Hey, Alex Rodriguez was never going to accomplish much by making another All-Star team anyway. He had already made 14 of them, and as improbable as a midsummer’s trip to Cincinnati appeared to be in the spring, Rodriguez was not about to change the way people perceived him by pulling No. 15 out of his hat.
So shed no tears for A-Rod after his big league peers decided against naming him an All-Star Game reserve, and after the fans placed more votes for four other American League designated hitters, including the top vote getter, Nelson Cruz, a fellow Biogenesis alum. If Rodriguez did not deserve the designated hitter nod over Monday night’s chosen DH, Prince Fielder, you could argue that AL manager Ned Yost should have at least included him among the not-so-fab five candidates for the team’s last roster spot.
Yost decided to ignore A-Rod’s entertainment value and go with more versatile options –- including Brett Gardner -- in the pursuit of home-field advantage in the World Series.
In the end it doesn’t really matter. Nobody viewing A-Rod as a hopelessly diminished star who made a mockery of the game and his own standing in it will look back on the 2015 season and say, “But once Alex made that All-Star appearance, wow, I started looking at him differently.”
For starters, he’s made it through only half the season. There’s still plenty of time for his body to fall apart and, let’s face it, for the drug testers to determine whether he crossed back over to the dark side.
So if Rodriguez wants to help his cause the little bit he can help it, he will stay as clean as the uniform laid out for him before every game, lead the New York Yankees to their first playoff appearance since 2012 and then deliver the kind of performance David Ortiz gave the Boston Red Sox in their three championship runs. Or the kind of performance the same Alex Rodriguez gave the Yankees in the 2009 postseason, only this time without the help of his friendly neighborhood chemist.
You didn’t need to watch the American women in the World Cup final on Sunday night to remember just how much everyone loves a winner. Although A-Rod’s redemptive hook isn’t in the same ballpark as the pure one defining a soccer team merely trying to avenge a heartbreaking loss to Japan, it could make for a hell of a sell in October.
Imagine Alex Rodriguez, 40 years old and on the rebound from a season-long suspension, driving the underdog Yankees to a title while admitting once again for the cameras that he said and did so many dumb and hurtful things. And managing all of that in the first year of Derek Jeter’s retirement?
No, it wouldn’t change the fact that Rodriguez firebombed his legacy and likely cost himself the place in the Hall of Fame that his 670 homers and 2,016 RBIs would otherwise have made him a death-and-taxes lock. But it would at least temper the A-Rod narrative in ways another trip to the All-Star Game never could.
Not many projected Rodriguez to be a .284 hitter with 16 homers and 47 RBIs in early July. For those of us who saw him live in spring training, yeah, A-Rod has come a long way, baby.
Even though Mark Teixeira described a 30-100 season for his teammate as a realistic scenario in the early hours of camp, Rodriguez sounded like a man with no confidence in his own comeback (in fact, he nearly fell over when informed of this Tex message). He realized he hadn’t put together a big year since 2010 and that he had played only 44 games since the end of a 2012 postseason that saw him get benched. The hip surgeries and layoff had left his body looking soft enough and his swing looking long enough to inspire some to wonder how Yankees GM Brian Cashman could guarantee him a home on the Opening Day roster.
Reggie Jackson was there in camp to remind Rodriguez that he had hit 27 homers and driven in 85 runs as a 39-year-old California Angel. A reporter reminded A-Rod that a 40-year-old Brett Favre had come off a major arm injury with the New York Jets to lead the Minnesota Vikings to within one misguided pass of the Super Bowl.
“I know that [Michael] Jordan played all 82 games in basketball at the age of 39 or 40,” Rodriguez said then, “so I think in today’s day and age, anything is possible.”
It sounded like he was trying (and failing) to convince himself of those possibilities.
Truth is, Rodriguez is as shocked as anyone that he’s hitting the way he’s hitting. Jackson called him a special athlete in the spring and suggested that a 20-homer, .270 season was doable. But at the time, those numbers seemed as unreachable as a Cooperstown induction day. Rodriguez was soon enough in position to crush that projection, and to make his All-Star hopes real.
“I would walk to Cincinnati if they asked me to play,” Rodriguez told ESPN.com’s Wallace Matthews.
They didn’t ask him to play. And even if Yost made it possible for fans to gift A-Rod that last roster spot, who says they would have picked him? A-Rod finished fifth in the original fan voting for a reason, probably the same reason the Yankees initially wanted to terminate the remains of his $275 million contract.
Rodriguez lied and lied about his repeated use of banned drugs, sued people he shouldn’t have sued and then copped to the truth when he had no other choice. There’s a lingering price to be paid for that kind of conduct. But A-Rod did serve his full suspension, and he did return to baseball and the Yankees as a player with good intentions (so far) and a really good bat (so far).
He turns 40 later this month, and as crazy as the idea of A-Rod winning another ring in the Bronx sounds, it’s not quite as crazy as, say, the idea of a 39-year-old Tiger Woods winning another Open Championship at St. Andrews.
A World Series title without Jeter’s help wouldn’t be a storybook ending, but an ending that would brighten the story a little bit. In the long run, Alex Rodriguez would have found no such benefit out of a 15th invitation to the All-Star Game.