For Love of the Game?

 

I do want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with the game of baseball, someone who loves it at every level,”

– Alex Rodriguez

 

Alex Rodriguez is facing yet another test of character, perhaps his biggest yet.  It was announced Sunday that his days as a player for the New York Yankees would be coming to an end in the very near future.  Anyone reading this already knows that A-Rod has been underperforming at the plate this year, and those same people know that the Yankees’ front office has been trying to unload A-Rod’s albatross of a contract to no avail.  New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman confirmed that no other teams are interested in acquiring Rodriguez.  The situation is as follows:

  • The Yankees want to get rid of A-Rod.  If they can’t trade him they are still required to pay him the remainder of his contract ($27 million approx.)
  • A-Rod wants to play baseball, not sit on the bench
  • A-Rod currently has 696 career home runs and desperately wants to reach 700 before he retires, something only three players can lay claim to (Bonds, Aaron, Ruth)
  • A-Rod also wants to collect the $27 million remaining on his contract

So in an attempt to unload A-Rod’s monster contract Cashman devised an ingenious plan.  He basically tells A-Rod that his skills are diminishing and he should retire.  A-Rod refuses.  Cashman lays his cards on the table – retire now, or you’ll never see the field again anyway.  A-Rod stands firm, he wants to collect the 27 million owed to him (who wouldn’t?).  This is where Cashman makes his most brilliant move.  He knows that A-Rod is too proud to sit on the bench for the rest of this year and all of 2017, so he offers him an out; become a “special advisor”.  Now A-Rod can avoid the humiliation of riding the pine and still collect the money owed to him, unless…

ESPN reports that, “Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, however, acknowledged that Rodriguez has a right to change his mind and pursue any potential opportunity. And for his part, Rodriguez never used the word “retire.”

If A-Rod does decide to make a run at 700 he can opt out of his contract with the Yankees (best case scenario for Cashman) and sign with any team he chooses.  But which teams might be interested?  Certainly it would have to be a team with issues.  No contender is going to sign an aging slugger, especially one who no longer slugs.  Even if a contender did want him we know A-Rod doesn’t want to be a role player so pinch hitting is out of the question.  He wants to play every day and the only teams who are likely to let him do that are teams whose current hitters are even more woeful than A-Rod.  Surely there must be at least one out there, right?  There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, each with eight or nine starting hitters.  That’s 135 AL hitters and 120 NL hitters for a total of 255 hitters.  So, is A-Rod in the top 255 hitters in Major League Baseball?  Currently his OPS ranks him as the 154th best hitter in baseball (although currently he does not “qualify” as far as at bats go).

A-Rod’s stats are underwhelming to say the least.  His current slash line is .204/.252/.356.  He hits a home run every 24 at bats and strikes out once every 3.32 at bats.  Of course his at bats have been sporadic at best and it’s possible that he could get into a rhythm once he’s getting regular plate appearances.  His potential salary could also be appealing to a team attempting to boost ticket sales until the end of the season.  The minimum salary of $507,500.00, pro-rated over the remaining 50 games of the season, would work out to approximately $156,000.00.

 

Tampa Bay Rays – Located in A-Rod’s home state.  Last in AL East (45-65).  Average attendance 16,503 (last in MLB).  A-Rod can chase his 700 home runs and the Rays can cash in on a boost in ticket sales without jeopardizing their rebuilding efforts.

Comparable players:

  • Kevin Kiermaier    .206/.311/.376    AB/HR – 31.50    AB/SO – 4.73
  • Desmond Jennings    .200/.281/.350    AB/HR – 28.57    AB/SO – 3.45
  • Alex Rodriguez    .204/.252/.356    AB/HR – 24.00    AB/SO – 3.32

 

Miami Marlins – Located in A-Rod’s home town.  2nd in NL East.  Average attendance 21,837 (27th in MLB).  Like the Rays option A-Rod can go after his milestone and the Marlins can collect some extra bank.  This one is trickier however as despite the Fish being eight games behind the Nationals in the NL East (and unlikely to catch them), they’re only three games behind the Dodgers for the NL Wild Card spot (a much more reasonable target).  So can the Marlins give A-Rod the at bats he needs to hit four home runs without risking a shot at the playoffs?

Comparable players:

  • Miguel Rojas    .261/.297/.326    AB/HR – 0 HR’s    AB/SO – 6.90
  • Chris Johnson    .231/.282/.338    AB/HR – 48.75    AB/SO – 3.15
  • Alex Rodriguez    .204/.252/.356    AB/HR – 24.00    AB/SO – 3.32

 

So now Rodriguez has a choice to make, become a special advisor and collect another $27 million, or sacrifice the money and go for 700 home runs, presumably while earning the league minimum.  Baseball Reference shows his career earnings to date as $393,285,104.00, so we know he doesn’t need the money.  But what about reaching 700 home runs?  He’s only four short of his goal.  It would kill some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they’d consider it a tragedy.  Imagine this, it’s 2066.  Alex Rodriguez is 91 years old and laying on his deathbed.  At that moment, looking back on his life, his legacy, would he trade the $27 million ($14 million after taxes) he made as a special advisor for four more, just four more, home runs?

We’re about to find out just what Alex Rodriguez truly loves the most.

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