New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez Returns

Louis SklenarikContributor IIIJanuary 12, 2008

Alex Rodriguez has done everything there is to do in MLB history. He is a three-time MVP. He is the youngest player to hit 500 home runs, breaking Jimmie Fox’s record set in 1939. However, there is still one thing he has yet to accomplish: a World Series Championship. His career took its biggest turn in 2002, when he hit 57 home runs, the most he has hit in one season to date. The Yankees then traded for the All-Star shortstop in return for the great Yankee prospect Alfonso Soriano and a player who didn’t make it. They made this trade soon after Rodriguez signed a 10-year, 250 million dollar deal with the Rangers, the largest deal in MLB history. There was one catch to the trade: A-Rod had to play third base. He agreed without question.

His career changed in that trade. It made him a Yankee. It gave him the opportunity to be a legend; to be the one everybody loves. Most of all it gave him a chance to win a World Series. In his first year in pinstripes (2004), it didn’t look good. He hit .286 with 36 home runs and 106 RBI’s. Despite the fact that these look like great numbers, Rodriguez struggled in his first year in New York. He had to adjust to the media attention and the pressure to win every night. Unlike recent history, the Yankees did go past the first round. They defeated the Minnesota Twins, while Rodriguez went 8 for 19 and guided the Yankees to the ALCS to face the rival Boston Red Sox. Things continued to look up from there, as the Yankees took a 3-0 lead. Nobody had ever come back from an ALCS 0-3 deficit in MLB history, but the Red Sox did just that. The Yankees collapsed like nobody ever had before. Rodriguez didn’t help, going 8 for 31 during the seven-game series. Just to make matters worse, the Red Sox went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, ending their 86-year drought.

For Rodriguez, 2005 was better. He hit .321 with 48 home runs and 130 RBI’s.  The Yankees were expected to do big things in the postseason, and delivered the exact opposite.  They lost to the Angels in the first round and headed home much earlier than hoped. Rodriguez, who during the regular season looked like he was finally the player they had traded for, failed miserably. He went 2 for 15, and things would only get worse next year.

 In 2006, Rodriguez had his worst year as a Yankee to date. He hit .290 with 35 home runs and 121 RBI’s. He struggled all year and to make matters worse he had 24 errors at third base. He had his worst postseason ever, going 1 for 14, and the Yankees fans were booing him constantly. The Yankees were once again sent home early when the Detroit Tigers eliminated them.

With nothing to lose, Rodriguez set out in 2007 to become the player everyone wanted him to be. He did just that. He had his best year as a Yankee, tying the record for the most home runs in April with 14.  Many fans expected him to crumble, thinking that he had played the best he could and the only way to go was down. He continued to impress. He finished the season hitting .314 with 54 home runs and 156 RBI’s. As some announcers would say, he put up “video game numbers”. He was fantastic and the Yankees finally looked like they had another shot a World Series title. However, come the postseason, disappointment and defeat met the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs again, for the third straight year. A-Rod went 4 for 15 with 6 strikeouts vs. Cleveland. The Yankees were stunned and Rodriguez was done.

At the end of October, the same day that the Boston Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, Alex Rodriguez opted out of his record setting deal and was ready to test the free agent market. His agent, Scott Boras, told him he could get more money if he wanted, maybe even as high as a 12-year, 400 million dollar contract. It took a couple of days for Rodriguez to discover that there were only a handful of markets that could take on that kind of contract. Nobody would commit to it, except for the Yankees. So Rodriguez came crawling back to New York and signed what appears to be a 10 year, 275 million dollar deal, with performance incentives that could take him over the 300 million dollar threshold.  He has left his greedy agent behind and hopes to become a legend. He hopes to someday break Barry Bonds home run record. He hopes that when you mention Yankee legends in thirty years like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jackson and perhaps Jeter, that he’ll be included on that list, joining Yankee lore. The problem is, that won’t happen until he brings the Yankee fans what they want, a 27th World Championship. Dreams, however, don’t always come true.