Yankees need A-Rod and Tex, and soon
When the Yankees don't score runs, it is like a day of rain in Arizona. It is so fundamentally unsettling that it can cause people to re-examine the entire meaning of existence.
The Yankees have hit a rough patch, losing six out of their last seven games while scoring a total of 11 runs in those six losses. During this stretch the Yankees were capable of putting some runners on base, but they could not deliver a crucial hit with any regularity. Very un-Yankee-like.
"It's strange to watch what we've watched the last week or so," manager Joe Girardi said. "You could probably go back further than that with the way we're capable of swinging the bats."
For most of the last decade, the Yankees have been at the other end of the spectrum in terms of their daily concerns. Oh, if only the pitching could be "just capable" on a consistent basis -- with that lineup, with that attack, with that offense, the Bronx Bombers would be fine.
The names that made up those fierce lineups are still present, but the production that once terrorized the opposition is not as ever-present as it once was.
Is this part of a permanent decline, or just a blip on the radar screen, an early-season aberration?
Most of the concerns in this area come to rest on two players: Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
In Teixeira's case there has been a gradual erosion of batting average and on-base percentage over the last three seasons. But at the moment, he has the equivalent of a letter from the doctor, excusing him from approaching his career offensive norms. Teixeira has been dealing with a bronchial inflammation that has lingered since the start of the season. After medication did not eliminate his frequent coughing fits, the Yankees held him out of the lineup for the weekend series with the Reds, hoping that rest would bring him back to full health.
Teixeira returned to the lineup on Monday night against the Royals but was dropped to seventh in the order.
As for Rodriguez, his career has set an almost impossibly high standard to meet, but he has had a marked decline in power and run production. True, his 2011 campaign was limited to 99 games due to injuries, but that is part of the concerns that come to the fore with a player approaching his 37th birthday.
Over the weekend, A-Rod spoke in the most confident terms about his ability to generate power, but until he does that again on a consistent basis, the age-related doubts will linger.
On the other hand, declaring a premier player's career to be irreversibly in decline due to age turns out to be something other than a sure-thing proposition. We need only glance to A-Rod's immediate left when the Yankees are in the field to see how wrong so many of us could be.
Derek Jeter, closing in on 38, is better in every facet of the game than he was last year at this time, while approaching 37.
How can this happen? Extraordinary players are capable of extraordinary feats. In this case, he's Derek Jeter, and that is sufficient explanation.
Overall, it isn't as though the Yankees with bats in their hands have suddenly morphed into the Padres. After 41 games they were fifth in the American League in runs scored, tied for second in home runs, third in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage.
True, these are not typically dominant New York numbers, but they also are not the numbers of a team in a season-long run-production crisis.
The Yankees remain confident, which is part of the Yankees landscape. As did Rodriguez, Teixeira voiced confidence about his long-term ability to produce the kind of numbers he has typically produced.
This is what will be required for the Yankees to be the Yankees and have a shot at fulfilling their lofty expectations: Rodriguez and Teixeira performing at levels that may not match their career peaks but that at least give the team respectable run production at two crucial spots in the batting order.
There should be plenty of help elsewhere in the lineup, and it is no longer heresy to mention Brett Gardner in the same breath as Rodriguez and Teixeira. The Yankees' offense will be better when Gardner returns from an elbow injury and makes this a more versatile operation.
The time for panic, the time for predictions of catastrophe, is nowhere near this early in the season, particularly for the Yankees. But the time for improvement from two of the previously most reliable sources of run production? That is definitely on the agenda, any time now, the sooner the better.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.