The crowd reaction to the three-time American League Most Valuable Player—two of those awards (2005, 2007) came in a New York Yankees uniform—and key contributor to the 2009 World Series championship will be fascinating.
It's highly likely that the crowd reaction will be a mix of cheers and jeers leaning much more toward the boo birds lighting up the sound in the park. Simply put, New York has never, ever warmed to Rodriguez since he arrived in 2004. Although there have been curtain calls and admiration for one of the best players of all time, the mantra of "true Yankee" has eluded Rodriguez for his entire New York career.
Now, in the aftermath of a Biogenesis investigation, a war of words with Yankees management and a 211-game suspension handed down from Major League Baseball, Rodriguez is considered a disingenuous player and likely a multiple offender of the the joint drug agreement.
Of course, A-Rod is afforded due process in his fight with Major League Baseball.
For now, he should also be given the benefit of the doubt by Yankees fans.
Despite the circus that seems to travel with Alex Rodriguez from city to city, thus far, he has never missed a game in a Yankee uniform due to suspension. In fact, outside of rumors of infidelity and high-stakes poker games, Rodriguez has never given Yankee fans any reason to dislike him off the field. Sure, he's rich and seems to have a strange insecurity about his standing in society, but DUIs, arrests and legal issues have never been part of his backpage ledger.
Instead, for better or worse, Rodriguez has dedicated himself to the game of baseball and the Yankees since 2004. While he's overpaid, half the roster can make that same claim in 2013.
Outside of major injuries that required surgery, Rodriguez has come to play on an everyday basis, changed positions and accepted the ridiculous and embarrassing lineup dance Joe Torre conducted with his slumping bat in the 2006 postseason.
After another grueling offseason of hip surgery and rehab, Rodriguez has put the work in to return, potentially giving the Yankees offense a big boost at third base and designated hitter for the remainder of the 2013 season.
While some media outlets called his rehab and comeback a farce in light of an impending suspension, Rodriguez has never, ever given less than 100 percent on the field. If his comeback were truly just for money, he wouldn't be on the field right now. If insurance fraud was the objective, a doctor would have found the 38-year-old unfit to play months ago.
A-Rod has given Yankees fans plenty to shake their heads about over the last decade, but his dedication to being a great player for the franchise can't be disputed.
No one should expect No. 13 to be beloved in the Bronx, but booing a player coming back from a surgically repaired hip doesn't make much sense.
If or when Rodriguez is finally forced to take a long-term suspension, his first at-bat back in the Bronx should be filled with jeers.
We haven't reached that point yet. For the Yankees to make a run, they still need the bat with 647 home runs in it.