General Yankees

Not-So-Simple Questions

Without knowing the intricacies of Alex Rodriguez' injury, we would like to know what people think, in the vacuum of our uninformed minds:

Is it better for Alex to go under the knife, miss four months, and be whole again, or is it better for him to gut through the injury, potentially exacerbate things, and risk damaging the possibility of several more years of world-class production?  If you are the player what do you do?  If you are the team what do you advise?* The conflicts are significant.  Opened up for discussion – this is tough one.
*We assume his past health has enabled the Yankees to insure a reasonable portion of his contract.

53 replies on “Not-So-Simple Questions”

Last year I would have said “let him play, at least for a while, to see how things go… the Yankees need him”. This year, with the additions the Yanks made to their rotation and lineup, I think they’ll be OK without him (of course assuming Wang stays off the base paths).
If the surgery goes well and he rehabs successfully he’ll be back for the stretch run and the playoffs, assuming the Yanks are the surviving head from the three-headed monster that is the AL East.
On the other hand, if he opts to push through, he could be OK but he could be totally ineffective (a la Mike Lowell) and as a bonus, delay surgery until it’s too late for him to help the team in Sep/Oct.
(Or he could take some HGH to speed along the healing proc… wait, he’s clean now. Never mind.)

Of course, A-Rod is exactly the second third baseman in this rivalry to have a torn labrum in his hip in the past two years.
Mike Lowell on Sept. 15 told reporters he would need surgery after the season for a problem that had been bothering him for quite a while. We all remember his limping, dreadfully painful-looking performances from that point forward.
Lowell’s hip became a topic of discussion in early August, when Lowell received a cortisone shot — his second of the season. His first was just before the All-Star break.
On Aug. 13, he told reporters he also had an injured oblique that he strained while swinging at a pitch. “I don’t see them as two totally different things,” he said. “It’s just too much of a coincidence.” Lowell said he’d been playing through pain in his hip since late June.
So pain from a torn labrum first surfaced in Lowell’s hip in late June, requiring cortisone shots in July and August and growing progressively worse to the point where he injured an oblique by overcompensating, missing two weeks in late August, then returning only to noticeable be in pain on the field by late September.
Meanwhile, his numbers through June 30 were .304/.365/.526. He had 12 home runs and 27 extra-base hits. From July 1 to the end of the season, he hit .233/.298/.366 with five home runs and 13 extra-base hits.
Lowell’s production and health slid steadily while playing through his injury, and he was all but useless in less than three months. If the same thing happens to A-Rod, this could be a lost season, instead of one where he simply returns for the second half.
Assuming the Yankees could stay in contention without A-Rod through the All-Star Break, wouldn’t you want his healthy bat in August, September and October? That seems like a far better option than rolling the dice on his not needing season-ending surgery by June.

I am sure Yankee fans will be ready to embrace the concern trolling of us Sox fans!
I think it is admirable that A-Rod has played through this pain, and effectively so. If he can continue to play at last year’s pace with this injury then I don’t see a big issue with his staying active. On the other hand, if there is risk that this will cascade into other injuries or worsen to the point that recovery time becomes exacerbated beyond the four months, then A-Rod should go under the knife. The caveat of going under the knife is that the surgery has to have a good chance of total success and that the surgery will offer some measurable protection from future injury in the same area. In other words, if there is a chance that A-Rod’s surgery will fix the problem right now but will not do anything to reduce his risk profile to enough of a degree later on, then why have the surgery now?
Curt Schilling had conflicts with the Sox about his injuries, if I remember correctly. But Curt didn’t have a guaranteed $275M contract. In this case, the player has little incentive, other than a desire to play and win, to go under the knife. If Alex injures himself and the team approves of the risk in his playing, then so be it – only the Yankees are taking a financial risk.
There are some interesting financial calculations to be done.
Yankees minus A-Rod for four months = increased chances of missing playoffs.
Missing playoffs = how much $$$?
A-Rod + exacerbated hip injury = How much reduction in production from A-Rod over how many months/years?
A-Rod’s lesser production = what percentage of $275M?
How much does it cost to replace this production?
How much does the potential lesser production impact future chances for team success?
This is a brutal dilemma to face, I think.

Well, the math is slightly more complicated as insurance would probably pay a portion of the missed time, but of course, if we’re going that route, we have to factor in the insurance cost into the contract.
That said, assuming the Yanks can stay in contention, ARod should wait no longer and come back at the end of the season, maybe even pretend it’s April and produce!

