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Around the Yankee Universe: A-Rod and Joba ... what else?

OMG!! Alex Rodriguez might not be the best player in baseball anymore! What an amazing news flash from our friends at the New York Daily News.

Can a player who will be 34 on July 25, who is coming off an injury that needed one surgery during spring training and could need another one after the season, who admitted he used steroids, really return to being the game’s premier player? Or, in a question the Yankees are probably afraid to ponder considering he is their property for the next nine years, have we already seen the best of A-Rod?

In a random, unscientific survey that included several scouts, executives, players and other observers, none said Rodriguez was still the best player in baseball.

Do I think A-Rod is the best? Probably not. But then again, I haven't thought that for a while. And I really don't care one way or the other if Albert Pujols is better. Or Joe Mauer. Or Evan Longoria.

What I really care about is does Rodriguez, 34 in a couple of weeks and still not 100 percent after hip surgery, have enough in the tank to help the Yankees win a World Series in 2009? Forget the .256 batting average. He has 17 home runs and 50 RBI in 58 games, a pace that would put him at 48 home runs and 140 RBI over 162 games.

That tells me his bat is still lethal, and that's all I can care about right now.

Will he decline? Inevitably. Has he declined some already? Possibly.

To Rodriguez, any talk that he’s slipping is motivation. Told there are people in baseball who doubt him, Rodriguez said, "I love to hear that stuff. I love it."

The steroid era shifted what baseball people believed was a player’s prime. With better nutrition and physical training — and, in many cases, performance-enhancing drugs — players were playing at a higher level later into their careers. Now, baseball people peg a player’s best years as being from ages 28-33, says Jim Duquette, the former Mets and Orioles executive who hosts a Sirius-XM Radio talk show. One scout said he considers prime from 26-29.

"I think we’re going into a new era where at age 34, you start to see a decline in numbers," Duquette says. "I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

"With Alex, I expect you’ll see a decline. But will he be around the norm of what the top players in the game do? Yes. But not 45-50 home runs."

Right now, though, he is still A-Rod with the bat in his hands. We have to hope that before his career starts speeding full throttle down Breakdown Mountain -- which I don't think it has yet -- he can help the Yankees to that elusive 27th World Series.
  • The new SB Nation blog MLB Daily Dish is a terrific place to find news and rumors from around the big leagues. I had a little joust with Matt Buggenhagen of the Dish Tuesday, though, over a post titled 'Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen?' The reason wasn't because we were arguing over whether or not Joba should start or relieve -- though I disagree with Matt's stance that Joba should be in the 'pen. It's because Matt stated that Sergio Mitre is likely headed to New York to take Joba's place in the rotation. Simply put, that's not accurate. Gotta give Matt credit for getting the final word, though. His last comment to me ended this way. "Maybe they should just go get Halladay and end this whole debate."