Friday, November 2, 2007
I had a conversation Monday morning with a reader, who adamantly stated that he didn't want the Mets to sign Alex Rodriguez.
Later that day, a colleague said that he thought the Mets absolutely have to sign Alex Rodriguez.
Such is the talk of the week with in Mets nation. You could write a book out of all the talk and the articles that have been flying around ever since A-Rod opted out of his original, overly-bloated contract during Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night.
I'll say it right now: I don't like A-Rod. He's proven himself to be little more than a puppet to his agent, the voracious Scott Boras, he's done very little when his teams have often needed it the most, he's admitted to crumpling under the pressure with the Yankees, he's a liar and a cheat, and he has allowed the press to continue to incite him and throw him under the bus when a simple middle finger to Joel Sherman's face might have shut everyone up (who am I kidding?).
That said, he's by far and away the best pure hitter in baseball, in the prime of his career with no real signs of slowing down. He's remained in good shape and in good health, and he absolutely has the potential to carry a team on his back when he's going good.
And similar pros and cons apply to the Mets and A-Rod. First, there's the position thing. A-Rod plays third, and he used to play short. Last time I checked, the Mets have a couple of guys playing those positions that are pretty damn good in their own right. In fact, that guy at 3rd is probably second to A-Rod as far as pure production from a 3rd baseman in all of Baseball. And I'm not talking about Joe Crede, here.
And yet, the hot word is that Omar is about to meet with David Wright to talk to him about a potential move to second. This article seems to intimate that this isn't true. Here, and also here, it's pretty well implied that Omar and DW are prepared to make this a reality.
This could be a reality that should have happened the last time A-Rod hit the free agent market, when the genius we call Steve Phillips boldly stated, "We don't need A-Rod, we just went to the World Series!" and then watched as the team muddled through most of the 2001 season, due mostly to a mostly impotent offense that made hitting into the double play an art form. Whether it was the 24 and 1 aspect preached by Wilpon and Phillips, or fear of the asking price, or the Mets staunch history of not dealing with Boras clients (this oddly changed when Omar Minaya took over, thus leading to Carlos Beltran coming to the Mets), it was a signing that made a lot of sense for the Mets back then, at the cost of some inflated ticket prices, but then again, God forbid, he just might have been the missing piece to a Championship. It's an arguable point, since the 2001 team had other, more serious flaws, but it's almost a mortal lock that A-Rod would have meant at least a playoff berth that season.
It made sense then. I'm not so sure it makes sense now. Yes, it's righting a previous wrong, and it's instantly rejuvenating an offense that could sorely need some rejuvenation. Money is the furthest thing from the issue. With the revenue the Mets will generate through ticket sales, TV and whatever, combined with the $20 mil per season from Citibank beginning in 2009, money is of no object to the Mets. They've already proved that by being able to spend over their injuries and mistakes over the previous two seasons. And maybe, just maybe, he's the difference maker that will deliver the Mets to the promised land. But it also means adding a known head case to the Mets clubhouse, one that already has proven itself to be all too fragile (Think of it—between A-Rod, Reyes's sensitivity, Delgado's flakiness and Wagner's standoffishness, this looks more like a Paxil clinic than a baseball team). It means shifting around one of the most popular, home grown players the Mets have ever seen. It means that A-Rod, after all the issues and problems he's had with New York fans and the New York Media, is still stuck in the same damn situation. The jackals are breathing down his neck, and every time he doesn't come through in a big spot, the fans are going to boo him out of the building. And then he's going to press, and then it's going to just become a giant mess, until at some point he does hold up his proverbial middle finger and hit 50 HRs (and if anyone could produce a 50 HR season while playing half his games in Shea, it would be A-Rod, although who knows how Citi Field will play—we can all certainly hope it's not another incarnation of Steroid Park in Philly), but by then, lord only knows what sort of mental state he'll be in.
The sad reality of this is that if it were another player, at another position, with the same numbers, with another psyche and fewer skeletons in his closet hitting the market, a move like this would be a no-brainer. Because it's A-Rod, and because we're all too keenly aware, especially those of us in New York, living with the 3-Ring Circus going on right under our noses, I just can't, in good conscience, endorse the Mets signing of Alex Rodriguez.
But, if the Mets do bring him in (and that seems to be the way this offseason has been going—just about everything that is unthinkable has happened), I'll root for him, and so will every other Mets fan. At least until he screws up.