This is not meant in any way to knock Alex Rodriguez or to make his feelings hurt as badly as his calf does. But the truth is, when he was put on the disabled list yesterday, the reaction in the Yankees' universe, basically, was a shrug.
Nobody who swings a bat is indispensable on this club. Sure, Rodriguez is one of the best players of all time, and yes, the Yankees would have a hard time winning the World Series without him. But you can look it up. In the games he has missed this season, the club is 11-0 and has averaged eight runs.
That is not a rap on the No. 4 batter and No. 7 all-time home run hitter. It is just a sign that the lineup is strong and deep enough to withstand the loss of anyone for a while.
Losing a world-class player for a couple of weeks would be devastating for most major league teams. For the Yankees, the most pressing issue after the A-Rod announcement was about who will be pitching this week.
"I don't think we're the same team, but you know when you talk about a team, it's more than just the nine guys who are out there," Derek Jeter said. "Some people are hurt, other people have to step in and do the job. I haven't been on a team or seen a team that has gone a whole year without guys getting hurt."
The only two Yankees the team absolutely couldn't do without are the one who finished yesterday's game and the one who will start today's. If anything happened to Mariano Rivera or CC Sabathia, now that would really hurt.
Rivera is as close to a sure thing as there is in baseball. The Yankees do have another pitcher who has been a closer, Kerry Wood. But let's face it, the club has had so much trouble getting through eighth innings this season (at least before David Robertson recently hit his stride) that it would be unthinkable to endure the ninth without a chorus of "Enter Sandman."
The king of closers drained the Mariners of all hope, entering a 7-4 game to face the tying run with two outs in the eighth. He left with his first four-out save in more than a year, along with the knowledge that he bolsters the Yankees' confidence every day. There probably is no other major-leaguer who has that dramatic an influence on his team's psyche.
Sabathia is almost as vital right now. He has carried the Yankees through the summer, having gone 12-2 in his last 15 starts. When it's his turn to pitch, the club can momentarily stop worrying about Andy Pettitte's gnawing injury, A.J. Burnett's gnawing inconsistency and Javier Vazquez' gnawing ability to throw a fastball that lands in the upper deck.
If you were going to rank the Yankees with an Indispensable Meter, there would be a huge gap between the two key pitchers and the other 23 guys. Who is No. 3? Probably Robinson Cano, followed by anybody's guess. Maybe it's Mark Teixeira, although the Yankees did fine when he slumped. Possibly Nick Swisher or Jeter or even Robertson?
The view from this peanut stand is that if they went 11-0 without A-Rod, they can go 11-0 without anyone else. Said Curtis Granderson, "I think it's a mix of everything - the guys who have been called up from Double-A and Triple-A, the flexibility to move the lineup around, guys batting anywhere from one to nine, also the flexibility defensively to move guys around."
If nothing else, it was symbolic that the winning hit came from Eduardo Nuñez, A-Rod's fill-in. Nuñez, a natural shortstop who has spent six-plus years in the minors, said he is comfortable playing third. He probably will play there more. When he was asked after the game if he had heard about Rodriguez being placed on the disabled list, he said apologetically, "I don't hear too much English."
No one heard any anguish from the Yankees after the A-Rod announcement. This year has proven that his team can win without him, except in the All-Star Game.