Once upon a time, Alex Rodriguez was one of the most-feared hitters in Major League Baseball.My, how things have changed.
While this story appears to start off like any normal fairy-tale, unfortunately the ending is no where near as fitting as it should be.
Alex Rodriguez will go down as one of the greatest players to ever grace a baseball field. At age 37, A-Rod has already accomplished so much of what every child who wants to play professional baseball dreams about: First Overall Draft Pick, 3x AL MVP, 14x All-Star, World Series Champion. If that wasn’t enough, his 647 home runs rank fifth all-time, asserting him as one of the prolific home run hitters in baseball history. A-Rod was one of the great faces of baseball.
Unfortunately for Alex Rodriguez, he will also go down as one of the most despised.
Once a lock to break Barry Bonds’ “tainted” home run record, A-Rod’s star has fallen rapidly. His $252 million contract that he signed with the Texas Rangers in 2001 defined him as the sport’s greatest player. Then came the trade that sent A-Rod to the New York Yankees, where the scrutiny began. Fans were elated at the trade, but it wouldn’t last. First it was his move from shortstop to third base, his way of showing he was subordinate to Yankees’ Captain Derek Jeter. Then his fascination with the New York tabloids: sunbathing in Central Park and the alleged painting of himself as a centaur in his bedroom. It soon became a matter of trying to be better than Jeter. To most New Yorkers, A-Rod is the anti-Derek Jeter. No matter what Rodriguez did, he was never embraced by Yankee fans as he imagined he would be. Rodriguez tried too hard to be Jeter – a leader that was impossible to replicate. Rodriguez won two MVPs with New York, each overshadowed by his postseason woes, while Yankee fans adored Jeter regardless. Rodriguez wanted to be Jeter, but he never could quite follow the mold the Captain had created. When Jeter slumped, the fans were behind him, while when A-Rod slumped, he was booed mercilessly. Rodriguez was trying too hard to be liked.
After A-Rod opted out of the contract at the end of the 2007 season, the new 10-year, $275 million contract he signed with the Yankees, along with his MVP season, defined him as the greatest hitter in the game. It would all go downhill from there.
In 2009, after the Yankees missed the postseason in 2008 for the first time in over a decade, Rodriguez admitted to the allegations that he had used performance enhancing drugs. It still was not Rodriguez’s biggest blunder compared to his dismal postseasons.
In New York, what you do in the regular season can all be forgotten by how you perform in the postseason. A-Rod had a chance to be beloved – all he had to do was produce when it mattered most. Instead, Rodriguez landed himself flat on his face. When it comes to playing in New York, a fan base that preaches “what have you done for me lately?” Rodriguez found himself the culprit when the postseason began in October, his inevitable slump month and the most crucial month of the year for Yankee fans. In 2009, when A-Rod hit .378 with six home runs in the postseason, en route to the Yankees’ 27th World Series title, it appeared he had fought off his demons.
In the five postseason series since, Rodriguez has hit a combined .164 with zero home runs.
To date, Rodriguez is a career .265 hitter in postseason play. When the Yankees do not succeed in the postseason, Rodriguez is often regarded the villan, turned on by fans when all goes wrong.
Then came the injury bug that comes with growing older. Year-by-year, Rodriguez appeared more and more mortal. A shell of his former fearsome self. In 2009 it was surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. 2011, surgery mid-season to repair a torn meniscus. This year, a broken hand sidelined Rodriguez for a substantial amount of time. Gone are the days that pitchers would throw around him at the plate, holding their breath that a hanging-pitch would not end up in the outfield seats. Rodriguez’s games played has decreased every season since 2008, an injury plagued year in which he played in 138 games. Since then, his games played has resulted in the following: 124 (2009), 137 (2010), 99 (2011), 122 (2012). The inexplicable power that Rodriguez possessed, a lock for 30 HR and 100 RBI every season, vanished. A .300 slugger became a .270 slap-hitter. With each passing season, the massive contract Rodriguez signed defines itself as an albatross for the Yankees.
Alex Rodriguez’s 2012 season:
.272, 18 HR, 57 RBI.
Alex Rodriguez’s salary for the 2012 season:
Five years, $114 million to go.
We are just a few hours before Game 4 of the 2012 American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Detroit Tigers. Currently, the Yankees play tonight with their season on the line, trying to dig themselves out of a three-games-to-none deficit in the best of seven series. The team appears to be a lost cause, with it almost a guarantee that tonight will be their last game played. The Yankees, despite being carried by fantastic pitching, have been starved for offense. To make matters worse, they lost Jeter, their Captain and best postseason hitter, to a fractured ankle that will cost him the rest of the season. Robinson Cano, the team’s best hitter – a title Rodriguez used to wear, isn’t hitting. Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher aren’t hitting. Most importantly, A-Rod isn’t hitting. All that can go wrong has gone wrong for these Yankees. For some of them, tonight could be their last game in pinstripes.