Insurance is part of the equation, as I mentioned in the top post. But the insurance only replaces the cost of his contract, it doesn’t replace his production. And if the loss of production hurts the Yankees such that they miss the playoffs, then insurance matters less. The post-season revenues are not protected by Alex’s insurance policy, and these are probably the revenues most easily calculated – how much will the Yankees reap if they make the playoffs, how much will they reap if the make the playoffs and go X far, and how much will they reap if they win everything? And, the calculation becomes how much lower will their chances be (without A-Rod’s production or with reduced production) for all of this added revenue, none of which is protected by insurance.
So one exercise is probably: missed revenue + replacement player production value + A-Rod’s replacement insurance money = value $x? Is that number positive or negative?

I think he should opt for the surgery. The dangers involved with playing through an injury are more than just the injury itself. Think of limping, or being in pain – one will put more of the weight, and depend on other parts of the lower half to carry the weight. One injury often leads to another injury because the other leg/hip/oblique starts doing more work to make up for the loss of stablization.
I think that if they’re willing to run the risk of other injuries beget from this one, then they also must assume the responsibilities inherent in losing him for the entire season.
Have the surgery now, be done with it, and come back strong after the break. Or, run the risk of not being able to handle it and missing the second half instead – when they need you the most.
I know some people play through it, but not everyone is 6’5 and 240lbs of muscle on a bad hip either. Chase Utley is smaller than I am. It’s a different beast.
Plus, as much of a fan of drama I am, A-Rod has been the backpage on 20 of the last 27 days – it’s probably best that he holes up in the DR somewhere for awhile and lets the book come out while he’s not around. The stress level among the players would probably be lessened if he were to take a small vacation now, and come back after the storm.

Mike Lowell is all the proof you need that he should have surgery, but keep in mind that Lowell is older and his hip was torn… Arod has a cyst.
Because of the 3-headed monster in the East, I can see why the Yanks would prefer an Arod at 75%, but my guess is that this problem will not be managable… it will just get worse over time… and I read that this was already nagging him in 2008.
Bottom Line: The Yanks spent all that money to get back on top… and this could ruin all of that. But they are still good enough to contend without Arod.
If I was a New Yorker, I’d want him healthy when it matters most, not limping into a playoff race.

You absolutely, without a doubt, have to get the surgery in this situation. ARod is in year 2 of a 10-year deal. Ten years! Avoiding the surgery and letting him play in June is not worth risking long-term damage to the best player in the game, who still has 9 years left on his contract.
Having said all of that, I don’t think the Yankees make the playoffs if ARod is out for 2/3 of the season.

Chase Utley played with this condition the entire year. I’d be willing to bet that several major leaguers are playing with this condition as we speak. It is prudent to try rest and rehab before going with the surgery route.
The equation is this. If he has the surgery, he’s out four months at the *minimum*. That’s assuming no complications, or another injury in rehab, etc. And that’s a guarantee. There’s a chance that A-Rod can play the season with this injury, and play it well. If he does eventually get injured, at least you got his production up to that point.
The worst case scenario in that case is A-Rod plays until he can’t. The best case scenario is that A-Rod plays the entire season. The worst/best case in the other scenario is A-Rod doesn’t play, or A-Rod only plays half the season. It’s easy to see why they’re going the rest and rehab route, there’s much more reward involved, with not that much more risk.

Andrew: I pretty much agree with you (am I the only Sox fan in this regard?!). But the scenarios you describe only address this season, the short term. There are legitimate discussions to be had about the long-term implications of this injury, (if there are long-term implications, which there must be), particularly in light of the massive contract the Yankees have with Rodriguez.

as someone who has just gone through a major hip surgery (resurfacing) – I can tell you it’s not fun. The dilema here is – the risk of the surgery, the risk of playing with a slowly deteriorating hip, and the future years.
They noticed the problem in his swing last season, it’s only going to get worse. When will that start penalizing the team (obviously in Utley’s case, it didn’t, and Lowell, really not until the playoffs).
Of course, I read somewhere that cortisone shots also speed up the arthritis issues in a joint, so do you go that route with a 10 year contract.
Quite the conundrum, if I’m the NYY, I opt him for surgery right away, and get him back for a playoff run. (maybe they wait a little and see how Lowell ends up?)

