5 Ways Alex Rodriguez Can Dip in the Fountain of Youth and Find Late Success

Alexander Van Rees@Alex_VanReesContributor IIINovember 8, 2012

5 Ways Alex Rodriguez Can Dip in the Fountain of Youth and Find Late Success

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    There is no question that New York Yankees slugger, for the time being, Alex Rodriguez is going through one of the roughest patches in his highly publicized and superstar career.

    The three-time American League MVP currently sits fifth on the all-time home run list (647), just 13 long shots behind the great center fielder Willie Mays. However, the last two seasons, critics and fans have jumped all over the third baseman after his decrease in power numbers, especially in the postseason.

    Not only did he fail to help his team win even one game against the Tigers in their disappointing ALCS sweep, but he limped through his ninth season with the Bronx Bombers.

    To his credit, he suffered a couple of injuries over the last two seasons and has not played up to his standards (not to mention, that enormous contract that has him signed through the year 2017).

    The 36-year-old has at least five years left in the major leagues (unless he retires early and negotiates the contract), but if the playoffs were any indication of his future, it could a rocky path for the possible future Hall of Famer.

    A-Rod needs to find a way to rejuvenate his career, especially if he wants to continue his playing career in New York.

    Check out these five ways Rodriguez can dip into the fountain of youth and find late-career success in the major leagues.

1. Change of Scenery

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    Personally, I think Rodriguez needs a change of scenery; he needs to get out of New York as soon as possible if he wants to resurrect his storied career.

    He signed that huge contract in 2008 with the Yankees. No, not the first ground-breaking contract he signed with the Rangers back in 2001 (10 years for $252 million). The second monumental contract he signed with the Yankees for another 10 years and $275 million.

    The last two seasons, he’s hit only a combined 34 home runs and driven in 119 RBI in 221 games, plus he’s batting just .274. Yes, his production is down. He has been injured.

    However, the overwhelming media and the need to perform to the highest standards possible are probably affecting him on the field.

    I think if he moves to a smaller city, out of the spotlight, he will perform better. He needs a place where he can play without the media breathing down his neck all the time. A place where every move, every decision is not scrutinized by the press.

    Maybe nine seasons under the spotlight is enough for the superstar. I think if he is able to move away from the big city, he will be able to find more success.

    The problem is, of course, is that whatever team decides they could use the home run slugger, they would have to finish paying his contract. Over the next five seasons, he is still owed $114 million, and that is a huge contract to take on, especially since no one knows how he will perform over the next five years.

    It’s going to be tough to find a team that will be willing to take on that type of contract, especially for a player who will be turning 37 years old next season and will finish the contract at 41.

    I think it is unlikely for him to be traded, but I think that is his best shot to resurrect his career.

2. Forget About the Headlines/Press

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    If Rodriguez does end up staying in New York next season, in order for him to flourish and get his career back on track, he has to stop paying attention to the headlines.

    Of course, everyone says that they do not read the stories that the media possibly fabricates for attention and publicity, but I’m sure every once in a while, he does. And, I’m sure that gets to him, whether he is willing to admit that or not.

    We all remember the headlines from 2008 when A-Rod and Madonna were caught together (“Report: A-Rod Late-Night Visits with Madonna”). I’m sure that paid a toll on his season. He smashed 35 home runs that season, but has not hit more than 30 in a single season since. The previous season, he jolted 54 bombs, the second-highest in his career.

    A headline from August 2011 read “A-Rod’s Poker Games Investigated”. Who cares about his poker games? There is no need to look into his poker games unless there are illegal happenings going on. I’m sure the media needed something to write about and this is what they came up with.   

    Finally, as I’m sure everyone remembers, he made headlines for flirting with a bikini model after he was taken out of the first game in the ALCS (“Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez Caught Flirting with Bikini Model During Game 1: Report”). Yes, he was angry with his performance and the fans booed him throughout the postseason. The media needs something to write about.

    Of course, there are many more where those came from.

    Moving Rodriguez to another city would definitely decrease his exposure in the media. Of course, wherever he goes, he still will be a large part of that city and the media.

    However, if he is not traded, which is unlikely, he needs to find a way to not pay attention to the media. I think this has affected him in the past and only will continue to hurt him.

    If he wants to rejuvenate his plummeting career, the third baseman has to find a way to look past these ridiculous headlines.

3. Stop Thinking About Breaking the 'Record'

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    Another way Rodriguez could find late career success is if he can forget about hitting home runs and setting a new home run record.

    Three years ago, Rodriguez was well on his way to breaking the home run record of 755 set by left-handed slugging Giant Barry Bonds. The Yankee slugger sits just 108 shy of tying the record and becoming the all-time home run king.

    Over the next five seasons, Rodriguez needs to hit just 21.8 home runs each season to break the record. That might sound easy for a slugger of his capacity. However, this season, over 122 games, he finished with only 18 jacks. Last season, over 99 games, he record just 16 bombs.