It could also be the last game for Rodriguez as a New York Yankee.
It all started in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles. The series was tied 1-1, and with the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Rodriguez was the next batter due up. The man with 647 career home runs could tie the game with one swing of the bat.
Not the case.
Manager Joe Girardi instead called Rodriguez back the bench, pinch hitting with Raul Ibanez. The move ultimately worked in favor for New York, as Ibanez homered in the ninth to the tie the game, and then homered again in the 12th to give the Yankees a win that would eventually help in sending them to the ALCS. But boy, was it gutsy. Before Girardi’s call, Joe Torre’s decision to drop Rodriguez to eighth in the lineup during the 2006 ALDS was deemed bold. Never did anyone imagine that Rodriguez, the highest paid player in baseball, would be pinch hit for.
Rodriguez continued to struggle throughout the ALDS, resulting in Girardi continuing to pinch hit Ibanez when the game was on the line. Then the biggest surprise of all happened, when Rodriguez was left out of the starting lineup for Game 5 in favor of Eric Chavez. No pinch-hitting appearance, no fielding substitution – A-Rod was relegated to cheerleader, a $30 million cheerleader.
When the ALCS began, Rodriguez was back in the starting lineup at third base for Game 1. His postseason woes continued, as the Yankees still appeared lifeless with their bats. Ibanez homered in the ninth again to force the game to extras. The ending was not as happy. In the innings that followed, the Yankees lost Jeter and the game, now trailing in the series 1-0.
Following the loss of Jeter, it appeared as though the stage was set for Rodriguez to take over and lead the Yankees in the Captain’s absence. A-Rod was the only Yankee who had a caliber comprable to Jeter’s. Losing Jeter meant it was A-Rod’s time to shine.
That wouldn’t be the case.
A-Rod and the rest of the Yankees continued to not-hit, eventually getting shut out in Game 2, 3-0 despite a remarkable pitching performance from Hiroki Kuroda. The Tigers held a 2-0 series lead. Cano, at the time, was mired in a 0-for-26 slump, a major league record, and sported a batting average near .050. Granderson and Swisher were hitting around .100 respectively. Rodriguez, hitting .143, was the leader of the four. However, all the attention was drawn to A-Rod. While Cano, Granderson, and Swisher had been noticed due to their performance, not nearly as much was made of their production as was A-Rod’s. It is unfair and wrong to solely blame A-Rod for the team’s slide, as there are far more deserving players (Cano) who slide under the radar.
A-Rod the villan.
After Game 2, more news broke out that surely didn’t help A-Rod’s cause, as the New York Post reported that he had flirted with two female fans during Game 1 and asked for their phone numbers. Yikes. After it had appeared that Rodriguez had dropped his old antics, of course something like this would be bound to happen. Perhaps it was the last straw for Joe Girardi and the Yankees in the never-ending story of Alex Rodriguez.
Before Game 3, it looked as if it were a lock that Rodriguez would be starting against Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander. A-Rod was one of the few Yankees on the roster that had success against Verlander: 8-for-30 (.267) with three home runs in his career, but 4/6 with two home runs in 2012. If there was a time for Rodriguez to break out of his postseason funk, there was no better time than now. In a controversial twist, Girardi again benched A-Rod in favor of Chavez, whose 0-11 postseason didn’t seem to bother the Yankees skipper as much as A-Rod’s 0-18 against right-handed pitching in the postseason. The Yankees, despite a late rally, would go on to the lose the game 2-1 – now just one game away from elimination. Chavez went 0-3. A-Rod sat on the opposite side of the dugout from Girardi.
Tonight, the Yankees will try to play for their lives as they send ace CC Sabathia against Detroit’s Max Scherzer. Once again, Alex Rodriguez, 3-23 in the postseason, will not be in the starting lineup. If Girardi would not start A-Rod against Verlander, who he had favorable numbers against, why on earth would he start against Scherzer, who he is 1-12 in his career against? Not to mention, he’s still 0-18 against righties, which Scherzer is. If there were a game for A-Rod not to play in, it would be this one. He should have played last night. It’s possible that Game 2 may have been the last for Alex Rodriguez in pinstripes. Maybe he’ll pinch hit tonight, maybe he’ll start. It’s all hands on deck to keep the season alive for the Yankees.
