Ready or not, he's coming home...
All the talk about Alex Rodriguez returning to the New York Yankees will soon give way to him actually playing in games, with the reaction from the sports world providing plenty of fodder for conversation.
We made out a schedule going back to January when I had surgery, and we’ve been pretty much dialed in to that schedule on-point. And then, we had the 20-day schedule, and with the exception of maybe a rain-out or two, I think that’s been on-point as well. So, we’re good to go. If we have a good weekend, I will be in Texas.
In addition to that interview, Rodriguez also spoke with CNN earlier this week to discuss his pending return and what he can bring to the Yankees.
I think I can be a force in the middle lineup, a big right-handed bat for our team, but I'm at a different stage of my career. Is it realistic to go out and hit 40, 50 home runs? I don't think so. But can I go out and have nights like I did last night (hitting a home run in a rehab game) and do that several times a week? I think so.
It would be hard to think that the three-time American League MVP won't serve as a huge upgrade, even if he is just the player he was in 2012, over what the Yankees are trotting out at third base right now.
Six players have spent time at third base for the Yankees this season, combining to hit a collective .218/.281/.272 with six home runs in 629 plate appearances. Rodriguez hit .272/.353/.430 with 18 home runs in 529 plate appearances last season.
But now that "The Return" is coming, the winds are circling, and everyone is going to have an opinion. That opinion is sure to change from at-bat to at-bat, depending on what Rodriguez does. If he homers, then fans and teammates will love him. If he strikes out, why didn't he retire?
Such is the world that Alex Rodriguez lives in. But here is what the word around the world is about A-Rod's impending return from fans and the Yankee family.
Starting with the fans because that is where you are going to get honest—and some trolling—opinions about Rodriguez.
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the most famous Yankee fans in the country, told TMZ that hometown fans booing A-Rod makes no sense at all.
I was one of the first to say that Yankee fans should not boo A-Rod. He's on our team. You gotta root for him. I think he's one of the greatest players ever.
New York does live in its own little bubble, but everyone knows that Yankee fans are a "what have you done for me lately?" group of people.
The artist known as Crown Me Ez painted some logic to the situation that fans may not want to recognize but would acknowledge in an honest moment.
Winning is the only thing that matters to fans. No one cares about all of the extraneous stuff if the team is successful. No one was talking about Rodriguez's PED admission prior to the 2009 season, when he was hitting six homers in that year's postseason and leading the Yankees to a World Series.
New York radio host William Green is skeptical about Rodriguez actually returning and wants to wait before making an official comment.
@robinlundberg A-Rod (clears throat) I mean Alex Rodriguez returning next week? I'll believe it the moment I see him.— William Green (@WillRedRadio) July 18, 2013
It seemed like this day would never come, but barring some unforeseen events in the next three days, Green can start believing.
Alton Neziri 10, whose Twitter background wallpaper is of Rodriguez walking back to the dugout, took the time to send A-Rod a message about his impending return and actually has a giddy attitude about it.
@AROD your still my idol arod, every night your much closer to returning to our lineup, heard the great news today bout Monday so excited!— Alton Neziri (@AltonNeziri10) July 17, 2013
Excitement probably isn't the word that a lot of fans are going to use when describing Rodriguez's return. There might be a lot of ambivalence, followed by some rationalization that he can help the team win, then the realization that the Yankees still owe him around $100 million through 2017.
Finally, to inject (poor word choice) a little humor into the situation, Buffalo-based comedian Anthony Rizzo joked about Rodriguez's past with steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.
Moving things over to the Yankee side of things, manager Joe Girardi has had a rough time in the last nine months trying to keep everyone happy.
This year, in addition to having half of his lineup on the DL, Girardi has had to keep the train rolling for the Yankees. Yet, when it comes to Rodriguez, the Yankee skipper has been surprisingly quiet.
Girardi did make comments to the New York Post about how quiet he has been when it comes to his third baseman, as well as why it was the appropriate response for him to make.
I don’t understand what Alex is going through. I don’t understand what Jeets is going through. Because I’m not them. Maybe I’ve been through a similar experience, but I still don’t understand because I’m wired differently. So, I think it’s important; I believe we shouldn’t judge people. I try not to judge people.
We are such a cynical society that it is rather refreshing to hear Girardi do his best to keep everything in house and private. We don't live in Rodriguez's skin, so we have no idea what goes through his head or what is happening in his life.
Even when Rodriguez was the best player in baseball, there were still people waiting for him to strike out so they could jump all over him. Now that he is a broken man, it has become so easy to bash him.
Yankee captain/doer of all things right Derek Jeter talked about Rodriguez's rehab and work ethic at the end of June to the New York Daily News, a couple of weeks before Jeter tried to return and wound up injuring his quad muscle.
"Alex works extremely hard," Jeter said. "He is working hard now to get back." While not exactly the most revelatory statement, it is about the best that you can hope for from the notoriously tight-lipped Jeter.
Brian Cashman, who infamously told Rodriguez to stop talking (give or take a few words that can't be used here), has changed his tune ever since that day.
The Yankees general manager told reporters that situation got blown up by everything that he said, not because Rodriguez did anything wrong.
Cashman: "From Alex's perspective, he's not trying to create a disturbance by tweeting that. ... It was an unnecessary extra distraction."— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) June 26, 2013
Cashman: "I didn't handle this one well. I popped. Reality TV at its best."— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) June 26, 2013
That particular drama appears to be behind the two of them, which is good because the Yankees really don't need more media distractions as they fight to stay alive in the hyper-competitive AL East.
Hal Steinbrenner, who runs the team along with his brother, told reporters that he is hopeful for Rodriguez returning the way he did the last time he had a serious injury that kept him out.
How do you feel about Rodriguez returning to the Yankees as soon as Monday?
We just hope he comes back healthy as he did in ’09 after the surgery, and we hope he contributes in a big way. He’s a heck of an athlete, and if the surgery has fixed the problem, you may see good things out of him. We hope so.
There is a world of difference between 2009 and today. For starters, Rodriguez was 33, still retained most of the skills that made him one of the best players in baseball and didn't look like a shell of himself the previous season.
Obviously, the Yankees would love it if Rodriguez could hit .286/.402/.532 for the final 60-plus games of the season. But that's not fair or, at the age of 37, realistic. If he can be the player he was in 2012 (.272/.353/.430), that would be a miracle.
There are going to be a lot more opinions from all sides coming out about Rodriguez in the coming days as he takes the field in New York once again. Right now, not surprisingly, the reaction from inside and outside the organization is decidedly mixed.
If there were a better third baseman playing for the Yankees, or the team was just playing better, you can guarantee that reaction would be far more negative.
But Rodriguez is always going to be a divisive character/person. Those who love him are going to follow him. Those who don't, well, they're reaction will probably be similar to Cashman's after Rodriguez tweeted that he was cleared to play.
If you want to talk baseball, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with questions or comments.