Just like any sport, the magical championship mix is born late in the season. It's not usually the team that wins consistently from the beginning of the season to the end; it's the team that puts all the puzzle pieces together down the stretch and steamrolls into the postseason.
Alex Rodriguez returns to the Yankees lineup today, and the Yankees are tied with the Sox in the win column. Going by Steinbrenner standards, anything short of a World Series title is failure.
With A-Rod back in the heart of the order and the pitching staff working itself out (gulp, A.J., gulp), the Yankees will look to their current roster for their 2011 championship run.
Poker scandal or no scandal, using PEDs or not, A-Rod is the most important part of this lineup. Despite Curtis Granderson's MVP-type season, A-Rod could be even more valuable for the stretch run. Plain and simple: he is capable of doing things Granderson is not.
A-Rod's record streak of 13 consecutive seasons of 30 homers and 100 RBIs will come to an end this season, but a great finish and another heroic postseason would overshadow that record without question. A-Rod has the ability to carry a team on his back, something only a few other players in baseball can do. Obviously it takes a lot more than one player to win a championship in baseball, but I can still use the saying "put the team on his back" and you understand what I mean.
So this is it. If he goes 0-for-4 today just start thinking about 2012.
Kidding, of course. But A-Rod's performance the rest of the season will be a strong indicator of how much success the Yankees have this season.