So Here’s the Deal, New York
He seems a decent enough, industrious enough man, this Alex Rodriguez.
After an 11-game trip that concluded 3,000 miles from home, his teammates trudged to a waiting jet last Sunday night. Rodriguez, who’d had two hits and 14 strikeouts in his previous 20 at-bats, stayed behind and Monday took batting practice in his agent’s indoor cage.
Why so many people in New York loathe him -- or maybe it’s just a few very loud people -- is curious. It surely has to do with his being about the most perfectly conceived, designed and assembled ballplayer ever ... with about the worst luck ever.
Every step he takes delivers a precision rake-handle blow to the forehead.
He leaves Seattle for Texas and $250 million, and in three years there he leads the league in home runs three times, in runs twice, in runs batted in once. He wins a most-valuable-player award and two Gold Gloves.
And the Rangers average 90 losses and a manager a season.
He leaves Texas for New York, and in his first two seasons there he leads the league in home runs once, in runs once. He wins another MVP.
And the Yankees blow the 2004 American League championship series to the Red Sox after leading three games to none, and lose in the division series to the Angels the next year.
Those indignations don’t generally splash up on Derek Jeter, who batted .200 in the Red Sox series, or Mariano Rivera, who blew the save in Game 4, or Jorge Posada, who couldn’t throw out Dave Roberts.
But, they soak Rodriguez, who was two for 15 and didn’t drive in a run against the Angels in the 2005 postseason.
When he messes up, he’s A-Dog, K-Rod, whatever. When a Yankees teammate messes up, it’s because he was standing too close to A-Dog, K-Rod, whatever.
And here’s the thing about Rodriguez and New York: It won’t end. They’ll lose because of him and win despite him.
I don’t know how New York picks them. It just does. Maybe it’s alphabetical. You’re next, Gary Sheffield.
Rodriguez left here last week about as hang-dog as a man can be. He had stood in there and taken his strikeouts and moved the best he could to his next at-bat, surely knowing that he’d pay for it back at the Stadium.
When it was pointed out he’d held the same posture the last three times he’d departed Anaheim -- division series in October, World Baseball Classic in March and now -- he half-winced and said, “Hey, I played well in the WBC.”
Watching him play like a guy whose motor skills are a quart low, all I can say is, I’ve been there, man. I’ve stood on the 17th tee and in mid-take-away thought, “Where am I and what is this thing in my hands?” It never ends well. That’s no way to live if you’ve got options.
So, Alex, here are two:
L.A-Rod of Anaheim.
Colletti and Stoneman are out here with prospects burning holes in their khakis, so a trade would be easy.
McCourt and Moreno are going to draw another seven million-plus, so the salary shouldn’t be a problem.
There are no icons at third base, so the position is yours.
No one will boo you here until, like, April 6, earliest.
Despite recent evidence to the contrary (read: Bobby Abreu), Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman is uncomfortable with the team’s bloated payroll. Among the reasons he wrested control of baseball operations from the Tampa side was to stem the spending, both in salaries and the resulting luxury-tax hit.
So, Matt Kemp plays left, Hideki Matsui moves to right, Abreu is the designated hitter, Jonathan Broxton becomes the closer-in-waiting, the Yankees pick up a small percentage of Rodriguez’s salary, and the Dodgers have themselves a cleanup hitter.
Or, Howie Kendrick plays second, Robinson Cano moves to third, Jered Weaver starts every fifth day, the Yankees pick up a small percentage of Rodriguez’s salary (the Rangers already are paying $9 million a year), and the Angels finally have Vladimir Guerrero’s back.
The way things are going, October is almost sure to be a train wreck for A-Rod. It’ll get worse. He’ll waive his no-trade clause -- though he has said he never would -- because he’ll be going to a contender, he’ll be leaving New York and he really, really loves Newport Beach.
Makes sense to Jeff Kent, who has lived New York, lived L.A., and sees what’s coming for A-Rod.
“At this point in his career and the way he’s playing, I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to do enough for the fans to appreciate him on a daily basis,” Kent said. “I don’t know if he’ll ever get to a level high enough for them.”
He could be MVP again.
“I don’t know if that’ll be enough,” Kent said.
He could track the career home-run record in pinstripes -- 500 in 2007, 600 in 2010, 700 in 2012, when he’d be just 37. Surely they’d love him then. Better A-Rod than Barry Bonds, right?
“With the expectations New York has,” Kent said, “on every play of every day, when you don’t compete at that expectation level, the weight of that pressure builds. If you’re not mentally tough enough to handle it, it can have an effect on your game. You have to be seasoned. And I don’t know if A-Rod has been seasoned yet.”
A trade then. Those 27 homers and 96 RBIs before Sept. 1, a down year by the standards of his career and few others, would be good enough. He could be A-Rod again.
“Yes, you bet,” Kent said. “That truckload of weight he’s carrying with him, the majority of it will be dumped.”
It’s not New York and it’s not the Yankees. But neither is it a rake to the head.