But what has this done to Alex Rodriguez?
For one, you would have to imagine that he has lost the faith of his manager. A-Rod appears as nothing more than a platoon player now, which would not be a problem if he were not making $30 million and didn’t have five years/$114 million left on his contract. Rodriguez has to be angry at Girardi for pinch hitting, benching, and almost certainly embarrassing his persona. It is truly amazing how the Yankees have attempted to destroy Rodriguez’s image since he arrived in New York. He’s clearly not the same player anymore worthy of that salary, and the Yankees don’t think so either. Why would he even want to play for the Yankees anymore? They’ve lost him.
It is almost impossible to imagine A-Rod with the Yankees next season given how the last few days have played out. Why would he ever want to play for Girardi again? Wouldn’t his playing time be reduced drastically given this postseason? However, his contract makes it almost impossible to imagine him playing elsewhere. I cannot see things working out positively between A-Rod and the organization this offseason and next season. The best thing for A-Rod and the Yankees would be to end a marriage that has been ugly from the start. Unfortunately there’s only three options: release, trade, or retire.
The Yankees almost certainly will not release Alex Rodriguez. There is too much money remaining on his contract for the team to eat it. He can still be a contributing player, however not worthy of the salary he makes, and no where near expected to produce at the level he once did. All these reasons are the same for which why A-Rod will not retire. Would you walk away from $114 million?
There’s only one realistic option, and that’s a trade. A few days ago, Yankees’ President Randy Levine made an appearance on ESPN New York 98.7 FM and was non-committal to the idea of Rodriguez finishing his contract with the Yankees, saying: “That’s like one of those questions: Where’s the stock market going to be in 2017? Who’s going to be president on Nov. 15?” he said. “If I had a crystal ball to predict all of that stuff, I’d be a lot smarter than I am. I’m not going to go there.”
Sounds like A-Rod has the support of the organization, no?
Fortunately for him, A-Rod may not have to worry about the Yankees not having his back much longer.
Today, long-time sports reporter Keith Olbermann reported some surprising news on his MLB.com blog (http://keitholbermann.mlblogs.com/):
“The New York Yankees have held discussions with the Miami Marlins about a trade involving their third baseman in crisis, Alex Rodriguez.
Sources close to both organizations confirm the Yankees would pay all – or virtually all – of the $114,000,000 Rodriguez is owed in a contract that runs through the rest of this season and the next five. One alternative scenario has also been discussed in which the Yankees would pay less of Rodriguez’s salary, but would obtain the troubled Marlins’ reliever Heath Bell and pay what remains of the three-year, $27,000,000 deal Bell signed last winter.”
Shocker? I think so.
The Yankees are so desperate to move A-Rod that they would eat his salary to do it, or even better, take another struggling high-paid player, in this case Bell, in return. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this deal go through - he’d certainly approve a trade to play back home in front of a less hostile fan base. In spring training, A-Rod endorsed the new Marlins park, admiring its surroundings and hinting he’d like to play there.
Is this what Alex Rodriguez is now? An overpaid, underperforming diva? Probably.
I’ve been one of the biggest A-Rod fans since he came to New York. I’ve defended him numerous times in articles, tweets, and even on my own radio show. Each year, he’s made himself harder to defend. The best thing for him to do is to approve a trade (he has a no-trade clause) to Miami, and get out of New York. This could be the only opportunity for him to do so.
Maybe the Yankees truly are finished with A-Rod. Maybe the flirting in Game 1 was the decisive blow that this guy isn’t cut out for New York, despite all his seasons played. Maybe A-Rod was never meant to be better than Jeter. Maybe he’ll be a Marlin next year. How could he possibly want to return to New York next season after this? There’s one thing though, that is certain.
Alex Rodriguez is just about finished in New York, and the Yankees are doing everything in their power to show it. Since he arrived in New York, he has been mistreated, both by the organization and fans. He’ll never be loved by the Yankee fans no matter how many championships he could have possibly brought. Unfortunately that is his legacy, and he won’t get a chance to change that since he’s on the bench tonight. Of course there’s a slight chance the Yankees win tonight and can still win the series and A-Rod can salvage himself – but let’s be realistic.
Alex Rodriguez: $30 million star has become Alex Rodriguez: $30 million bust.
The man who was supposed to break the home run record and save baseball, will probably not do either. The limitless ability that Alex Rodriguez once possessed is no more. Instead, he’s broken down sooner than all could have imagined. His days of 30 & 100 are over. I hope I’m wrong, but where’s the evidence against? His end is without a doubt unprecedented and untimely. It’s time to move on.
Oh, how far the mighty have fallen.