The Alex Rodriguez drama is already starting.
Okay, admittedly, when it comes to Alex Rodriguez, the drama never really stops; but this time around, it’s all about what role A-Rod will play for the Yankees in 2015.
Rodriguez is working out in Florida preparing for a return to New York after sitting out the entire 2014 campaign while serving a suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.
Prior to that, Rodriguez missed a lot of time – and didn’t look like he had much left in the tank when he was on the field – in 2012 and 2013.
In those two seasons he appeared in 166 total games posting a .265/.352/.428 batting line with 24 doubles, 25 home runs, 76 RBI, 95 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases.
In a vacuum, those would be solid numbers. Over a single-season, you’d be pretty happy with that output, but split over two seasons and combined with below-average defense (thanks to two surgically-repaired hips), it’s not a good look.
It gets even worse when you factor in the $57 million the Yankees paid Rodriguez to produce like a very good, but not great and certainly not elite, third baseman during those two years.
Those numbers would, however, make the Yankees very happy if they were to come from Chase Headley in 2015.
Headley would be that guy the Yankees signed to a four-year, $52 million deal back in December with the mindset that he would be the club’s third baseman going forward and if/when Rodriguez returned to the field it would be in a diminished capacity as designated hitter and backup corner infielder.
Well, it turns out that Rodriguez sees things a little bit differently.
That’s the story being reported today via Steven Marcus of New York Newsday:
“Alex’s mind is that job’s not Headley’s, it’s Alex’s to lose,” the source said. “That’s what he thinks. Alex is going into training camp thinking that he is the starting third baseman, that if there’s a competition, Headley’s got to win it from him. It doesn’t matter about the money, what they signed Headley for. This guy [Rodriguez] can play.”
I guess the easy thing to do here would be to knock Rodriguez for being delusional or call him a prima donna or an entitled athlete or something of that ilk, but I’m not going to go that route.
Rodriguez, who will turn 40 days before this season’s trade deadline, has three years and $61 million left on his contract.
He was signed to play third base for the New York Yankees and that’s what he intends to do. He is a highly-driven, highly-competitive athlete; this type of response should not be a surprise to anyone.
Personally, I’m happy to see that he’s got some fire and drive. I’m impressed to see that he’s down in Florida already, well over a month before spring training starts, and working his butt off to contribute to the club.
He’s doing exactly what fans are always clamoring for; he’s respecting the game and treating it with passion. He’s showing that it’s not about a paycheck, but a genuine desire to compete and, naturally, he’s going to get raked over the coals because of who he is and what he’s done in the past.
I’m of the mindset that he’s paid his dues and we should judge him based on what we see going forward.
Rodriguez served his suspension – the longest PED-related suspension to date – and now he’s eligible to return to the field. Expecting him to tuck tail and disappear into the shadows or meekly return to the lineup, complacent with any slot on the lineup was never an option.
Do I think he’s going to beat out Chase Headley for the third base job this spring?
No. No I don’t.
I think Rodriguez will be the club’s primary DH and he’ll steal a few games here and there at first and third, but for the most part, the hot corner will belong to Headley.
Deep down, I think Rodriguez knows this as well, but expecting him to admit it while he attempts to comeback from injuries, public disgrace, and a year-long layoff would be naïve.
We’re finally getting the baseball-focused, driven, passionate Alex Rodriguez that the fans and media always wanted to see. He’s eschewing the spotlight and putting in the time and effort to get better and prove himself, not relying on a combination of freakish athletic talents and lab-fueled assistance.
He’s finally a guy who just wants to play baseball; rather than a guy who wants to be bigger than baseball.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting this version of Rodriguez at his peak. We’re getting it while he’s in his decline-phase and maybe – just maybe – already done as a regular ballplayer.
…but we’re getting it nonetheless.
It’s time to sit back and witness the final chapter of the Alex Rodriguez story, a tale that’s quickly becoming a redemption story; and one that finally has a protagonist worth cheering.