Alex Rodriguez to the Rescue?

Paul MerchanContributor IMay 15, 2008

It's A-Rod to the rescue next week. On May 20, he will rejoin the Yankees, and should single-handily revive them from the doldrums of this regular season. He is the MVP, isn't he? Only an MVP can put a team on his shoulders and take them to October.

Or is that just what all of us in New York want to believe?

The fact is that Mr. Rodriguez is going to have to do a lot more this time around to elevate the team past the deadly lineups of the Rays and Orioles (oh yeah, and the Red Sox). The Yankees are being out-hit, out-gunned, and out-played by their division rivals. This was evident when Edwin Jackson out-dueled Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang a couple of nights ago. It seems that they can't win even when they throw their best out there.

What the Yankees really need is some serious power, and they can only hope that A-Rod is capable of producing that as soon as he takes his first swing. It will be more difficult considering he has been out for three weeks. Before he got injured, he was still trying to get into a groove. No doubt if he doesn't perform well off the injury, we'll hear that he needs time to adjust back.

That's all fine and understandable. Which is why I don't necessarily buy into that A-Rod is going to come riding in on a white horse to save this team. Is he capable of putting a spark into them? Absolutely. Should the team wait for and rely on that to win? Not at all, because it might not happen immediately.

Yet the team really can't win without A-Rod and Jorge Posada in the lineup. Morgan Ensberg and Jose Molina are a large step down from what the other two can provide. And the power hitters they have right now—Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu—are past the time when they could carry a team. Matsui, Abreu, Posada, and Jeter are all compliments to the centerpiece—Alex Rodriguez.

I remember hearing people talk, when the MVP was being decided in 2005, that  A-Rod shouldn't win it because he wasn't the MVP of his own team—that moniker belonged to Jeter, supposedly. I disagreed then and I disagree now. If you look at 2008, Jeter is there, but the offense isn't.

Last year they got off to a worse start, and both Jeter and A-Rod were healthy. But imagine if A-Rod hadn't ripped 14 homeruns in the first month of '07? Where would they have ended up?

Meanwhile, the team is tied for tenth in the A.L. in runs scored (with the Mariners, which shows you that the Yanks' pitching has been respectable, while Seattle's has been pretty bad). They would be well-served by learning how to manufacture runs in the way Joe Girardi has been trying to teach them.

If Matsui and Abreu knock the ball out of the park, Canó continues with the stroke he's found of late, and if Jeter can lead with passion as always, the team will be steady, so that when A-Rod comes, he won't feel the pressure of rescuing the team. He'll just hit and hit often. If that happens, then when Posada comes back, the Yanks certainly will have an increased chance of unseating those Rays from first place!