    Yes, like I have previously stated, he has been injured in both of these seasons. And, if he comes back next year healthy, he definitely has a good shot at breaking the record.

    But, that’s not the point. I think he is thinking too much about the record. Now that he is in fifth place on the all-time list and he can smell it per se, I think it’s weighing on him mentally.

    He needs to go out there and just play the game of baseball. He has been such an inspiration for so many young players around the world, and we’ve never really seen him struggle like this before; he needs to revert to his playing days with the Rangers and Mariners and just have fun. I know it’s an old saying, but he needs to forget about the history books.

    There’s no doubt that since he is approaching the record, which many thought would never be broken, it’s affecting him at the dish. He struck out 116 times this season, which is the first time he has registered more than 100 strikeouts since 2008.

    Not to mention, in the playoffs, the Orioles struck him out nine times in 16 at-bats in the ALDS. And, in just nine at-bats in the ALCS, the Tigers struck him out three times.

    I think he is thinking too much at the plate, and probably he’s trying to hit the long ball. That’s what he is in the order for, but he needs to find a way to forget about that and play the game the way he used to.

4. Possible Move to Designated-Hitter Role

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    Another way I think Rodriguez might benefit and find late success over the course of the rest of his career is if he becomes mainly a designated hitter, and focuses more on hitting.

    Over the last three seasons, as a third baseman, the slugger is batting .271 over 1,119 at-bats with 53 home runs and 205 RBI. As a designated hitter, he is batting .286 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI over just 234 at-bats.

    As far as home runs, he hits a home run every 21 at-bats, on average. However, his average is a bit higher and that’s over just 234 at-bats. Think of what he could do over an entire season hitting out of the designated hitter position.

    Not to mention, moving him to the DH role would mean that he would get more rest. He’s 36 years old and is slowly becoming a hazard in the field.

    Over 81 games at third base last season, he committed eight errors (one every 10 games). If he plays 140 games in the field next season, he would finish with 14 miscues.

    The year before, he committed just six errors over 89 games. In 2010, in 124 games at third base, he recorded only seven errors. So, obviously, his defense is deteriorating a bit.

    I think it would be smart for the Yankees, or whichever team he finds himself with next year, moves him to a permanent DH role. Maybe he can play the field as a back-up if needed because he still does have a good glove, but I think he needs more rest.

    The question is not whether he can play the infield at the major-league level anymore, because he can. However, I think he would benefit, and definitely his team, if he could focus all of his energy on batting.

    Boston slugger David Ortiz has flourished out of the DH role over his career with the Red Sox. Last season, he played only seven games at first base, and 81 as a designated hitter. He finished with 23 home runs and 60 RBI while batting .318.

    The year before, he recorded 29 home runs, 96 RBI and batted .309 over 138 games. He played first base in only two games in 2011 and the other 136 contests, he found himself in the DH role.

    I’m not saying that he will have as much success as Ortiz, who is the same age as A-Rod, but I think it would do him some good focusing on just one aspect of his game.

5. Change in Batting Lineup

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    The last way I think Rodriguez can rejuvenate his storied career and find late success is if he moves to third in the batting order.

    Over the last three years, Joe Girardi and the Yankees have used him mainly in the clean-up position in the order, and that has obviously not paid off.

    In 1,071 at-bats out of the fourth spot in the lineup, he is batting .264 with 53 home runs and 213 RBI, including 125 walks and 223 strikeouts. On average, he smashes a home run every 20.2 at-bats and drives in a run five at-bats.

    Out of the third spot in the order, Rodriguez is batting .303 with 10 long balls and 28 RBI, including 30 walks and 69 strikeouts over 271 at-bats. On average, he crushes a home run every 27.1 at-bats and drives in a run every 9.7 at-bats.

    Obviously, his stats are drastically higher out of the third position in the order.

    I think that would be a good change for A-Rod, and it might be able to rejuvenate his career. I’m not sure why Girardi bats him in the clean-up position. It probably has something to do with trying to protect Mark Teixeira, but I think it would benefit the Yankees more to switch the two.

    Possibly, another effective maneuver would be to move Rodriguez lower in the order. Throughout the playoffs, that was one of the widely discussed possibilities for Girardi with his struggles. Maybe move him to fifth in the order and move up Robinson Cano.

    Over the last three seasons, he only has nine at-bats out of the fifth position, and he’s collected three base hits, including one home run and three RBI.

    He’s also batted in the seventh, eighth and ninth position in the order on seven combined at-bats. Over those seven at-bats, he has two base hits, both coming out of the seventh position.

    I’m not saying moving him out of the fourth position in the lineup would definitely be beneficial and you’ll see his numbers skyrocket, but I think it’s worth a shot. Obviously, he has had more success out of the third position in the order.

    He needs a change, and this might be what he needs to resurrect his career.

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