Friday afternoon, the big news in New York was Andy Pettitte announcing his retirement after this season. Sunday, the big news is going to be Mariano Rivera's grand retirement ceremony. In between, though? When Alex Rodriguez arrived in the clubhouse Friday, he didn't know about Pettitte. Which, unless I'm reading this incorrectly, we're supposed to hold against him ...
And, on cue, Rodriguez reinjected himself into the Yankee conversation in typically marquee fashion. His grand slam in the seventh inning lifted the Yankees past the San Francisco Giants, 5-1, lifting their faint postseason hopes.
The grand slam was Rodriguez’s 24th, sending him past Lou Gehrig for first place on the career list.
But if there is one Yankee who seems unencumbered by reality — or the notion of goodbye, for that matter — it would be Rodriguez. While he did not know about Pettitte, he did know that he was in a 1-for-22 skid entering the game.
“I’ve been missing balls, hitting high, towering fly balls,” Rodriguez said. “I thought my legs were a little better today."
Gee, that seems sort of a cheap shot, doesn't it? Generally speaking, baseball is a team game only in name. I want my $30 million slugger thinking about himself rather than listening to WFAN or whatever on the way to the ballpark. Is Alex Rodriguez a better baseball player if he knows about Andy Pettitte's latest retirement?
Even with the 1-for-22 skid, Rodriguez now has an 822 OPS, which would rank fifth among American League third baseman and is a lot better than the Yankee third basemen who came before him. This is exactly what everyone hoped for, that he would give the Yankees average or even-above production at the position.
Everyone also hoped that Alfonso Soriano would, like Rodriguez, provide some serious right-handed power to a lineup that was sorely lacking in that quality. And Soriano's done exactly that, blasting 16 home runs in less than two months.
Again, Rodriguez and Soriano have done exactly what they were supposed to do, have given the Yankees exactly what they needed. And yet ... Soriano first appeared in the Yankees' lineup on the 26th of July; Rodriguez debuted on the 5th of August. Let's split the difference. In August and September, the Yankees have gone 25-22. Before that, they were 56-51. I suspect that a lot of people, if you'd asked them, would have figured good stretch runs from Rodriguez and Soriano would have put the Yankees over the top. Of course they would.
But the game's not that easy. Even if those two things go right, you've got 23 other things that can go wrong. More than 23, because when a few of those things go wrong, a few of the fixes for those wrong things might also go wrong.
None of which means the Yankees shouldn't have been glad to have A-Rod back, or that Brian Cashman shouldn't have acquired Alfonso Soriano. Through pluck and (a great deal of) luck, the Yankees were in a position to make the end of the season interesting, and Cashman did what he could to improve the odds. But you can't make a whole team significantly better in July and August by adding a couple of players, simply because those sorts of players are rarely available. Cashman tried like hell to win this summer. But the Yankees didn't do nearly enough to win last winter.
For much more about the Yankees' playoff push, please visit SB Nation's Pinstriped Bible.