A cautionary Christmas tale

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

'Twas the week before Christmas, and Alex Rodriguez provided a holiday fable chock-full of life messages.

Like: Be careful what you wish for.

Or: Money can't buy happiness.

Rodriguez wanted the Boston Red Sox and the Red Sox wanted Rodriguez, a perfect marriage between the game's best player and its most desperate and determined franchise.

It looked like a done deal, but that's nothing new for Sox. In one more Curse of the Bambino moment, barring a miracle, A-Rod just rolled through Boston GM Theo Epstein's legs.

Rodriguez could have helped save the Sox from an 86th year of World Series futility and pushed them, at last, past the dreaded New York Yankees.

Boston could have saved Rodriguez from becoming Ernie Banks, a player of incredible skill who languished in the game's netherworld. But now he is destined to never again play a meaningful game. Those drama-filled October nights where legends are made are for anyone else.

The plot twist was an old one, a $252 million deal with the devil that may forever leave Rodriguez out of the spotlight, left watching lesser talents become the champions and icons of his generation. Rodriguez will play out his prime in last place, posting Hall of Fame numbers for a Hall of Shame franchise.

During his three seasons in Texas, Rodriguez has averaged big numbers: .305 batting average, 52 home runs and 132 RBIs. His slugging percentage is .615. He committed just 36 errors.

But he was paid a franchise-crippling $73 million during that stretch. The Rangers lost 270 games and finished last in the AL West each season.

He might as well have done it in a vacuum.

This is what happens when you blindly chase money. Three winters ago he could have re-signed with the Seattle Mariners and been an extremely wealthy man and played for a contender.

Instead he went to the Texas Rangers to be even wealthier.

That he wound up in obscurity is a straight shot of irony with a Greek tragedy chaser.

Unlike Banks, the Chicago Cubs superstar who played before free agency, Rodriguez's baseball purgatory is self-chosen.

His catch-22 of a contract assures his current team won't be good until he leaves and at the same time, assures he can't leave.

It took Rodriguez three postseasons of watching others have all the fun for him to realize it wasn't worth the few extra million he can never spend. So he wished for Fenway, wished for the big time, wished for October.

But you can't rewrite history. Or unsign a contract.

If Boston, whose ability and willingness to spend money is eclipsed by only the Yankees, couldn't make this happen, no one will. Certainly not George Steinbrenner. He already has Derek Jeter. Having Rodriguez play out his prime harmlessly in last place is perfect.

Now we may never know how great Rodriguez really is. We may never know if that perfect swing or that flawless defense would hold up under the pressure of a pennant race. We'll never know if he is one of the greatest of all-time, or just a rotisserie god wasting away in Texas.

Statistically Rodriguez is better than his friend Jeter, who averaged only .311, 16 home runs and 67 RBIs over the last three seasons.

But Jeter has four World Series rings and a memory bank full of clutch playoff performances. His spot in history is cemented the right way, the winning way.

Rodriguez's is not. And may never be.

A cautionary Christmas tale indeed.

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