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In retrospect, Red Sox lucked out on A-Rod

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  October 17, 2012 11:03 AM

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Kyna Treacy is, according to the New York Post, a "leggy, 33-year-old" Australian swimwear model with her very own bikini line, so she might want to know now what we in Boston learned many years ago. Alex Rodriguez is perfectly fine to flirt with. You just don't want to marry him.

The New York Yankees lost to the Detroit Tigers by a 2-1 score in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night, and A-Rod was in his now customary place as Raul Ibanez struck out against lefthander Phil Coke to end the game with two men on base in the top of the ninth. He was on the bench. New York's $275 million man neither started nor finished against a Detroit team that leads the ALCS, 3-0, reduced to a Belichickian gray hoody as the Yankees' season steadily slipped away.

But at least Rodriguez is preparing for the worst. According to published reports in New York, Rodriguez was flirting with Treacy at Yankee Stadium during the final innings of Game 1, acquiring her phone number via a ballboy courier in a 6-4 New York loss during which Rodriguez went 1 for 3 with a strikeout.

"I am not going to comment on that," New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters even before the Yankees took the field on Wednesday. "I don't really have a comment."

Rodriguez did not make himself available for comment after the Yankees defeat, which is just as well. For the second time in the last four postseason games, he did not play. Rodriguez now has been pinch-hit for or benched in five of the last six playoff games, an astonishing development considering he is the highest-paid player in the game and still has five years remaining on a 10-year contract worth a minimum of $275 million.

The worst part? Both Girardi and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman insisted before Game 3 that Rodriguez' benching was strictly performance related - and they are likely telling the truth. This postseason, Rodriguez is 3 for 23 with 12 strikeouts. Against righthanded pitching, he is a positively abysmal 0 for 18 with 12 whiffs. Rodriguez hit .308 vs. lefthanded pitching while Ibanez batted a mere .197, and yet Girardi still let Ibanez bat against Coke with the Yankees' season on the line.

In Girardi's defense, Tigers righthander Joaquin Benoit undoubtedly would have entered the game had Rodriguez come off the bench, but you get the point: the highest-paid player in baseball can't be trusted by his own manager anymore in the biggest situations or the biggest games. How the Yankees ended up here is a fascinating story of recklessness, though neither the Red Sox nor their fans should be too eager to mock New York.

For starters, the Red Sox badly wanted Rodriguez nine years ago and failed to get him only through their own ineptitude. (Our weaknesses sometimes prove to be our strengths.) Second, the Sox themselves recently shed nearly a quarter-billion dollars in contracts, thanks largely to the drunken sailors now running the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Had Rodriguez ended up in Boston, there is no telling how different things might be today. Maybe the current Red Sox owners would have run the team into the ground years ago. Following the Sox' loss to the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS - the famous Grady Little-Aaron Boone game - the Red Sox placed Manny Ramirez on waivers and began their pursuit of Rodriguez, who was three years into a 10-year, $250 million deal with the Texas Rangers. To make room for Rodriguez at shortstop, the Sox reached agreement in principle on a deal with the Chicago White Sox that would have sent disgruntled shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez.

An outfielder for a shortstop. A shortstop for an outfielder. And all the Red Sox had to do was complete a financial restructuring of Rodriguez' deal that would have completed one of the biggest trades in baseball history.

Thankfully, the Red Sox botched it - badly - leveraging Rodriguez because they believed he had nowhere else to turn. Of course, they were wrong. Rodriguez ended up in New York as the Yankees' third baseman, the news of which sent Red Sox officials stumbling all over themselves in an attempt to get back in the discussions.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Ramirez proved to be the Most Valuable Player of the 2004 World Series and the centerpiece of a Boston lineup that won two titles in four seasons. Rodriguez won nothing until the pressure was off, until his postseason ineptitude was a sidelight to newcomers C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira in 2009. And yet, over much of the last eight or nine years, the Red Sox have constantly tried to remind us of how smart they are.

With Rodriguez, even after the shenanigans of 2003-04, his drama somehow always seemed to include the Red Sox. Boston was on the verge of winning the World Series in Colorado when agent Scott Boras leaked that Rodriguez would be opting out of his contract with the Yankees, a selfish act for which the player and agent were both rightfully chastised. The decision proved downright stupid when Rodriguez ended up with no real bidders, prompting Rodriguez to appeal directly to owner Hank Steinbrenner.

Which is when the Yankees made the mistake that is costing cost them dearly now - and will continue to for years to come.

For no apparent reason, Steinbrenner re-signed Rodriguez to a 10-year, $275 million deal with a bonus structure that could bring the value of the contract to a whopping $305 million. Rodriguez is now breaking down. Over the last two regular seasons, Rodriguez has hit just 34 home runs and missed 103 regular season games, and now he is being benched in the playoffs. Amid it all, he is focused on swimsuit models far more than baseball at a time when his career is deteriorating, reaffirming one of the oldest baseball truths.

Sometimes, the best deals are the ones you never make.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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