11:36 am May. 24, 2012
Alex Rodriguez passed his prime a while ago.
Gone are the routine 160-game seasons, With injuries limiting him to just 138, 124, 137 and 99 over the past four years.
Gone, too, are the 40 or even 50 home run seasons that made Rodriguez the highest-paid player in baseball after the 2000 season, when he signed a 10-year, $252 million with the Texas Rangers, and again after the 2007 season, when he opted out of that deal to sign a new 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees.
That second deal that virtually guaranteed the Yankees would have Rodriguez around for his decline. The deal was signed when Rodriguez was 32, which is usually the end of a player's peak, and extended well beyond Rodriguez's 40th birthday.
Still: He's Alex Rodriguez. So the two home runs that Rodriguez hit Thursday night in the Yankees' 8-3 victory represent "Rodriguez Resdiscovering His Groove," rather than simply piecing together a couple of very good at-bats.
But Rodriguez will turn 37 in July. When dominant baseball players decline, it isn't that they typically lose the ability to have special nights. It is that they lose the ability to do so as regularly as they once did.
Babe Ruth, famously, hit three home runs for the Boston Braves a week before he retired in 1935. But his average that final season was .181, from a career .342 hitter.
Mickey Mantle hit two home runs and collected five hits in a May 30, 1968 game against the Senators. A few months later, Mantle retired, after hitting just .237. Mike Schmidt had five home runs in his first 17 games in 1989. He hit one in his next 29, and retired mid-year hitting .203.
Rodriguez isn't done, by any means, and he's still capable of big things. But he's not getting any younger.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
They managed to take two of three from the Pirates, powered by a much-needed bounceback start from Jonathon Niese and an RBI double from, who else, David Wright. The Mets head home to start a four-game series with the Diamondbacks Thursday night. Jeremy Hefner will make his first major league start.
The New York Post reports that Mike Woodson will not hire Isiah Thomas to be part of his coaching staff. The sigh of relief is implied.
The Rangers put themselves into a 3-0 hole 10 minutes into Game 5 against the Devils, climbed out, but lost 5-3 anyway. New Jersey has a 3-2 lead in the series.
New York's winning streak is over, but the Red Bulls dominated a 1-1 tie with Chivas USA, and Juan Pablo Angel scored a goal in his return.