By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, JULY 9- You can make a valid statement that Alex Rodriguez is having a comeback year for the New York Yankees with 16 home runs, 47 runs batted in, and a .276 average at the plate. But, Rodriguez went 0-for-4, with two strikeouts Wednesday night in the Bronx in a Yankees 5-4 win over the Oakland Athletics.
It seems for the first time this season, that Rodriguez has hit a bump in the road with one hit in his last 14- at bats, and any talk that he is the first half Most Valuable Player of the Yankees does deserve some recognition.
Mark Teixeira, on the other hand, with two more home runs in the Yankees win, and with outstanding plays at first base, deserves that MVP recognition. And with four games to go before the all-star break and mid point of the season, Teixeira has the numbers to be considered a first half MVP of the American League and Comeback Player of the Year.
Consider at this juncture last season, Teixeira was struggling with a bad wrist that limited his ability to hit for power. The perennial home run hitter signed an eight-year contract with the Yankees in 2009, a deal that extends until the end of next season.
And with the two home runs that went to right-center, the first helping the Yankees tie the score in the fourth inning, and the second in the sixth that gave his team a 4-2 advantage, Teixeira matched his season total of last year at 22, and has a league leading 61 runs batted in.
So there is no doubt that “Tex” has been instrumental in the Yankees offense and resurgence of being that home run team made for Yankee Stadium. The manager, Joe Girardi has said that and more importantly when Teixeira and Rodriguez are locked in, the Yankees are a threat to hit the long ball and drive in runs.
And we all recall, last season, the Yankees were miserable when it came to scoring runs, next to last in the league which eventually caused them to miss the postseason for a second straight year.
But the power has returned, and so has the defense at first base for Teixeira who made an unassisted double play in the first inning, leaned over the rail over the Yankees dugout in the seventh, and also stopped a double down the line off the bat of Josh Reddick in the eighth inning that could have put runs on the board for Oakland.
So the home runs and the defensive gems of Teixeira, who is headed to the All-Star Game next Tuesday in Cincinnati, were instrumental in the Yankees win and it sets up the rubber game of the three-game series Thursday afternoon before New York heads to Boston for three before the break.
Said Girardi, and the obvious reference about the home runs of Teixeira, “It’s a big part of our game. That’s how we are going to win games. We are designed to do that here. Last year we did not have the success of doing that.”
And because Teixeira could not get a grip on the bat, and with constant pain that requires stints on the disabled list, that power and home run ball had the Yankees as a team sitting in the lower third of the league when it came to the home run ball.
If Teixeira keeps up this pace, it is conceivable that 45 home runs and over 120 RBI would make him a league and team MVP. But he has to remain healthy.
It has changed because Teixeira is healthy, and he had his 18th career multi home run game as a Yankee. It was good enough again to get the Yankees another win that keep their first place lead in the tight Al East division race.
And it further made it easier to understand why Teixeira is the first half MVP of his team and maybe in the American League.
“Two home runs are nice,” Teixeira said, “But the win is better.” And for the Yankees, a healthy Teixeira in the second half will not hurt their chances and their quest to play October baseball again in the Bronx.
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