Jump ship, A-Rod

I understand we’re just seven games into this baseball season, but I simply can’t help but think of 2008.

And as we watch Alex Rodriguez swat everything in sight 400-plus feet, it becomes more and more evident just how perfect he’d be for the Red Sox.

You got that right, bud. Alex. Rodriguez. Red Sox.

Face it; despite whatever lingering hatred that still exists, you want him. There’s nary a sliver of doubt that A-Rod won’t opt out of his contract following this season, and Brian Cashman has already decreed should that happen, the Yankees have no interest in re-working a deal. Mike Lowell’s contract is up. Julio Lugo or Kevin Youkilis could adequately shift to third base should Rodriguez wish to return to shortstop. And in signing A-Rod to the richest contract baseball has ever seen, the Red Sox would effectively put an end to the pathetic daily soap opera that is Rodriguez’s relationship with Derek Jeter, Yankee fans, and the city of New York.
Yes, he tries way too hard for people to award him their inner Sally Field, but…good grief, look at what the man can do when he simply gets out there and plays focused and doesn’t obsess with all the peripheral stuff. Sure, he’s focused on cash, but hey, whatever works.
Rodriguez hit his sixth homer of the season already last night in Minnesota in a 10-1 win over the Twins, and is batting .357 with 15 runs batted in over his first seven games. If you believe the Steve Philipses of the world, it’s all because A-Rod is “having fun again.” Yeah. Has nothing to do with the dollar signs quickly filling his eyes as if in some Bugs Bunny moment.
A-Rod has a ticket out of New York, and he knows it. It isn’t every day that a man could opt out of a $25 million a year deal in order to make more money, but hey, Yakov Smirnov was impressed for a reason.
From the very beginning, Rodriguez and the Yankees were never a good fit. There is the underlying tension between him and Captain Jeter. There is Rodriguez’s psyche, trying to prove his monetary worth on a team on which he was just some other guy. Most importantly, there is Rodriguez’s failure to produce in the clutch to most firmly point the finger as Exhibit A.
Then again, the last time they were in the ALCS, in 2004 vs. Boston, A-Rod batted .258 (with a glove slap to boot) while Golden Boy Jeter hit just .200.
Yes, he has just three hits the last two ALDS series combined, but perhaps Yankee fans ought to direct their wrath at a pathetic pitching staff instead of Rodriguez for those early exits. Still, A-Rod remains the scapegoat. Oh, not this season, for certain, but how long do you really think that leash will remain?
The boos showered early, when Rodriguez dropped a foul pop against the Devil Rays on Opening Day. A home run, a grand slam, and 15 runs driven in later, the Yankee fans are still ignoring their dreadful pitching situation, but instead are feting A-Rod for his production in the greatest definition of fair-weather this side of San Diego. Love A-Rod. Hate A-Rod. Love A-Rod. Hate A-Rod. Enough, already.
The next back page Rodriguez gets spread across in Manhattan is already one too many. The obsession with the third baseman has reached a sickening level. And A-Rod won’t receive his ultimate payback if he does indeed jump ship to join the likes of the Angels, Giants, or Cubs. What happens then? No matter what Rodriguez does in one of those locales, the New York fans have won. It will serve as the ultimate reminder that perhaps the game’s greatest player couldn’t hack it in a pressure cooker environment, and he will always have that stigma, no matter how many home runs he hits between now and his retirement.
Enter, Boston.
OK, so Red Sox fans love to hate him almost as much as Yankee fans do, but that would certainly pass. After all, besides the whole infamous slap (which never hurt Boston in the first place) where does the hatred stem? If the Red Sox couldn’t work out a deal and Rodriguez ended up with say, Detroit, would Boston feel the need to have a boiling ire every time his name comes up?
By signing with Boston, Rodriguez would finish what the two parties tried to accomplish back in 2003, which seems like an eon ago. Rodriguez would get to play in an atmosphere perhaps even more intense than the Bronx, without the added pressure of 86 years hovering over his head. And if he proves he can do it here, the reward it twofold, not only will it define his baseball legacy, it will be the ultimate middle finger to the fans in New York who have had an irrational hatred for him the last three seasons, mainly because he isn’t Jeter.
Cashman may have already sealed New York’s fate by declaring they won’t re-negotiate with Scott Boras if they decide to opt out. Maybe that makes it easier for the Red Sox to swoop in and steal him away without getting into a bidding war between the two highest payrolls in the game. One hundred eighty million for six years? It sounds preposterous, but it could be the money A-Rod gets come next winter.
Imagine a 2008 lineup that features Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez in the final year of his contract. With Manny off the books, that’s $20 million of the $30 million it might take annually to sign Rodriguez right there. It’ll drive Yankee fans nuts if Rodriguez wins the World Series that he couldn’t bring to them in Boston, and really, what could be better for a Red Sox fan?
You’ll fight it. But you want him on your team. You know you do.
And I can’t wait to watch and see how it all goes down come this fall.