Riding the pines

Days have passed and the next series has already put a game in the books, and all of baseball is still talking about the New York Yankees. From the manager, to the owner, the GM and the team’s best player, there certainly is not a dearth of things to talk about with the always-soap operatic ball club in the South Bronx.

Listening to the consensus, it sounds as if most commentators, columnists, etc. believe it would be a bad move for George Steinbrenner to fire Joe Torre as the manager. After all, Torre’s record speaks for itself. Under Torre, the Yankees have gone to the playoffs in 11 straight seasons, which is unprecedented in the hallowed franchise’s history.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t cracks in the armor. After all, with the stars assembled on the current Yankee clubs, and the payroll that equals the GNP of a small country, simply getting to the playoffs doesn’t seem like a difficult task. The tough part, it seems, is getting those superstars to put the egos aside and come together to win.

Kind of how the Tigers did this season.

That seems to be where Torre has had some difficulty over the past few seasons. With Paul O’Neil and Tino Martinez during the beginning of the “dynasty,” Torre never had to worry about the so-called veteran leadership. His players were in charge and that was a good thing.

But, as some Yankees observers have opined, things have not been the same since those players moved on. Coincidentally, though, those departures coincide with Alex Rodriguez’s arrival in the Bronx.

Now whether or not Rodriguez is a divisive force on a team is tough to judge. Certainly, his statistics appear to be of the caliber that should help a team win games. How can they not be? But then again, there have been MVP and Cy Young Award winners on last-place teams. In that same vain, Rodriguez’s former teams always seem to improve after he leaves. That happened in Seattle and Texas.

Will it happen in New York?

General manager Brian Cashman says the Yankees aren’t going to trade Rodriguez. But maybe those words are just a smokescreen? Do they even really need A-Rod? Sure, he’s arguably one of the best players in the game, but when he’s hitting eighth in the lineup in an elimination game, isn’t that the same as saying, “Hey A-Rod, we really don’t want you to get too many at-bats today… ”

If he’s batting eighth, why not just put him on the bench?

Tough to shoulder
Speaking of sitting on the bench, Scott Rolen has deemed himself ready to play in Game 1 of the NLCS tonight after sitting out of the Cardinals’ clincher in Game 4 over the Padres last Sunday.

It appears as if Rolen withheld the severity of his aching shoulder that was surgically repaired last season. Conventional wisdom indicates that it should take at least a year following the surgery for Rolen to be at full strength, though that didn’t appear to be the case based on his 2006 statistics.

At least that didn’t seem to be the case based on Rolen’s season leading up to September. That where the long season took its toll on his injury and also where Rolen, apparently, hid the severity of its weakness from manager Tony La Russa. Rolen, it seemed, felt the Cardinals needed him too much during the stretch run even though the team has Scott Spiezio as a fully capable backup.

According to wire accounts, La Russa was a little peeved when Rolen finally let on how much he was hurt:

La Russa seemed perturbed before Game 4 of the division series that Rolen had not mentioned the shoulder problem until Sunday. At the same time, he said Rolen’s willingness to play hurt was admirable.

“That’s why he didn’t come out and say how sore he was, because you know he wants to play,” La Russa said. “Here’s a guy that’s not fighting for a job, he’s got security, and he just wants to be a part of it.

“I was never and am not now upset with Scott.”

If there is one thing we learned about Rolen when he was in Philadelphia it is that he the proverbial gamer. If it takes running through a brick wall in order to win a game, he’ll do it. But we also learned that Rolen is also stubborn and sensitive and always trying to prove himself.

I guess that is what makes him a great athlete.

Either way, Rolen took a shot of cortisone to be ready for Game 1, which makes him the second former Phillie currently in the playoffs to take a shot within the past month (Placido Polanco, the man traded for Rolen in 2002, is the other).

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that since slugging the game-winning home run off Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS, Rolen is 1-for-26 with three strikeouts in his last two playoff series.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s