Monday, May 19, 2008


ALEX RODRIGUEZ already has to shoulder the “burden” of being the highest paid player in baseball. Now he has to deal with the pressure of saving the New York Yankees’ season.

It was A-Rod who kept the sinking Yanks afloat last year when they fell eight games below .500 at 21-29. The deficit is only half that (20-24) at the moment, but if anything, the challenge facing A-Rod and co is even greater.

The stats: The Yankees are rock bottom of the American League East, six games behind the Boston Red Sox. They have lost eight of their last 11 and scored 12 runs in the last six games. Only Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui are hitting over .300.

The facts: The starting rotation is an accident waiting to happen. No. 1 Chien-Ming Wang gets intro trouble when there are runners on base. No. 2 Andy Pettitte keeps imploding in the fourth inning. Ian Kennedy is not good enough – yet; Kei Igawa is not good enough and never will be – period.

Saturday’s debacle against the Mets must have made uncomfortable viewing for general manager Brian Cashman, the man who opted against trading the winless Phil Hughes for Johan Santana.

No doubt Senior Vice President Hank Steinbrenner will be reminding him of that fact if the Yankees’ pitching does not improve between now and September. October baseball in the Bronx seems a long way off at the moment.

Three home runs but Santana beats Pettitte

Okay, so Santana gave up three solo home runs. But unlike Pettitte, he managed to pitch seven and two-thirds innings, keeping his team in the game.

Last night’s 11-2 massacre was not only an embarrassment; it showed just how short the Yanks are on confidence and belief.

“Our team is definitely much better than what we’re showing right now,” claims Johnny Damon. How much better? Good enough to give the Red Sox a six-game start?

The good news is that A-Rod makes his return from a quad injury against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night.

The bad news is that he doesn’t have Jorge Posada to ride shotgun this time around. Posada is doing light training but won’t be back until some time in June.

Just as the Mets arrived at Yankee Stadium this weekend seeking a spark to ignite their season, so their cross-town rivals and are in need of a defining moment; a turning point.

A-Rod managed to hit a Grand Slam in a “simulated game” on Sunday. Now the Yanks desperately need him to do it for real.

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