I’m pretty sure the Yankees got confirmation from that hip specialist guy that this injury can only get worse in terms of itself, and that surgery will fix just the same whether it’s slightly torn like it is now, or completely off the bone like it could become. Remember that this is not some abnormality with A-Rod’s body itself, it’s an issue of wear and tear that everyone probably has to deal with.
If there were long-term complications, like A-Rod needing hip replacement because of this, I think you’d see him getting surgery.

Get the surgery now so he can be back as soon as possible. I think, on paper, the Yankees are a better all-around team this year than last. It’s not like ARod carried us last year like he did in 2007 so it’s conceivable that we will be fine without him. Add a MUCH better rotation and a solid bullpen and could pitching *GASP* actually be the strength of the Yankees this season? Assuming Hip Hip, Godzilla and Damon stay healthy (I know, big if…) I have to think we can still score runs. #25 will have something to say about that as well. All the hitters had bad seasons last year and it’s hard to imagine that will happen again…
Wishful thinking on my part?

sure thing – pitching, clamp down defense (oh wait, somewhat of a problem there), can definately help keep the boat afloat – but are Yankee fans worried about Joba’s performance so far this spring? seems like he’s being relied on to carry a large burden in their starting pitching this year.

dw(sf) – Joba is being relied upon to be the fifth starter, and pitch 150 innings. In fact, he’s the least relied-upon of the starting 5.
And no, no one should be concerned or heartened about any statistics on March 6th. Reports are that Joba has been taking it easy and working at less than 100%. That he was being clocked at 87-89 his first time out seems to prove that theory. I’d look for him to actually start working it his next start, since now the Yankees are going to be starting their rotation in ST.

Pitchers usually seem to struggle in Spring Training because their velocity tends to be 5-8mph slower than usual. In a few more weeks when his fastball is hitting 98 he’ll be doing just fine.

understand the Joba = 5th starter, and velocity, but he’s having control issues (walked 4 I believe in one inning).
Beckett is looking good however :)

Hard to say since we don’t know how much the tear itself is affecting him. Obviously he played pretty well with it last year. The main issue this spring was stiffness, caused by the sheer size of the cyst affecting normal joint movement. I’ve had something similar on my wrist, though the cyst was on a tendon sheath. If aspirating the cyst relieves the pressure in the hip and allows Arod to play at the level he played at last year, then great! Try it out, monitor him closely, and shut him down if the problem appears to be worsening significantly.

Chase Utley played with this condition the entire year.
Utley did put up terrific numbers overall and only had one moderately sized slump in the middle of the year, but this graph (as well as this one) would make me think the hip took its toll on his power stroke, perhaps more than you’d tell just looking at the final numbers.

If you take what the Yankees have said at face value (for arguments sake of course):
ARod’s torn labrum is not a pain issue for him right now. The cyst which was drained was the only reason he had the hip checked this spring (he had complained of stiffness).
If this is true (IF) then I don’t see why ARod cannot play until it actually starts really bugging him (red light on bases, no going for triples, special rules about sending him home from 2nd).
The Yankees organizational concerns this year are simply to make the playoffs. The more games they get out of him the better chance they have of that happening. Saving him for the final run isn’t an option if that means he plays 45 games versus 125 games.

Wishful thinking on my part?
Yes. 7 win players are not replaced by 4A players (Ransom). 2 win players (Beltre) don’t do it either.
I’m completely with Andrew. You keep playing him until you have no other choice. A-Rod at 75% of his best is still better than 90% of the other 3B’s out there. Still, this is the Yankees we’re talking about. I would not be the least bit surprised to see him have the surgery now and they acquire someone like Beltre.

But that’s not the full math, Rob. The 7 win player is a 4 win player, the 2 win player a 1.2 win player. It’s half a season plus, not 162 games. And the fuller equation is when you add in the pitching staff compared to last year, and see if the offset is real or not. The Yankees may be able to get by without A-Rod, if all goes somewhat according to plan with the staff and players coming back from injury or down seasons (Cano, Matsui, Posada).
I don’t think this is a no-brainer, even as I mostly agree with you and Andrew.

