- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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SAN DIEGO -- After suffering through a weekend of horrors, the Yankees are ready to run off and join the circus.
That was the attitude in their clubhouse following their 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres, a game that completed a 2-4 road trip that leaves them miles behind the Boston Red Sox -- 9½ games with 52 left to play -- and in danger of facing an October without baseball.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it is with more than a little desperation that the Yankees are now looking for a most-unlikely savior to deliver them from such a fate.
The commissioner of baseball might want him out of the league, the Major League Baseball Players Association might hate the idea of having to defend him and the people who write his paychecks might want him to vaporize, but his teammates? They are another story altogether.
"I would say we need him a lot," Robinson Cano said. "If you can see, we don't have [Derek] Jeter right now, and the only guy you have is [Alfonso] Soriano in the lineup, the only righty. Hopefully, [Rodriguez] comes back healthy and helps us win some games."
There is no doubt A-Rod is a diminished player -- he has averaged just 17 home runs and 59 RBIs over the past two seasons, and that was before he had his second hip surgery and passed his 38th birthday -- but considering the impotence of the Yankees offense this season, they are thirsting for whatever he can give them over the final 50-plus games of this season, or as many as he is allowed to play.
That is why none of the Yankees who stuck around to talk after the dispiriting loss wanted to discuss the A-Rod's guilt or innocence in the Biogenesis affair, or the very real possibility that, sooner or later, baseball will find cause to end a career that once held so much promise.
The only thing the Yankees seem to care about now is that they can't hit, and the last time they checked, A-Rod could.
Asked if the Yankees were better with Rodriguez, Vernon Wells -– who has never played a game with him -– said, "If he's healthy, yeah, no doubt about it. You watch some of the at-bats that he's had in the minor leagues, and the swing still looks like it's there. As long as his hip's healthy, yeah, he can help this team."
The Yankees managed just six hits on Sunday and just eight runs all weekend in losing two of three games to the Padres, who are eight games below .500 and in fourth place in the NL West, baseball's weakest division. And until Curtis Granderson homered in the seventh inning of Saturday's 3-0 win, the Yankees had hit just three home runs in the 14 games played since the All-Star break. At third base this season, the Yankees are hitting .215 with four homers, 32 RBIs and an OPS of .559
"We're all going to be happy, I would say, to see him back in the lineup," said Cano, one of A-Rod's closest friends in the clubhouse. "Especially the way we've been playing. We've been waiting for this moment to see him back in the lineup. You know what, come up and help us to win some games."
Andy Pettitte, the one Yankee who can benefit the most from A-Rod's presence since he is starting Monday night, said, "I just think that if Al comes back and he's healthy, he's going to help this team win. I think he can help us. Obviously, he's a great hitter. I know he's coming off another hip surgery, but I think he can help us. Everything that comes after that, we'll just have to wait and see."
And let the circus be damned. As Joe Girardi has pointed out, when you sign with the New York Yankees, you expect there to be "stuff," just like when you run away to join Ringling Bros., you know there are going to be clowns.
The players seem prepared for the influx of media that will converge Monday on U.S. Cellular Field, having already gotten a taste of it this weekend in normally laid-back Southern California.
"I think Alex will do his best to keep as much of it out of the clubhouse as he can and what he has control over," Wells said. "I think the good thing is everyone knows the situation, knows what it could potentially be like, what the atmosphere's going to be like, so there's no fear of the unknown. I think we all have a pretty good idea, and we'll be ready for it."
Or, as Cano said, "Another five guys is not going to make no difference."
The one discordant note was sounded, surprisingly, by Mariano Rivera, who seemed to be pursuing the philosophy of, "If you don't have anything nice to say …"
"I don't have to say nothing now, guys," Rivera said. "That's it. I don't want to get involved in none of that stuff."
This was after Rivera had acknowledged, with reservations, that Rodriguez's bat in the lineup might actually help the team.
"Well, I mean, without all the distractions -- without that, definitely," Mo said. "If he's ready, he'll be back. I don't have to say anything about that."
Girardi, who all along has said he was operating under the assumption that Rodriguez was coming back and if so, would be in his lineup, did not deviate from that on Sunday.
"If he's in there, I'm going to play him," Girardi said. "I'm sure there will be more media there obviously [Monday], but I think that's more for Alex to deal with than the rest of the guys. I don't think it'll be a big deal."
Jeter, the star of a couple of media circuses of his own, barely shrugged when asked what he expected to find when he enters the visitor's clubhouse Monday in Chicago.
"I'm sure there will be a lot more media members there, I would assume, but so what?," he said. "He's our teammate. If he's here tomorrow, we'll look forward to seeing him."
And hoping he brings more to their clubhouse than just a sideshow.