Hey, remember Alex Rodriguez? The most evilest, steroid-guzzling clown fraud who just a month ago was at the center of the biggest shit storm of the MLB season? The aged, disgraced slugger that everyone wished would just disappear? Well, his old, flawed team is thisclose to making the playoffs, and Alex Rodriguez has a whole hell of a lot to do with that.
Since returning to the Yankees lineup on August 5, Rodriguez has hit .294/.391/.504, with six home runs and 19 runs scored. Those aren't just really good numbers, they're incredibly valuable to a Yankees team that limped through most of the season with a rotating cast of scrubs manning third base.
Did you see any of the Third Base Sadness Brigade play this year? Yankee third basemen who aren't named Alex Rodriguez have hit .213/.274/.292 in 2013. A-Rod has as many home runs as the rest of these bums put together. He has as many stolen bases as all of them put together, and this is a man with little pools of Castrol GTX where his hips are supposed to be.
In this context, A-Rod's more than just a 38-year-old former star on a surprisingly respectable run, he's a fucking knight in shining armor. In 33 games, he's already produced 0.8 WAR and been one of the Yankees' most valuable hitters overall since his return. And it's not like the team doesn't need it. Last night the bottom of the lineup included the corpse of Vernon Wells's corpse, a couple of sub-replacement level bozos, and Brendan Ryan, a great shortstop who's hit .193 with six home runs since the start of last year. Mark Reynolds counts as a stud in this lineup, and he once came within four whiffs of striking out 200 times four years in a row.
It's endlessly amusing that this is where the Yankees find themselves in their relationship with Rodriguez: desperately wishing that he would just disappear forever, while simultaneously relying on him to help lead the team's playoff push. And thanks to Rodriguez's refusal to bend his knee and accept Bud Selig's 211-game suspension without an appeal—Rodriguez can keep playing until his appeal hearing, which will likely be delayed until the Yankees season ends—MLB can't do anything but watch in horror as the game's greatest villain plays hero.
And you know what? Alex Rodriguez deserves some goddamn thanks. It's easy to point to his decision to appeal as an act of self-indulgent vanity, but right now all A-Rod is doing is helping his team win baseball games. It's easy to point to his alleged steroid use as the act of a no-good dirty cheater, and yet on the field—which is what counts—his transgressions have only benefited the Yankees. Would A-Rod's bum hips have held together long enough for him to hit .361/.486/.816 in the 2009 World Series if he hadn't been juicing? It's pretty clear that the Yankees wouldn't be one game back of the AL Wild Card without him in their lineup right now.
A-Rod wants to play baseball, and he's going to keep playing baseball for as long as he can. (Probably longer than the other half of the long-running psychodrama that is the left half of the Yankee infield, Derek Jeter, who hasn't done a damn thing to help his team this year.) While the fans cheer their redemption-seeking hero or boo the steroid-mainlining centaur/fraud, depending on how well he's hitting, the Yankees will try to ride him into the playoffs before gleefully wiping his salary off of the books when his suspension eventually does come down. In all, they're damn lucky to have him.