Before this Yankee postseason even started, we already understood this wasn't Alex Rodriguez's team to carry anymore, an assertion proved beyond doubt in Rodriguez's stunning free fall from heart-of-the-order centerpiece to end-of-the-bench afterthought. Bronx brass made it crystal clear how they view A-Rod now when they benched him for what was supposed to be an elimination game Wednesday night against the Tigers.

A no-rain rain delay caused the postponement of ALCS Game 4 before it ever started, staving off a potential Yankee sweep at least until this afternoon. But Yankee storm clouds brew as thick as ever. In elevating A-Rod's personal hitting futility above the similar struggles of the rest of this anemic lineup, the front office doesn't simply turn its highest-paid player into a high-profile scapegoat, it helps hide the failings of the rest of this team.



A-Rod couldn't do his job protecting Robinson Cano in the lineup, but he is shielding the Yankees' new best hitter from the kind of angry scrutiny that should rightly be directed his way. This was Cano's postseason to shine, his time to turn a regular-season finish for the ages into a playoff performance to remember. But something awful happened to Cano in the three-day vacation between the Yanks clinching the division title and beginning the ALDS.

Cano went from sizzling hot (24-for-39 across the last nine games) to ice cold (3-for-39 in nine playoff games), and he took the Yankees into the deep freeze with him.

Manager Joe Girardi certainly can't do to Cano what he's done to Rodriguez, and not simply because of what general manager Brian Cashman continues to insist is a matter of simple lineup depth. No, the Yankees don't have an Eric Chavez to take the place of Cano, but why would they ever think they needed one? Rodriguez's crumbling 37-year-old body always was going to need help this season, but Cano is a 29-year-old in his prime. That's why Girardi actually stripped himself to his most honest core when he said before Wednesday's game was to start, "If you talk about one guy struggling in our lineup that might be the most shocking, it is definitely going to be Robbie Cano."