(Many of you have probably been wondering where “The A-Rod Apologist” has been the last couple of weeks. Perhaps hiding in a corner, protecting himself from ridicule? Maybe eating a giant plate of crow after sticking up for a player who has 2 hits in 19 postseason at bats (all though he did get robbed of two, 2-rbi singles that could have been potential game changers, but hey, that’s the postseason). A-Rod’s struggles aren’t what I’m here to write about today).
It is time…
By now we have had time to absorb and digest the loss of Derek Jeter. The beloved Captain and postseason hero will no longer lead the Yankees in the battle for American League supremacy against the Detroit Tigers. The image of Jeter grimacing on the ground, rolling over and trying to flip the ball to Robinson Cano followed by him being carried off the field was heart wrenching to watch. At the end of the inning every fan and television viewer knew there was much more than a two run deficit to overcome.
Which leads me to this point: Derek Jeter is the leader of the Yankees. But, he is not the Yankees. The Yankees are about tradition, history, class and excellence. Yes, Jeter encompassed all of those qualities but there are 24 other men on that roster, all of which must step up to replace Jeter’s production. Out of that 24, there are two players in particular who must take Jeter’s loss as an opportunity to cement their Yankee legacy: Robinson Cano and yes, Alex Rodriguez.
Cano has been the most productive Yankee over the past three years, finally harnessing his tools and realizing his potential as a slick-fielding, stick-wielding second baseman. He is already due for a big payday and could launch his pending contract negotiations into another stratosphere with an outstanding postseason and leading the Yankees to a championship. Jeter’s injury also brings the future of the team a little bit closer to the present than people would like to admit. We all know that at some point another player will man his position and the team will need a new leader. Who better to assume that role than Cano? A player from the farm system who bided his time away from the spotlight in lieu of the other superstars; a player in the prime of his career. A player ready to assume the role as the next leader of the Yankees.
Anyone with a clue is aware of A-Rod’s struggles in the postseason. Everyone is also aware of his desire to be accepted by Yankee fans and escape from Derek Jeter’s shadow. What better way to create his very own legacy, not just for the Yankees but also in MLB history, than for A-Rod to explode against the Tigers and lead them to the World Series and a 28th title without Jeter? Would another championship end the booing from Yankees fans? Probably not, but maybe for a few months. Perhaps this could show that he was meant to be a leader on a team, not just another big name on a team full of stars. OK, probably not. But imagine what this could do to his legacy and Hall of Fame status if A-Rod were to put this struggling team on his back…
Last night was a scary, scary night for both Yankee fans and fans of the sport of baseball. The postseason is a chance to see the stars of the sport excel on the biggest stage and seeing Jeter unable to stand up sent shivers of mortality down our spines. But teams are made up of more than one individual and championships are won by a collection of players. For the Yankees to capture another championship a new leader must emerge. Two are in waiting.