TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez on Thursday likened his surprising 2015 season to a Cinderella story, but the analogy doesn’t work on several levels.
For one thing, Alex Rodriguez did not live the life of a chambermaid, bullied and abused by her stepmother and wicked stepsisters, who was suddenly given one glorious night to turn everything around. For years, he was baseball royalty whose own actions forced him into the humbling position of having to work his way back into the game’s good graces.
And for another, Cinderella played her second act offstage. We were told she and her Prince Charming lived happily ever after, and we never heard another word from or about them again.
No such luxury for Rodriguez, who is now expected to follow his "Cinderella season" with something a lot less magical -- a solid major league season in line with the production -- 33 home runs and 86 RBIs -- he put up a year ago.
That, of course, will not be so simple.
In a lot of ways, Rodriguez did enjoy a fairy-tale season last year for the first time in probably six years, one free of injury and, even more surprisingly, controversy.
The biggest scandal of the 2015 season regarding Rodriguez was the New York Yankees' resistance to paying him his contractually stipulated $6 million bonus for tying Willie Mays with 660 home runs, a messy public hissing match that only served to make it appear the big bad Yankees were bullying the poor little chambermaid, er, slugger.
Aside from Chase Headley (148) and Didi Gregorius (147), no Yankee started more games than Rodriguez's 138. After missing an entire season in 2014 and averaging just 105 games per season for each of the previous five, he didn’t spend a minute on the disabled list in 2015.
And let’s not forget that until his late-season tail-off -- he batted just .191 with nine home runs for August and September -- Rodriguez's bat was the second-most dangerous in the Yankees' lineup after Mark Teixeira's.
What are the odds that all those celestial bodies can align like that for a second year in a row?
Because he’s Alex Rodriguez, there is always a chance that they can.
But because he’s also a human being, the odds are even greater that they won’t.
And however 2016 goes for Rodriguez and the Yankees, it won’t happen the way it did for Cinderella, in private, and following the last page of a storybook.
For Rodriguez, this latest second act -- how many of these has he had already, anyway? -- will be played out before crowds of 40,000-plus per night in the ballpark and on TV screens all over America.
Even with the ongoing storyline of Aroldis Chapman and his off-the-field baggage hanging over the Yankees this spring, a lot of prying eyes will be on Rodriguez, as they always are. His first batting practice session on Thursday was attended by a pretty good crowd of onlookers and a ridiculously large number of reporters and television crews.
It was only the first of many BP sessions between now and Opening Day, but truth be told, he looked a little out of sync, especially following Teixeira, whose swing appeared in midseason form; he sent several BP soft-tosses over the fences against a stiff Florida breeze.
The Yankees have already been clear that this spring, they will not even toy with the fiction that Rodriguez could give them a game or two at first base, or even at third, where they instead will be trying out Rob Refsnyder. In fact, they’re not even allowing Rodriguez to hold a glove.
“I think it's the feeling of the organization that to get the most out of him, it's best that we don't put him out there," manager Joe Girardi said. “Physically to keep him healthy, it's better just to have him as the DH."
Rodriguez, too, showed some nagging doubts about the condition of his body. When asked if he expected to be able to put up the same kind of numbers this year as last, he said: “I feel like [I] can be productive. [But] at my age, like any age, health is of the essence."
And when asked if he hoped to play beyond the expiration of his contract at the end of 2017 -- Teixeira, four years younger, said on Wednesday he would like to play five more years -- Rodriguez again hedged his bets.
“I won’t be playing in five more years," he said. “At age 40 with two hip surgeries, I’m day to day. I plan to prepare hard and play as long as my body lets me.”
That could be a subtle way of lowering expectations for the upcoming season, or it could be a glimpse into the psyche of a player who knows he is coming off an exceptional year and is wondering, just like the rest of us, if he is capable of doing it again.
The real Cinderella never had those kinds of worries. Hers was a public romantic encounter that turned into a lifetime of (presumed) private bliss.
Alex Rodriguez, whose entire life, it seems, is played out on public stages, has to repeat Cinderella’s magical night at the ball again this year, and again next year.
And we won’t have to take anyone’s word on whether he lived happily ever after. It will be on display for everyone to see.