COMMENTARY | Considering what's transpired with the franchise over the years, isn't it feasible to think that the drama surrounding Alex Rodriguez could very well have been the New York Mets' problem?
The Mets could have been the team that landed A-Rod when he became a free agent 12 years ago. Or, thinking they made a mistake by letting him sign elsewhere, they could have made a run for him when he opted out of his contract after the 2007 season. In other words, the Mets could have been the organization stuck with one really bad contract.
Rodriguez is back in the news. The last time we heard from him he was having hip surgery. The time before that, he was being pinch hit for and, even worse, benched in the American League Championship Series. This time, his name is once again linked to performance-enhancing drugs. With A-Rod, it never ends.
Just think: Alex Rodriguez could have been a Met.
Who knows how things would have played out had Rodriguez signed with the Mets instead of joining the Texas Rangers prior to the 2001 season. We don't know how long that Mets' contract would have been or what it would have included. Chances are, A-Rod would no longer be a Met at this point anyway. But say, for example, he had signed with the Mets when he opted out of his contract with the New York Yankees following the 2007 season, he would still be the Mets' problem. And what a problem he's become.
In 2000, we know the Mets had interest, but Steve Phillips, the team's general manager at the time, was turned off by Rodriguez's contract demands -- not just the money, but the perks he reportedly sought. At the time, A-Rod was one of the game's best players and his best years were still ahead of him. In 2007, he had just come off a season where he hit 54 home runs and drove in 156 runs. He hasn't come close to matching those numbers since, though in the 2009 postseason he hit .365 with six home runs and 18 runs batted in.
So let's say, just for a moment, that Rodriguez was a Met. Would all the off-the-field stuff still have occurred?
If he signed with the Mets over a decade ago, when he had so many great years ahead of him, would he have taken performance-enhancing drugs? Would A-Rod have gotten himself caught up in the controversies he did -- from the Toronto strip club and hotel in 2007 to the Yankees dugout in the 2012 postseason? Would we have any idea who Yuri Sucart was?
It's just so interesting to think back 12 years to a time when the Mets could have very easily added Rodriguez to a lineup that already featured Mike Piazza. The Mets seemed on the verge of adding one more superstar to a team that went to the World Series in 2000. After the Yankees had won three of the last four World Series, it was hard to imagine the Mets taking over the town. But they would have had the best player in town, statistically speaking, and there would have been a whole lot of juice (no pun intended) at Shea Stadium.
Or maybe the Mets would have tired of Rodriguez's act, similar to what the Yankees are going through right now.
Rodriguez is one of the most puzzling athletes ever. An incredible talent, he'll be remembered for all the times he failed to come through, for how hard he seemed to try to be like Derek Jeter. Forget about the 600-plus home runs and all the talent in the world. Now all that matters is that most people believe he cheated. No postseason strikeout is as damaging as that.
The Yankees have been to the postseason eight times since Rodriguez arrived. The Mets have gotten to the postseason once in that same span. Not to say the Mets are proud of that, but they should at least be happy that A-Rod is not their problem.
Charles Costello, who has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984), was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets and Yankees during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. He has watched Alex Rodriguez's entire career in Pinstripes.
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