Alex Rodriguez may be an enormous headache, but people are forgetting something. The Yankees are far better off with him than without him.
Over the past week, the New York Yankees and third-baseman Alex Rodriguez have sat down to talk about his role with the team for the upcoming 2015 season. During this meeting, Rodriguez apologized for the grief that he has brought this team over the past couple years, and wants to put the past behind him. Given the history between these two sides though, it will take a lot longer than a two-hour meeting for them to move on. It is a start though, and New York should make an attempt to begin the mending process.
New York is quite upset about some of the actions that Rodriguez has taken over the past years. The steroid suspensions are one thing, but there were also the lawsuits that Rodriguez has filed over the past couple of years. Rodriguez has sued Major League Baseball and the Yankees’ team doctors, as well as raised questions about the team’s integrity during the Biogenesis ordeal. In Rodriguez’s defense, the Yankees organization hasn’t jumped to his side, instead trying to use the allegations against him to void his mammoth contract. One aspect brought up was the fact that New York will continue to try and deny Rodriguez his bonus money for milestone home runs. New York will owe him $6 million if he hits six home runs to tie Willie Mays, and $6 million for every other hitter he passes (Ruth, Aaron, Bonds).
The bonuses, and the Yankees’ hesitance to pay them, make sense. Typically, when a player reaches a major milestone, the team can market it. Commemorative hats, shirts, pennants, etc. all make the accomplishment worth something to the team. In turn, it should be worth something to the player. Instead, the Yankees are now saying those accomplishments are worthless because of the steroid cloud over Rodriguez’s head. They’re probably not wrong, either.
Rodriguez does have a bit of a reputation for being a cheater. Steroids aside, Rodriguez on multiple occasions has done the unsportsmanlike thing to try and get the advantage. The most well-known is the 2004 ALCS, where he slapped the ball out of Boston Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s glove. Originally it was ruled a drop by Arroyo that scored Derek Jeter from first base, and Rodriguez ended up at second. Upon further review, Rodriguez was called out for interference and Jeter was put back on first. On a couple of occasions, when Rodriguez is on the base path, on pop-ups he would yell “I got it” to confuse the fielders. Sometimes the ball would drop an all the Yankees would be safe. It’d be one thing if he was looking at signs or pulling the hidden ball trick, but Rodriguez’s antics are more Bush-League than anything.
The thing that the Yankees aren’t admitting is that they need Rodriguez on the team, because their offense has questions. It is clear that Alex Rodriguez is no longer the player that he was in the beginning of his career. People can say that it is due to steroids, but people also forget that the man is 39. He hasn’t played close to a full season since 2010. In that year, he hit .270 with 30 home runs.
Since then, he has fought injuries and steroid suspensions, limiting him to 44 games since Opening Day, 2013. The days of him hitting 40-50 home runs are gone, but if he can hit in the .270 range and hit 20-25 home runs, that will help the Yankees. Last season, the Yankees only had two players who hit more than 20 home runs, so they can’t afford to turn away extra offense.
New York has tried to make sure that there is no spot for Rodriguez. Third base has been taken with the signing of Chase Headley to a four-year, $52 million deal. This means that Rodriguez will most likely be the team’s designated hitter and platoon him with Garrett Jones. New York fans won’t like it, but he provides more value on the team than he does off of it.
New York only got 18 home runs from the designated-hitter position last season, fewest in the American League. Even though the power is gone, Rodriguez is still a skilled hitter and he has been working out to naturally stay in shape. New York’s team has more question marks about it now more than ever, so a productive Alex Rodriguez will be huge.
The New York Yankees are going to be stuck with Alex Rodriguez whether they like it or not. They have nobody to blame but themselves for signing him to such an outrageous deal in the first place. Rodriguez still has three years and $64 million left on the deal; it is unlikely any team will take him in a trade unless New York picks up the majority of the money. At that point, it would be better for New York to just hold onto him. Baseball fans will have to deal with the Alex Rodriguez apology saga a little longer, as the team would like him to talk with the media before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training which is next week.