Over at least the past three weeks, Alex Rodriguez has been playing with what was termed a “sore knee”. Since first mention of the diagnosis during the Yankees June series at Wrigley Field, Arod continued to get on base and play gold glove caliber defense. However, as has often been the case during his career, much of the focus was on what he hadn’t been able to do: hit homeruns.
It now seems obvious that Arod’s inability to drive the ball over the wall was the result of playing on an injured knee. Now, the question becomes did his sore knee originate as a slight meniscus tear, or did one develop after three weeks of playing with an injury that could have been alleviated with a few days of rest?
This isn’t the first time the Yankees might have paid a heavy price for allowing a star to play through an injury. Back in late May, Joba Chamberlain complained of general soreness, but he was allowed to continue pitching through the pain. In fact, on June 5, he threw an almost career-high number of pitches in a relief outing against the Angels. Shortly thereafter, Chamberlain was sent for an MRI, which discovered a ligament tear that resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgery.
It’s impossible to know whether the Yankees’ erred by allowing Rodriguez to play through an injured knee without at least having an MRI done, but now the third baseman is faced with a pivotal decision: have surgery and miss about one month or play through the pain at less than 100%.
Alex Rodriguez’ “Sore Knee” Splits
|Post-Injured Knee (June 17 to July 7)|
|Pre-Injured Knee (March 31 to June 16)|
Although Arod has been productive playing in a compromised state, his performance when healthy has been much better, so the decision seems obvious. What’s more, if Rodriguez eschews the surgery, he could run the risk of a more serious injury, which, for the Yankees, would be a worst case scenario. Considering the Yankees’ lack of anything resembling a viable replacement at third base, it might be tempting to have Arod try and play through the pain, but the risks involved are daunting.
The irony of Arod’s injury is that only in his absence will his 2011 season finally be appreciated. Curtis Granderson has deservedly been credited with being the Yankees’ first half MVP, but not too many people seem to have noticed that Arod has been the clear runner-up. Rodriguez’ fWAR of 4.0 not only ranks second on the team, but 12th among all offensive players in baseball. Simply put, Arod remains one of the best players in the game, so his absence from or limited presence in the Yankees’ lineup will be difficult to overcome.
After years of overexposure, it’s a little odd to see Alex Rodriguez fly under the radar, but if he does wind up missing an extended period of time, Yankees’ fans will get a reminder of just how important he remains to the team.