After baseball, my biggest vice is chess. 64 squares, 32 pieces, a seemingly limitless sequence of moves, and I could eliminate what little productive time I have in my day pushing around black and white figurines.
But the beautiful puzzle of chess is that while there are unlimited potential combinations, there are limited number of appropriate responses to each move. After white makes the first move the game is about reacting in a creative way. It's a lot like pitching for a strikeout- the hitter knows he's in a breaking ball count, so the pitcher has to throw a pitch that moves in an unexpected way, or travels from and to an unexpected place, or crosses the plate at an unexpected speed.
Slight advantages make all the difference. Wasting a single move is like turning a 2-2 count into a 3-1 count, and going down a pawn is like failing to turn the double play; giving up a major piece (a knight, a bishop, or a rook), that's like an 0-2 homer.
Eventually, most games (any game without a spectacular ending) reach an endgame- a point at which the outcome has become nearly a mathematical certainty.
The A-rod surgery question is at an endgame. He will have surgery. It's when, not if. He has the choice of missing 4-6 weeks now with rehab potentially stretching to months if things are really bad in his leg, serving as a diminished cleanup hitter potentially more diminished if teams know he can't pivot to hit for power on high heat.
And rather than giving orders to a man being paid a quarter billion dollars, the Yanks are leaving it up to A-rod.
If the operation fixes only the torn labrum, the recovery period could be four to six weeks, they said. But if there is surgery to correct an underlying cause in the bones, recovery could take four months.
What concerns me about this lack of leadership, this failure or refusal to make the really tough decision is that the Yankees have put him in an unwinnable endgame in terms of his already difficult game of chess with the NY press.
Because it's A-rod's decision, if he plays through it and is anything less than himself the media will get on him, say stop being selfish, trade him!, boo him!, hate hate hate.
And because it's A-rod's decision, if he opts for surgery and the team struggles without him the media will get on him, say selfish prick was only ever worried about his numbers, he's not tough enough to play through it, trade him! boo him!, hate hate hate.
It was in the Yankees' power to avoid the debacle by making the call The player can voice his concerns, but the team should exert final authority. And the Yankees still could allow A-rod a chance to save face.
Here's the script:
Alex wanted to play through it; even though he was in considerable pain and even though he understood he could make his situation worse and his rehab harder, he believes his first responsibility is to a championship to New York. He wanted to try to play through it, but the organization overruled him and ordered the surgery. We will have him back as soon as he is healthy, but the Yankees have to think about the next 9 years.
But, so far, the Yankees have taken the easy way out, perhaps already stung by (just) criticism for not ordering an MRI at the end of last season on the team's best player. So far, the front office has set A-rod up for certain failure when it didn't have to happen that way.
Mr. Cashman, I'm disappointed.