Headlines that make you go, "Oh."
At first it was reasonable to think Alex Rodriguez was having trouble with his jaw, and he couldn't talk. If Hollywood has taught me anything, it's that German doctors have ways of making you do that. But, no, he had a little Orthokine done to his knee. It's just an experimental procedure that you'd expect a desperate athlete to try when standard treatments fail. No biggie.
Well, using the words "experimental" and "desperate" is a kind of a scare tactic. It's not like this was a face transplant. It's not like he went to a new-age surgeon to have a crystal put in the nook where his heart never was. Doctors used Rodriguez's own blood to create a serum that was injected into his knee. The Yankees and Major League Baseball knew about the procedure. There isn't anything too controversial about it.
But this is news. A-Rod had surgery on his right knee last July. When he returned, he was awful. And as to the effectiveness of the surgery for the long term, I'd wager that his knee is still bothering him. My evidence is this: He flew to Germany to have his own blood spun around a centrifuge and injected into his knee. That's not something you do on a lark.
Seems like as good a place as any to leave this ...
There's a decent chance that Prince Fielder -- a 27-year-old among the best at his postion -- doesn't get a contract that exceeds the total money that Alex Rodriguez is still owed. And as we've been fond of reminding you this offseason, it looks like the Yankees have finally reached some sort of payroll limit.
The temptation is to get apocalyptic and say the A-Rod contract is the worst of all-time, even before he crumbles. That's a little premature. Maybe the Orthokine does what it's supposed to -- which, based on the name, is kill crabgrass and other weeds that might be growing inside the knee -- and Rodriguez plays another six years at a high level. Maybe. Unlikely, but possible.
The point of this isn't to make you stop and chuckle at the A-Rod contract. Well, it's not the entire point. The point is mostly that, with a little bit of concern trolling mixed in. The Yankees have $125 million already committed to 2013 -- this goes up to $153 million if you assume they'll exercise their options on Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. That money is committed to six players (eight if you include Granderson/Cano). All of them will be over 30.
Two of them are of dubious value already (A.J. Burnett and Rafael Soriano). Three of them are already showing signs of a troublesome decline (Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira). And there will still be anywhere from 17 to 19 roster spots to fill. The only two pre-arbitration players that they should feel comfortable counting on are Jesus Montero and Ivan Nova.
We're not even mentioning that Kei Igawa will be arbitration-eligible. I mean, $$$.
The A-Rod knee news is a reminder that even great players get old. And old players break down. And the Yankees are counting on a bunch of them. Reports of the Yankees' demise have been greatly exaggerated for the last decade. This column could have been written before 2009, when Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Jorge Posada were the greatest over-35 quartet in the history of the game, and that led to a World Series championship. Old isn't a synonym for doomed.
But the Yankees have moved past the flirting-with-disaster stage. They're sliding their hotel keys across the bar to disaster and making all sorts of gross kissy faces. Their most expensive player is having an unusual procedure done to his knee, they aren't willing to sign any more free agents because they don't want to exceed the luxury tax, and things might get worse next offseason. The A-Rod injury problems could be a blip on a very talented roster. Or it could be the beginning of the oldvalanche that has to come at some point.