The fall has been hard for Alex Rodriguez, a player who was once regarded as the MLB‘s best. Since his trade to the New York Yankees before the 2004 season, things have been tough for A-Rod. What began with complaints over his inability to perform in the playoffs eventually developed into multiple scandals involving his performance-enhancing-drug use, multiple surgeries and the gradual loss of his hitting ability.
Even though Rodriguez has not hit over .300 since 2008, the most prominent sign of his decline was his lack of power last season. After hitting at least 30 home runs every year from 1998 until 2010, and still hitting 16 in 99 games in 2011, A-Rod only hit 18 homers with 57 RBI over 122 games in 2012. In addition, he matched his career-low in doubles for seasons where he played over 100 games with 17.
There can be an argument made that Rodriguez’s stats during the 2012 regular season were respectable, but the wheels came flying off during the postseason. He went 3-for-25 during the Yankees’ two-round playoff run, and was benched by manager Joe Girardi, first being pinch-hit for in game 3 of the Division Series and then sitting out three of the team’s final six games.
Rodriguez had hip surgery following the 2012 season, and things have been crazy for him since then. After rumors that he would miss the entirety of 2013, Rodriguez has rehabbed ahead of schedule and played in his first minor league rehab game Tuesday, following a dispute with general manager Brian Cashman which seemed to indicate that Rodriguez playing again had not been in the Yankees’ plans. Logically, it would seem that A-Rod could be somewhat of an upgrade over the Yankees’ current third base situation. The team has used five different players at third this year and is currently relying on 26-year-old rookie David Adams, who is hitting .178. Even with his struggles, Rodriguez has never hit lower than .270 and can be a near-replacement-level player.
Ultimately, Rodriguez is never going to be the player that he was before 2008, which is understandable since he is 37 years old. The issue Rodriguez should be concerned with is being able to put up numbers roughly similar to those that he put up in the last several years. For now, Rodriguez’s identity is just that of the most followed around slightly-below-average third baseman in baseball. Even though he is not what he was, Rodriguez is going to continue to be followed by the media; ESPN even showed his rehab assignment at-bats on Tuesday night. With his profile, it is impossible for Rodriguez to get away from controversy. It’s a certainty that A-Rod will never be an elite player again, but if he can’t be more serviceable than what the Yankees have at third right now, it isn’t worth it for the Yankees to put up with his drama. As baseball’s most controversial player, Rodriguez needs to put up respectable numbers if he wants to stick around.