After recovering from the uproar created by false rumors that Alex Rodriguez was to have hip surgery and spend ten weeks recovering, this Yankees fan saw his worries heightened by the true story: A-Rod is not well.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Thursday that Rodriguez has a labrum tear, as well as a cyst, in his troublesome right hip. The injury will eventually require Rodriguez to go under the knife for a procedure Cashman estimated would take four months from which to recover.
Having discussed the issue all afternoon via conference call, the Yankees are proceeding carefully in the hope that Rodriguez will be able to contribute to the club for the full 2009 season, but Cashman cautioned that the prospect of surgery remains on the table.
So instead of a definite ten-week recovery period caused by a cyst-removal procedure, Alex must now play baseball in 2009 with his mind focused on his hip, a mind that is normally preoccupied by a million other things already, a mind that belongs to a person who confesses that he has trouble concentrating on his profession when faced with pointless distractions. Alex was one of the only people who knew his hip was troubling him; his own teammates found out about the cyst yesterday during lunch, when the blogosphere was already agog. But now, the news has escaped Alex' inner circle and has become just another checkmark on the collective naughty list that baseball fans and baseball media use to tut-tut the tortured player.
Yesterday, Alex was in Vail, Colorado to have his cyst aspirated. I don't know what this means and I have no desire to learn any more about what this procedure entails. All that matters is that (a) it sounds like it hurts and (b) it doesn't make Alex completely healed. True, Alex hadn't felt any pain during the '08 season and he had this cyst on his hip for at least a year. But over the offseason, he's had to take measures to relieve tightness and stiffness in his bad hip. Yes, Alex Rodriguez now officially has a bad hip (FYI, it's the right one)
Remember the last superstar athlete to have a bad hip? New York Yankees Update reminded us yesterday of the sad tale of two-sport star Bo Jackson, who had something happen far worse. See, Alex has a tear of his acetabular labrum, a ring of cartilage whose job is to prevent your femur from slipping out of its hip joint:
On January 13, 1991, while playing for the Oakland Raiders, Bo "Knows" Jackson suffered a hip injury where the femur actually did slip out of place.
This resulted in a condition called avascular necrosis resulting in a decreased blood supply to the head of his left femur and deterioration of the femoral head, ultimately requiring that the hip be replaced.
Jackson was done with football, and he missed the 1991 and 1992 baseball season, only to come back in '93 and '94 as a shell of his former self. His career was over. If my primitive medical knowledge is accurate, this same thing could happen to Alex. The chances must be small; otherwise, why would Brian Cashman or Scott Boras or Rodriguez himself allow him to continue playing? The risk must be absolutely miniscule because the danger is infinitesimal.
One of the ways this can turn out is similar to what happened to Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell last season. Sad, but this is turns out to be a good endgame situation: he didn't have any serious hip problems but faced surgery in October, missing out on Boston's stint in the ALCS. Prior to that, he faded down the stretch, making just one appearance in the last eleven games of the regular season and going 0-for-8 in the ALDS. But this was just Mike Lowell, far from the centerpiece of a loaded Red Sox team. Imagine the same thing happening to Alex Rodriguez during a fall playoffs race! He's not only a cog, he's the cog.
The worst way this situation can resolve would be the neutron bomb of player injuries: Albert Belle. Belle signed a five year deal with the Orioles after the 1998 season and played two middling years for the franchise. Unfortunately, his degenerative osteoarthritis in his hip prematurely ended his career at age 34 and the Orioles were left on the hook for the remaining three years and $39 million left on his contract. A-Rod, on the other hand, has nine years and somewhere north of $250 million left on his contract. That's a lot of money, people. That's stimulus money for a tenth of the country. That's Mega Millions lottery style money to keep people lined up at gas stations and 7-11's for hours on end.
And that shouldn't be money that Brian Cashman wants to risk. It's time right now for A-Rod to have the surgery. The Yankees need to be risk averse knowing exactly how much money is on the line, but more importantly, Alex needs to avoid any chance whatsoever of a career-ending hipsplosion.