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Lupica’s 8-Ball: Yankees Ignore Outlook

Although he made an admonition that the Yankees are dissing the Magic-8, Mike Lupica congratulated Alex Rodriguez on his surgery.

The good news for Alex Rodriguez, who was due for some, is that the first of the surgeries on his hip was classified a success by his doctors. The even better news for Rodriguez, at least for the time being, is that he has now managed to change the subject, from steroids and Cousin Yuri to his rehab.

That “time being” eight seconds, which is how long it took for me to read that paragraph and also is the length of a successful bull ride, as long as we’re prosaically straddling Alex’s hips.

Just in terms of distance, it probably isn’t so far from where we can assume Cousin Yuri was injecting Rodriguez with Primobolan and testosterone to where Dr. Mark Philippon of Vail, Colo., performed arthroscopic surgery on that troublesome and now famous hip. For now, though, it makes a world of difference to the Yankee third baseman and the face of the Yankee brand.

For now? What now? Time’s up. I’m already back to imagining ARod’s fantastic, injected ass.

For a while there this spring, a lot of the chatter around here was about whether the Yankees could somehow figure out a way to get rid of Rodriguez eventually and get out from under a contract whose total value could reach $300 million someday.

Where’s “there” and “here?” Is it between Alex’s hip and ass?

Now everybody is marking the days until the guy comes back in May.

Sure, possible, but I’m guessing that “everybody is” probably means “writers are.” However, of this I am as certain as I ever have been on anything: Alex Rodriguez’ contracts will be debated as long as he plays baseball and well beyond.

But when he does come back, as he plays this season knowing that he will need more invasive surgery in November, a fair question is this:

Will the next five years from A-Rod be anything like the last five?

It would be a more fairer question if it were “will A-Rod be able to perform this season at a level consistent with his career, and will the ‘hybrid surgery’ and therapy prevent permanent damage to the affected area? If I may be permitted a follow-up, I’d like to ask that question again after the ’09 campaign.”

Maybe a better question, one you know the Yankees are asking themselves, is have they already seen the very best of Alex Rodriguez they are going to see?

The Magic 8-ball sez “yes, definitely, how do you become better than the best position player of your generation and where are you setting your mileposts and no it’s not a better question.”

You don’t go by what the Yankees say publicly, because they haven’t exactly been on top of the guy’s condition since he first reported stiffness in his hip last season. Brian Cashman keeps referring to what the Yankees originally found on Rodriguez’s hip as “incidental.” Really? If that’s true, then things sure must have gotten worse between the end of last season and the start of spring training.

There might be a real story in there that I would like to read. Maybe.

Because now we have one surgery already on the guy, working on two, and there are no guarantees about this season or anything else. Even though the Yankees keep putting so much of a smiley face on all these medical reports, you get the idea the whole thing is supposed to be more fun than “Scrubs.”

I don’t watch Scrubs. I don’t watch Dr. Dreamy, The Guy With The Cane And Drug Habit, or Genital Hospital. But I agree that there are no guarantees. I thought MASH might have been funny 30 years ago, but that’s probably because my Grandpa laughed at the jokes.

Yankee fans, whether they are A-Rod fans or not, have a right to wonder not only what kind of A-Rod they get this year, but the next eight after that, especially in light of the amazingly high standards the guy has already set. And they have been amazingly high standards, at least in the regular season.

Because he’s so amazingly amazing, I have a right to wonder.

I called up the Elias Sports Bureau the other day and asked how many guys in baseball’s 500 home run club had big home-run finishes from the age A-Rod is now until the end of their careers. Here is what Bob Waterman of Elias came up with:

There are six guys in the 500 club who hit 200 home runs after what will be A-Rod’s Opening Day age, which is 33 years and 253 days. Three names are as magical as there are in all of baseball history, the great Henry Aaron with 274, Babe Ruth with 244, Willie Mays with 207.

Two thoughts… 1) you needed Elias for that? ..and.. 2) I love Magic!

The other three?

Barry Bonds (388).

Rafael Palmeiro (274).

Mark McGwire (230).

If you asked ESB how many other players are in the “33” club who hit more home runs than A-Rod by that point, I think the answer is approximately “zero”.

You can see: It is no easy thing, or sure thing, to maintain your home run game as you get older. Ted Williams, the greatest pure hitter of them all, hit 197 home runs after he was 33 years old and change. Reggie Jackson only got to 194.

Facts! I love them more than Magic! Another fact: it’s even harder to maintain your home run game when you aren’t actually playing baseball because you get recalled to active duty in Korea at age 34 and choose to fly fighter planes losing most of your age 33-34 seasons, after already losing three full seasons to WWII. I think Ted deserves the acknowledgment that 197 is an artificially light number while we are making points about performance at age 33 up.

Unless there were some wonder drugs that Ruth and Aaron and Mays were taking, they did what they did without any pharmaceutical help. The newer guys – Bonds, Palmeiro, McGwire – they seem to have had plenty of help.

Rodriguez? He says he stopped getting help out of a bottle or from the end of a needle six years ago, that he has been clean since then as he’s continued his pursuit of the all-time home run record.

Alex also hits for a fairly decent average and has a not-so-shabby glove and steals base now and then and helps his team win baseball games moreso than most other players. Regardless of what things “seem” like, we are talking about a set of players of remarkable talent that live on the far edge of the bell curve.

So he finished last season with 553 home runs, and at the time he did seem like a sure thing to pass Aaron and Bonds and get to 800 home runs in the big leagues. Only now he is supposed to have had two surgeries on his hip before playing the 2010 season, when he turns 35.

553? Wow. I forgot it was that many. Too bad his condition can’t be helped by anything more than leeches, cupping and grim speculation to bring the humors back into line.

This is what Nate Silver, a statistical (and Electoral College) genius, wrote for Baseball Prospectus before he even found out about Rodriguez’s bum hip:

“Although Rodriguez generally has been the picture of health, that trend somewhat reversed itself in 2008, when he missed 24 games, the most in any season since 1999. Injury problems can sometimes be compounding, especially when a player reaches his mid-30s. There is some anecdotal evidence that players who have experimented with steroids are more inclined to have chronic injury problems.”

Silver also pointed out that Rodriguez hit 30 home runs in the first half of the ’07 season, 24 the second half, 19 in the first half last season, 16 after the All-Star break. Also before Silver and the rest of us found out about A-Rod’s bum hip.

Nate Silver stated facts.

The Yankees? They never worried that he might break down, even a little. They never worried about drugs with him, either, but then let’s face it, this is an organization you’ve never confused with the DEA. Hank Steinbrenner just knew he needed A-Rod as an attraction in his ballpark and on his network. And that’s all he wanted to know.

Nate Silver stated facts.

Now Hank knows what everybody knows about Rodriguez.

Nate forget it.

Maybe the most amazing part of the Alex Rodriguez story is that we haven’t gotten to the good parts yet.

For a baseball fan, there have been quite a few good parts. Dozens. Dozens of dozens. I certainly hope for quite a few more. For a professional writer, how much better can the Alex Rodriguez story get?

One reply on “Lupica’s 8-Ball: Yankees Ignore Outlook”

“…we haven’t gotten to the good parts yet….”
there are good parts?…and there’s more?…what else could there possibly be?…wait, no i get it…he’s not actually talking about news here…by “good parts” he means arod’s ass-cheeks…i guess loopy’s next story will be a thousand words rhapsodizing about arod’s sexy man boobs…

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