Maybe Kevin Long sees something that is not apparent to the untrained eye, or maybe he is a man deep in denial.
But when the Yankees hitting coach looks at Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, the two highest-priced bats in the Yankees lineup, he doesn't see aging players in decline.
"I expect them to be the players they’ve always been,'' Long said. "I remember us talking about Derek Jeter last year, people just basically destroying him, and I wouldn’t accept it. And I’m not gonna accept it about Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira. They’re better than this. They’re going to work their tails off and they’re going to get it done.''
Long acknowledged that at some point, both will begin to show signs of decline. He just doesn't think this is that time.
"Yeah, it’s inevitable, it’s gonna happen, I understand that,'' he said. "But I don’t think Alex Rodriguez is done. Mark Teixeira is what, 29 years old? Fellas, he’s not done. Not by any stretch of the imagination. He’s going to be just fine. He’s going through a bad spell and he needs to get out of it.''
Told Teixeira is actually 32, Long said, "Well, that doesn't change my opinion.''
Long said Teixeira's long battle with a respiratory ailment was partially responsible for the first baseman's .227 average and diminshied power numbers (5 HRs and 20 RBI). "He won’t say it, but there’s times when we can’t work, and we can’t do the things we need to do because he’s coughing,'' Long said. "It’s detrimental to his health, so it's affected his workload, sure.''
As for A-Rod, Long said health is not the issue. "At times last year, we couldn’t even put him out there. He was banged up and his body was not in good shape,'' Long said. "This year, he's in good shape. we've been able to put him out there almost every day. So that's a positive. Let’s see what the next 120 games, what he can do, before we make a judgment.''