Saving him for the final run isn’t an option if that means he plays 45 games versus 125 games.
I agree with this sentiment, but one of the months he’d miss now is exhibition games. So we’re talking 80 games versus 120-140, but the latter could involve Lowell-type degradation by the end of the season. It’s just hard to know how quickly this could progress. The smart move right now is to wait and see if the cyst starts to fill up again.
would make me think the hip took its toll on his power stroke, perhaps more than you’d tell just looking at the final numbers.
A-Rod’s monthly splits show a similar trend and coinciding with when Long first started to notice the subtle change in his footwork during July.
Apr: .286 .343 .495
May: .293 .408 .610
Jun: .366 .455 .693
Jul: .337 .413 .621
Aug: .243 .352 .495
Sep: .278 .383 .532
Still, I’d take him at .850 to .915 OPS any season. The problem is whether it’s going to get worse than that. Beltre, the most likely alternative, would be lucky to give a .800 OPS. And their gloves aren’t that different to say Beltre will make up for the offense there.

If A-Rod is at 75% over the aggregate of the season (assuming somekind of decline), then he’s actually a 5.25-win player. If he’s a 5.25-win player over three-fourths of the season before his condition worsens to needing surgery, then he’s down to a four-win player, plus he’s not available for September and October.
Beltre was worth 4.2 wins last season, A-Rod worth 6.2. Four wins is still a lot from a third baseman, but it’s replaceable. I think, given the injury and the effects it had on Lowell and even Utley last season, it would be pretty unlikely for Rodriguez to surpass his production from last season, or even match it. Especially if the injury was already affecting his swing toward the end of the season (which the hitting coach says it was).

Rodriguez was an average defender last season (-1 run), while Beltre was worth 13.4 runs above average with the glove. Only Longoria was better among full-time third basemen last year.

I don’t think this is a no-brainer, even as I mostly agree with you and Andrew.
I never meant to imply it was. It’s a tough call especially since the surgery is successful only half the time. But I also agree with Andrew that many players are probably dealing with this condition. And I thought it was a fascinating insight for Cashman to say you treat symptoms not the MRI, especially since MRI’s often miss small tears.
On a personal note, I would like to see him “man up” and play hurt, even as I’m sure he has many times previously. But if the risk is a player that can’t function in September? Or one who played hurt and brought his team a world championship?
Just a tough call all around.

plus he’s not available for September and October.
That’s an assumption that Utley can argue with.
Rodriguez was an average defender last season (-1 run), while Beltre was worth 13.4 runs above average with the glove.
Where are you getting your numbers? RATE calls both below average. RZR says they’re equal in the middle of the pack. Only OOZ says Beltre is significantly better.

On a personal note, I would like to see him “man up” and play hurt, even as I’m sure he has many times previously. But if the risk is a player that can’t function in September?
I probably land pretty hard on the surgery-now side because of watching Lowell last year. He was universally praised for toughing it out and playing through pain, which is commendable, but he couldn’t move in the field and could barely swing at the plate.
Of course, there are other considerations: A-Rod is younger than Lowell, is starting from a higher baseline, and doesn’t have a player of Youkilis’ caliber who can just step in and provide excellent production at the position.

My September/October comment was predicated on the previous dependent clause: If he’s a 5.25-win player over three-fourths of the season before his condition worsens to needing surgery
Clearly if this doesn’t happen, then he would not miss time in September or October.

And I thought it was a fascinating insight for Cashman to say you treat symptoms not the MRI, especially since MRI’s often miss small tears.
But according to the Times today (the excellent Jack Curry, here: they didn’t even get a follow-up MRI, they only went off the first one. So Cashman is talking out of his ass here. And really, who cares what Cashman (or Theo Epstein, to make sure I don’t make anyone think this is an attack) has to say about medicine? They are the GMs, interested in the here and now. Do we honestly think that Cashman is thinking about 2015 or 2016? I am guessing the Yankees are, at least the ones who actually own them.
Just because MRIs miss things doesn’t mean you don’t get one. I am very glad Cashman is not my doctor. “So you’re barfing up blood, you are going blind in one eye, but I can’t see anything wrong with you on the X-Ray. Go home, get some rest!”. Oy.

Off topic, but I had a reckoning this morning…
Love him, hate him, or indifferent, you really have to marvel in the spectacle that is Alex Rodriguez. If I read this character in a book, I would enjoy the book.
It’s just incredible.

