Hindsight 2020: Failure to acquire Alex Rodriguez kickstarted Red Sox dynasty

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The term "hindsight" was basically invented for all things Alex Rodriguez, and in our player installment of the Hindsight 2020 series, there's nowhere to turn but to one of the most polarizing athletes in history.

Hard to believe, but 16 years have passed since Boston's courtship of Rodriguez ended with the superstar shortstop donning pinstripes instead of a stitched B.

In those days, the Red Sox still ruled, and the pursuit of A-Rod dominated the 2003 winter news cycle as fervently as the months we just spent agonizing over Tom Brady.

It was the biggest story in sports and the Red Sox believed they had their man - he actually signed a contract - before the union refused to sign off on a pay cut. A week before Christmas, the deal died. Not even a month later, Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone blew out his knee playing pickup basketball.

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The Red Sox and Rangers had already completed the schematics, and all Yankees GM Brian Cashman needed to do was build the house. He swung a deal for the defending MVP and the Red Sox were left to wonder how many times New York could kick them in the face.

The last laugh, of course, would be Boston's.

Rodriguez watched the Red Sox rally from a 3-0 ALCS deficit in 2004 en route to their first World Series in 86 years. And though Rodriguez did manage one title with the Yankees, the Red Sox won three during his career - plus another one since - to take control of the rivalry. Adding insult to injury, a series of scandals related mostly to performance-enhancing drugs made Rodriguez a pariah before his second act as a broadcaster.

In any event, this all leads to an obvious question: just how differently would the last 16 years have unfolded with Rodriguez in Boston instead of New York?

First off, it's important to remember the other dominoes that would've dropped. In order to make room for Rodriguez on the payroll, the Red Sox planned to send Manny Ramirez to Texas, and to clear a spot for him at shortstop, they agreed to ship Nomar Garciaparra and left-handed pitching prospect Jon Lester to the White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez and right-handed prospect Brandon McCarthy.

That's a tough return to stomach now, because Ramirez wound up being World Series MVP, while Lester grew into an All-Star and Cy Young candidate.

It's hard to say what Ordonez would've been at age 30. Coming off his fourth All-Star berth in five years, he hurt his knee in a freak collision with teammate Willie Harris and only appeared in 52 games in 2004. Had he come to Boston, that collision never happens, and seeing as that he went on to make All-Star teams in 2006 and 2007 with the Tigers, finishing second in the MVP race in the latter season and hitting .363 to win the batting title, it's fair to assume a healthy Ordonez would've contributed legitimate production.

As for McCarthy, he delivered a solidly journeyman 13-year career at seven stops, but he was certainly no Lester.

With Rodriguez in Boston, the Red Sox wouldn't have needed to jettison Garciaparra as part of the Orlando Cabrera trade that remade their defense at the 2004 trade deadline. They also would've missed out on a 43-homer, 1.009 OPS season from Ramirez before his October heroics. In Ramirez's place, they would've been relying on Rodriguez to deliver in the postseason, and he went 2-for-17 in New York's four straight losses to end the ALCS.

Where things potentially shift in Boston's favor is 2005, because it signed Edgar Renteria to play short and he was an abject failure. Beyond that, there's no telling how long Rodriguez would've remained here.

The Red Sox planned to restructure his contract to include opt-outs every season after 2005 in exchange for a yearly $4 million decrease in salary. Rodriguez ended up opting out of his Yankees contract - in the middle of the 2007 World Series that was about to won by the Red Sox, by the way - before re-signing in New York for a record $275 million.

Needless to say, that expenditure proved unwise. Rodriguez landed in the center of the Biogenesis doping scandal and was ultimately suspended for the 2014 season. He was already three years removed from his last All-Star appearance by that point, and the combination of toxic publicity and a hip injury brought his Yankees career to an ignominious close in August of 2016 when he announced his retirement just days before being released.

The Red Sox never looked back. They beat him in 2004, beat him in 2007, and beat him in 2013, too. He was in the broadcast booth when they won it again in 2018, by which point their courtship was simply a distant memory of a road thankfully not traveled.

Hindsight 2020: Failure to acquire Alex Rodriguez kickstarted Red Sox dynasty originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston