

Replacing Anthony Rizzo with slugging prospect Ben Rice still doesn't seem entirely feasible in the middle of a pennant race -- and not just because Rice is still catching down on the farm. The chemistry implications would be ... let's just say that Rizzo, a de facto co-captain, would have to be entirely on board with surrendering playing time to a 12th-rounder out of Dartmouth.

Certainly, though, it seems the universe wants to get in on this argument.

Rice was stationed at Double-A until Wednesday morning -- long enough to catch Gerrit Cole's rehab assignment on Tuesday before immediately moving on up. Clearly, the Yankees have faith in Rice, both as a big-leaguer and a receiver (Cole complimented him, adding to the PR offensive).

But Rice has been stationed at first base plenty, too, leading many fans to assume he might slot in seamlessly in Rizzo's place, whether it's this summer or next season, when it comes time for Hal Steinbrenner's beloved sustainable payroll to clock in.

Clearly, the Baseball Gods think it's time for the Yankees to Embrace Debate. Despite the team's good vibes, Rizzo has been unable to find his footing, and sparked plenty of online criticism (and muffled criticism from the stadium's various hot dog stands) when he popped out with two runners on and two outs in the first inning Thursday.

Yankees prospect Ben Rice tattoos home run as Anthony Rizzo strands runners

What, exactly, was going on at Triple-A at almost the exact moment when The Athletic's Chris Kirschner was forced to fend off a fleet of anti-Rizzo minions?

Rice was capping a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders rally with a nearly 106 MPH home run.

It might've only been the second-most impressive smash of the inning; the top spot belongs to Jasson Dominguez, who sat fastball and tattooed this one with some giddy-up. But Rice's homer, his second in as many games at the level, was more symbolic.

The Yankees have no reason to upset the apple cart immediately; they can delay their decision between Rizzo, Rice, and Trade Option C for another month and a half or so. But the rumblings have already begun, and the big, ticking clock above Rizzo's head is beginning to become a bit more visible to the crowd of onlookers.

Moments of synchronicity like Thursday night only serve to color the question marks in bold. Whether Rice is a fit or not, the Yankees probably have to try by July.