You can hear the howls before they even start. The Yankees, their winning streak up to 10 games, lose a Sunday afternoon date to the Blue Jays while Alex Rodriguez sits on the bench to rest his surgically repaired hip.
Fans will howl about resting the hottest hitter on the team, and they'll likely extend their howls to Rodriguez himself. "Scott Brosius wouldn't have needed a day off," is the sort of thing you'd expect to hear on Monday. All of this would, of course, be ignorant to the fact that Rodriguez couldn't buy a hit before taking two days off in Florida, something that caused all of the same theoretical blasters to demand that he get dropped from the lineup.
And you can already read the columnists saying that the Yankees can't afford to be on the hook for Rodriguez's contract and salary if he can't even play every day. They'll write these columns without a trace of irony after they were writing that the Yankees can't afford to be on the hook for Rodriguez's contract and salary when A-Rod was struggling before his days off in Florida.
Yes, the same fans and writers who didn't bat an eye when Derek Jeter missed two games with a cough. The fans were fine with it because they read in all the papers that Jeter desperately wanted to play but was barred through the work of a team of strongmen brought in special from the Ukraine.
A-Rod's desire to play can't overwhelm the very real need to rest him, no matter how little the lineup can afford to go without him. So if he says that he's fine with being rested, he'll be assaulted as a malingerer and if he says he doesn't want to rest, it's spun as a battle behind the scenes. That's what happened before he was finally put on the bench in Florida, even though it was clearly the right decision.
Ask Mike Lowell and the Red Sox if a little rest here and there might be the best preventative measure against further difficulties down the road. Lowell, who had surgery on a torn labrum in his hip this offseason, just went back on the disabled list, and the Yankees simply can't afford to have that happen.
It will take courage to keep resting A-Rod even with big games and the stretch run ahead of them, but if the Yankees want it to mean anything they'll have to summon it up.