Looking Ahead at Alex Rodriguez - NBC New York

Looking Ahead at Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod's health will have significant impact on the Yankees going forward



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    How many headlines will this man generate in the next six years?

    The New York Post has a long history of memorable covers.

    Friday's might not reach the absurdist perfection of "Headless Body in Topless Bar," but it is pretty darn good. Their shot of the Libyan man wearing a Yankee hat while brandishing Khaddafy's golden gun while trumpeting the fact that a Yankee fan might be responsible for taking out the dictator would be good enough on its own, but it is the subhead that really sells the thing.

    "Gunman has more hits than A-Rod."

    Well played, Post. Factually inaccurate -- A-Rod had two hits in the playoffs -- but well played nonetheless.

    We hadn't been thinking about Alex Rodriguez all that much since he struck out to end the season in Game Five against the Tigers. There have been more pressing concerns with CC Sabathia to worry about, plenty of football, the NBA lockout and a pretty good start to the World Series to keep our attention.

    But that headline started us thinking about A-Rod and the fact that the Yankees will have him under contract for the next six years. In the immediate aftermath of the ALDS, that felt like a pretty grim thought but has time brightened up that picture at all? 

    Yes and no. The positive is that Rodriguez's overall offensive production in the 2011 season -- 823 OPS, .185 isolated power, .361 weighted on-base average -- wasn't up to his standards, but it was certainly good enough for the Yankees to win with him in the lineup in the years to come.

    It must be added that Rodriguez played a pretty good third base for the Yankees this year, something that's not as insignificant as the obsessive attention to his offense might have you believe. All in all, the A-Rod that the Yankees had in 2011 is one that shouldn't cause them to be a markedly worse team over the life of his contract.

    The problem is that this Rodriguez was only physically able to play 99 games for them this year and he hasn't played more than 138 games since 2007. Planning for a lineup that features a declining Rodriguez isn't particularly difficult, but planning for one that includes a frequently absent A-Rod is very hard because of all the other needs that you have to fill around the lineup.

    Eduardo Nunez and Eric Chavez filled that role well enough this year, but A-Rod's health is going to impact the way the Yankees approach the designated hitter position and, more likely than not, they won't have the same roster flexibility they enjoyed this season consistently over the next six years. If A-Rod isn't in the lineup, the Yankees are going to suffer a lot as a result. 

    There is an upside to all this, however. Just imagine the headlines that we have in store.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.