Imagine this scene in early October: Bud Selig, on hand for the Yankees-Red Sox one-game wild card playoff, avoiding cameras during the game during each Alex Rodriguez at-bat. The appeal process has dragged on just like MLBPA head Michael Weiner predicted, allowing Rodriguez to play out the season.
Now, with two RBI singles and solid defense at third base, A-Rod has helped the Yankees rally into October.
After watching Rodriguez's return in Chicago on Monday night, the scenario above does seem far-fetched due to New York's issues on the mound and outside media distractions, but the specter of a magical run through August and September isn't impossible.
If the Yankees do rally, lead by Rodriguez's bat in the middle of their lineup, expect one of the most awkward forms of postseason coverage in baseball history.
Throughout the Biogenesis case and fallout, baseball fans have nary heard a denial on performance-enhancing drug use from the former three-time MVP, but rather the ability for due process and a fair hearing to state his case for a lesser suspension, if not total leniency from baseball.
If there was a chance A-Rod was totally innocent, the thought of his latest comeback bid turning into a rallying point for fans and spectators would exist, but that doesn't seem to be close to reality.
Instead, baseball fans are dealing with a player that has come off as disingenuous, yet in love with the game. During Rodriguez's press conference in Chicago on Monday, the only remarks that felt sincere centered around how grateful he was to be playing Major League Baseball again.
Now, if he can play it well, the Yankees will have the opportunity to benefit in the present and future. If the final ruling on A-Rod's appeal lasts into the offseason, the team can extract two months of his bat, but possibly rid themselves of his salary and headache for 2014. Considering their self-imposed mandate of landing under the $189 million luxury tax next season, extracting Rodriguez's salary from the books can go a long way toward the goal.
For the 2013 team, sitting at 57-54 heading into play Tuesday night in Chicago, offense is a problem. Despite owning a pitching staff that has only allowed 439 runs on the season, New York sports a minus-18 run differential. In realty, they profile as a below-.500 team attempting to make a miraculous run at 90 or more wins.
Rodriguez's role in this puzzle was clear when Yankees manager Joe Girardi penciled him into the fourth spot in the lineup Monday. Despite his age (38) and multiple hip surgeries in the last four years, the team still is counting on a productive Rodriguez.
Of course, if CC Sabathia (4.78 ERA) and Andy Pettitte (5.64 ERA since June 10) can't find themselves on the mound, the offensive boon Rodriguez provides will likely go for naught.
However, if New York rallies, the narratives around A-Rod's latest chapter can change for the better. Although he'll never be beloved by Yankees fans and New Yorkers, re-writing the last chapters of story can't hurt a legacy that includes recent entries of postseason failure, injury and steroid allegations.
Despite leading, literally and figuratively, the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009, Rodriguez's contract is disdained in New York and labeled one of the worst in professional sports.
There's little that A-Rod can do over the next two months to change the entire story, but one positive chapter won't hurt. Besides, even if he's disliked, a curtain call for big hits and season-changing moments isn't out of the question.
For fans, winning is what matters most. As for Bud Selig? Well, don't expect any rousing ovations at postseason games.
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