Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Return of Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod hit well in his return to action yesterday (ABC News)
The Yankees suffered a 6-1 Opening Day loss to the Blue Jays yesterday, but the story of the afternoon was Alex Rodriguez playing his first major league game since serving his suspension. He was greeted with a loud ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd, receiving "A-Rod" chants from the Bleacher Creatures. Batting seventh and DHing for the Bombers, Rodriguez worked an eight pitch walk in his first at-bat and roped a single to center his second time up. A-Rod lined out to right fielder Jose Bautista in his final at-bat.

Merely a shell of the elite player that he used to be, Rodriguez is no longer capable of playing the field everyday or batting in the middle of a lineup. New York's re-acquisition of third baseman Chase Headley over the winter has forced Rodriguez off the hot corner, where he was New York's starter from 2004-2013. He'll also probably see time at first base, a position he had never played before until this spring training.

The best case scenario for Rodriguez, now in his 21st major league season and turning 40 this summer, is for him to stay healthy enough to bat about .250 with 15 or so home runs. That won't come close to earning his exorbitant salary, but at least it's something. 

Rodriguez begins the season with 654 home runs, fifth on the all-time list and only six shy of Willie Mays. Catching Barry Bonds or even Babe Ruth seems out of the question at this point, but he'll pass Mays soon enough. Rodriguez might not have much left of his reputation, but his power stroke is still somewhat intact, as evidenced by the three home runs he swatted in 45 spring at-bats.

Rodriguez can expect to be booed mercilessly on the road, but that's nothing new to him. His hitting coach this past winter, Barry Bonds, certainly knows what that's like. Bonds can rest easy knowing that Rodriguez won't reach his record, and that with the recent downturn in offense it will probably stay safe for the foreseeable future.

Crazy as it sounds, I find myself rooting for A-Rod. Maybe it's because the whole world is against him. Maybe it's because I was a fan of his for so long that, like with an old flame, I find myself unable to completely cut ties.

Or maybe it's because Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and there still appears to be some greatness left in him. I want to see it emerge, however briefly, if only to be in awe of his otherworldly talent once again.

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