UZR/150 actually has Beltre at +16.8 to A-Rod’s -1.3.
Ah, you’re getting your numbers from fangraphs. I was getting mine here.
“So you’re barfing up blood, you are going blind in one eye, but I can’t see anything wrong with you on the X-Ray. Go home, get some rest!”. Oy.
Come on, man. The reason they didn’t go back for another is because A-Rod stopped complaining and OPSed .915 in September. He also said they if every player got a MRI they’d find all sorts of problems, many of which are old injuries. Treating the symptoms is a tried and true approach in medicine.
Now, I work with MRI’s and we use 1mm slices. I hurt my knee a few years back. I go get a MRI. Except they used 5mm slices (at a major sports medicine university) and they find nothing. I ask the orthopedic (who has worked with pro athletes) why the big difference. He told me that even if they found something with the higher resolution they wouldn’t be able to fix it. So he gave me a cortisone shot, calling it a nuclear bomb for pain, and sent me on my way while telling me he’d be happy to fix anything major so to keep going hard and come back when it shows up on the MRI.

Love him, hate him, or indifferent, you really have to marvel in the spectacle that is Alex Rodriguez.
Right, the fictional media creation. Just like Jeter is “The Captain” but couldn’t change positions for a better player. And so he’ll rot at SS until he retires.

pete abraham thinks Arod is having surgery, maybe as early as monday. Apparently it is being discussed by the yankees and “is a possibility.”

So…everybody just agrees that ARod has been hampered by the tear? When they noticed it in Sept. they decided to do nothing about it because having surgery then would have easily given him a chance to start the season healthy? You realize that the cyst could be the only present issue with ARod’s ability to perform this year (right now).
The only thing ARod seems to have to worry about is not whether his hip will get worse but if he may injure something else over-compensating for his hip issues as he plays.

Walein, I am not sure I understand the “all is mostly well, remain calm” attitude. All isn’t well – there seems to be much more risk than a collateral injury. Now that doesn’t mean Alex won’t play through the injury and play at a high level, clearly he has done this in the past and currently the plan is for him to attempt to do this now. But there is clearly something wrong, otherwise there wouldn’t be serious discussions within the Yankee organization (which there have clearly been, by the admission of the team and not by the accusation of basement-dwelling bloggers) about taking Alex out of commission for four months to fix the problem. These discussions are clearly still ongoing. So the idea that there is no additional risk to Alex beyond a related injury from what he is already suffering from seems like an incorrect one, to me.

I agree completely. I’m just saying that there are really just 2 things happening here:
1) The Yankees are actually giving us full disclosure and right now are discussing which option is best for the Yankees this year and next year (in terms of them making the playoffs).
2) There decision was made about 2 weeks ago and right now the Yankees are trying to discuss 2 things–
a. Can we prance A Rod out for a month because it will greatly help with our season ticket sales figures.
b. Since ARod has been on the team what months have we done best in ticket and concession sales.
All I was saying is that there should be at least a little lip-service to the idea that the Yankees may be telling the truth.
Of course I haven’t heard anywhere that the Yankees have flown in Medical experts from all over to make this decision and so I doubt it very highly that the discussions going on take into account Alex’s health as the primary concern. My guess is that they have SVPs, CFOs, and COOs meeting to make some decisions right now.

That and the “Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players (1885)” according to MLBs website.

I think the Yanks have been pretty open with this, once it came out. I am not interested in a critique of the Yankees’ openness regarding A-Rod. I don’t have one. Yet!
However, I do think there are competing interests here, and I also think this sentiment is non-controversial. Every team with a superstar has the same exact competing interests when an said player, under mid/long-term contract, is in a gray area with an injury.

The key factor in this debate ought to be the length of ARod’s contract. The Yankees would be crazy, imho, to let him “play through” what could be a career-damaging injury in order to get one season of Rodriguez contributing less than his full potential. ARod would be similarly foolish to risk converting a dicey health issue into a potentially permanently-compromising one.
Plus, to let this question linger all season would be a colossal distraction to the team, though that is a minor consideration compared to protecting the investment in ARod by choosing the better-safe-than-sorry route.
So definitely, he should go under the knife ASAP.

P.S. One other factor might be the “wear and tear” of ARod dealing with the added scrutiny/questioning that playing hurt would bring. If he tries to gut it out, every time he hits a routine grounder the entire media will say it would have been a home run if not for his hip. For a player who doesn’t care as much about his image, this might not matter. But between his pre-existing controversiality, the steroids scrutiny, and doubts about his health, ARod will be under even more of a spotlight than ever. If I were him, I’d get the surgery over with and take that off the table — look to the future.
Of course, unless he hits 99 home runs the year after he returns, everyone will say that “he’s not the same after the surgery.” So maybe it’s a lose-lose situation for him. Even more reason, then, not to sacrifice his health.

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