Even in the New York Yankees' universe, not everything is pinstripe navy blue and white.
Logic dictates that it would not be a good thing for the Yankees if Alex Rodriguez's 211-game suspension were to be overturned. But at the same time, would it be such a bad thing?
Rodriguez, of course, is facing the ban for his alleged involvement in the Biogenesis scandal that rocked Major League Baseball this year. Among the whole bunch of players who were hit with a suspension by the league, the superstar third baseman was the only one to fight the matter via appeal, which allowed him to play over the second half of last season.
The appeals process, though, concluded all the way back in November, well over a month ago. The word at the time was that the ruling by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz—who can either uphold, decrease or overturn the 211-game ban—likely would come in January 2014. Safe to say, with only a few days left in 2013, that expected time frame remains.
In fact, the latest news indicates that a decision on Rodriguez's case is likely to come in early January, per Bob Klapisch of The Record:
Told MLB is expecting decision on ARod appeal very early in January, possibly right after New Year’s.— Bob Klapisch (@BobKlap) December 23, 2013
And so we wait.
But while we wait and consider at least the possibility, however unlikely, that Rodriguez's suspension is wiped out, let's think this through. If the Yankees truly want to have a Happy New Year in 2014, would that be without Rodriguez or—gasp—with him?
The convenient argument says that, for oh-so-many reasons, the Yankees are better off having a season sans Rodriguez. For one, he's 38 years old and no longer close to the player he once was as recently as three or four years ago when injuries began to eat away at his perennial MVP-caliber performance and production.
For another, Rodriguez is due to earn $25 million as a base salary that could jump to $31 million as a performance bonus if he hits just six more home runs to tie Willie Mays at 660 for his career—good for fourth all-time. That's a chunk of change the Yankees would prefer not to pay, whether they're actually trying to stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold for 2014 or not.
And perhaps above all else, there's the distraction factor. That became the forefront last year after Rodriguez decided to appeal his suspension and was thus allowed to continue to play. For that, he was both booed and beaned.
But don't forget, Rodriguez did his best to be a distraction to his own team and teammates earlier in the season, before the ban was even handed down in the first place. Really, Rodriguez's 2013 might best be described as something out of a soap opera—and a bad one with non-stop drama at that.
Surely, the Yankees want no part of an A-Rod encore.
Then again, there is the other argument to be made. The one that says the Yankees already have spent north of $300 million in the past two months alone to make the team better and try to avoid a second straight playoff-less season, which would be considered a downright disaster in New York.
That same argument also includes a point that the Yankees' revamped roster lacks any real answer at third base if Rodriguez is forced to sit out 2014. Sure, they could use Eduardo Nunez or newbie Kelly Johnson at the hot corner, or even bring in another off-the-scrap-heap option like Mark Reynolds or Jeff Baker.
But an easy case could be made that Rodriguez—shell of himself that he is—remains the best option at the position and in the lineup for the Yankees, as far as their goal of getting back to October next season is concerned.
After returning to health and the diamond last August, Rodriguez played in 44 of New York's final 52 games. Over that time, he registered 181 plate appearances and posted a triple-slash line of .244/.348/.423. While that's far from promising, it was in a rather small sample size, and Rodriguez actually didn't look all that bad or rusty.
In other words, even at his advanced age, with all his injury issues and even the constant questions about his performance in light of the PED-related suspension, Rodriguez was still an above-average offensive player in limited action last season.
Are the Yankees better off with or without A-Rod in 2014?
Would it be so shocking, then, if he were to put up a line in the range of .250/.340/.430 with 20-plus homers and doubles and enough walks to keep his on-base percentage more than respectable while hitting, say, fifth or sixth in the batting order?
Of course, he would have to split his time at third base and designated hitter while also getting regular rest in order to better maintain and conserve his health and fitness over the course of a six-month season. Expecting more than 125 games or 500 plate appearances might be pushing it, but when Rodriguez would be in the field and, especially, the batter's box, it's not such a stretch to see him helping the Yankees, is it?
Problem is, these days when it comes to Rodriguez—and all the baggage, controversy and distractions that come along with him—it's even less of a stretch to see him doing the exact opposite.
So, are the Yankees better off with or without Alex Rodriguez in 2014? There's an argument to be made either way.
Maybe, then, it's a good thing those pinstripes he may—or may not—be wearing next year aren't black and white.
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