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Sometimes six home runs are just a cigar

Alex Rodriguez, Future Home Run King, currently ranks 29th in the American League in home runs. Actually, he's tied for 29th with Mike Napoli, both Red Sox catchers, and a bunch of other guys who aren't Future Home Run Kings. Bob Klapisch has some of the grisly details:

"We’re taking our medicine," is what one Yankee official said after the Rays’ two-game sweep in the Bronx. While the Bombers aren’t ready to call their position in the standings a crisis, they concede the loss of Jorge Posada and Nick Johnson to the disabled list and Mark Teixeira’s concurrent slump (6-for-39, two RBIs in his last eight games) have come at a bad time.

And then there’s A-Rod, who, in retrospect, knows he could’ve done more with K-Rod’s curveball. The pitch was overthrown, hanging dangerously over the plate, a mistake that, at another point in the season, might’ve been sent to the planets by the Yankee slugger.

But such blasts aren’t coming as often as in the past: Rodriguez has just six HRs in 165 at-bats this season, which works out to one every 27. Since 1998, Rodriguez’ rate has never been higher than 16.7.

One other damning metric to consider: throughout his career, 23 percent of Rodriguez’ fly balls have cleared the wall. This year, that percentage has dropped to 9.7.

So what gives? His detractors point to what they consider the obvious culprit. Rodriguez is (finally) off steroids, and thus reduced to the numbers of mere mortals. The slugger says, however, it’s all about timing.

Hey, things are tough all over. When you figure in the league-wide power decline, Alex's numbers don't look so bad. His OPS+ is just 12 points lower than last season ... and right in line with his 2006 numbers, when he drove in 121 runs and drew some MVP support. Yes, it's a little odd that he's hit only six home runs. But his overall performance is not out of line with his career numbers, considering that it's both early (in the season) and late (in his career). Right now, Rodriguez is probably the second-best third baseman in the American League; is that really so awful?

If you're the Yankees, it's not Alex Rodriguez's 2010 that should worry you. It's his 2013 ... and '14, and '15, and '16, and '17. And it's Jorge Posada's 2011. And CC Sabathia's 2014, and '15. And Mark Teixeira's 2014 ... and '15, and '16. And it's Derek Jeter's ... Well, who knows? As Lincoln Mitchell writes, Jeter's struggles might leave the Yankees in an awkward position ... But they'll be in an awkward position no matter how well he plays this season, right? One way or the other, they're going to be under a great deal of pressure to spend a great deal of money on a player who's performance will justify neither the dollars nor the playing time.

There's a pretty good chance the Yankees will figure something out. I suspect they'll make the playoffs in five or six of the next seven years. But they might wind up eating a great deal of cash on the way there.

(Tip of the chapeau to BTF's Newsstand)