Big news from Yankee Spring Training Camp, Alex Rodriguez has been taking ground balls at first base. Aside from the fact that most Yankee fans would rather see A-Rod anywhere but at a Yankee camp, in a Yankee uniform, what’s the big deal with that?
A-Rod came to the Yankees as a shortstop in 2004 and immediately switched over to third because a guy named Derek Jeter appeared to have a lock on that position. While he never turned into Brooks Robinson at third base, he did what a third baseman was and is expected to do, field those few balls that are hit to him and HIT. He did a better than average job of fielding the position as well.
An old baseball adage says that, if a player can play shortstop, he can play anywhere else in the field. A-Rod made the American League All Star Team as a shortstop seven times between 1996 and 2003 while with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. On top of that, when moved to third by the Yankees, he made the All Star Team as a third baseman every year except one from 2004 to 2011. Alex Rodriguez is an exceptionally gifted athlete and there is no reason for anyone to believe that, even at the age of 40, which he will be during the 2015 season, he could not make the transition from third to first as easily as he went from short to third.
Why wouldn’t the Yankees try him at first? It isn’t as if Mark Teixeira, the incumbent, has been giving them much offense. In 2014, he played in only 123 games and hit a dismal .216 after playing in only 15 games in 2013, because of an injury. In 2012, he played in 123 games and hit just .251 and in 2011, playing a full season, he hit only .248.
Teixeira apparently went on a diet and conditioning program over the winter and came into camp with his injured wrist at 100% and in much better condition than he has been the past few years. The Yankees would like nothing better than to see Teixeira return to the form that got him a .292 average with 39 homers and 122 RBI’s in 2009, 33 homers with 108 RBI’s in 2010 and 39 homers and 111 RBI’s in 2011 but even then his average was dropping to .256 and .248 in his second and third years.
So, don’t knock the Yankees for wanting to give A-Rod a shot there. If his physical skills with the glove and bat have not totally failed him, he might be better than the Mark Teixeira who has been playing first for the last three years. If Teixeira makes a comeback, A-Rod could be the backup they need there as well as filling in at DH.
It looks like they have got to pay him, they may as well get as much out of them as they can. Biogenesis and steroids aside, this was one productive player who appears, through all of this turmoil, to have made every effort to stay in shape and retain his skills. Remember, he was the American League MVP in 2003, 2005 and 2007, won the batting title with a.358 average in 1996, hit over 46 home runs five times and was an All Star at short and third seven times each. I wouldn’t bet the ranch that he won’t find himself a regular position on this team, either at third or first.
Whether you like him or not, however you feel about his drug use in the past, if his skills have not diminished significantly, he could give the 2015 Yankees a big boost. I, for one, can’t wait to get to Steinbrenner Field next month to watch him try to make his comeback.
For those of you who are trivia buffs, there are 18 players on Major League rosters right now with the last name Rodriguez, three of them on the Yankee roster.