McAdam: A-Rod could have been Red Sox' problem

McAdam: A-Rod could have been Red Sox' problem
August 16, 2013, 10:45 am
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The circus arrives tonight at Fenway in the person of Alex Rodriguez, the walking, talking personification of PED use in 2013.
Rodriguez is continuing to play for the New York Yankees as he appeals his 211-game suspension for suspected PED use, as well as lying to Major League Baseball's investigators and impeding their case.
Of course, Rodriguez will be booed and taunted more than usual by Red Sox fans Friday night, having transformed himself from superstar target to a sad joke.
He's the Yankees' problem now. But it's almost easy to forget how close he came to becoming the Red Sox' problem.
Ten years ago this winter, the Red Sox went to extraordinary lengths to trade for Rodriguez, then with the Texas Rangers. The Sox were set to package Manny Ramirez and others to the Rangers, in exchange for Rodriguez. They would then deal their own shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, to the Chicago White Sox for a package that would include Magglio Ordonez.
One condition to the deal was for Rodriguez to agree to a restructuring of his then-historic ten year, $252 million deal. Rodriguez was willing to do so, but the Major League Players Association, fearing that it would set a bad precedent, refused to sign off.
The deal was dead.
When Aaron Boone ripped up a knee playing basketball a few weeks later, however, the Yankees swooped in and made the deal for Rodriguez, contract be damned.
Rodriguez has gone to hit more than 300 homers as a member of the Yankees, and, just as the Red Sox were clinching their second World Series title without him, in OCtober 2007, Rodriguez, who had opted out of his original deal, re-
signed with the Yankees for an even bigger one.
How might history have been different had the union not objected to the restructuring, or the Red Sox had been willing to take the contract as it was?
That's a fascinating bit of alternate reality.
1) Would Rodriguez have performed better or worse for the Red Sox?
This is highly speculative, naturally. But for a righthanded hitter with power, Rodriguez would seemingly have fared better at Fenway, with its inviting left field wall and scaled down dimensions, that he would have at either of the two Yankee Stadiums -- the original and the newly-built.
Rodriguez, of course, wouldn't have had Ramirez to protect him in the lineup, but he would have had David Ortiz. Presumably, the two of them would have been every bit as formidable as the Ortiz-Ramirez tandem was from 2003
through the middle of 2008.
2) How would Rodriguez have fit into the Red Sox' clubhouse?
It's hard to envision Rodriguez fitting into the "Idiot" culture created by Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar and others in 2004.
Then again, Rodriguez might have felt less inclined to "act out" in a smaller market like Boston. In New York, Rodriguez felt a need to play the role of larger-than-life star, dating celebrities and playing the role of matinee idol.
Perhaps Boston would have been more to his liking. Perhaps, too, strong personalities like Millar would have helped keep his sizable ego in check. And while the Sox of that era had their share of established stars (Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling come to mind), the Sox lacked an icon like Derek Jeter, whom Rodriguez had to switch positions to accommodate in coming to New York.
Rodriguez was seemingly always jealous of Jeter, who had already won four World Series by the time Rodirguez came to the Bronx. The Red Sox had no comparable "winner'' on their roster, which might have enabled Rodriguez to be himself.
3) Would Rodriguez have used PEDs with the Red Sox?
This is the most speculative of all, and as such, virtually impossible to answer. But because Rodriguez acknowledged using PEDs in Texas, in part, to justify his landmark deal, it seems logical to assume that he might have felt the same sort of self-generated pressure in Boston -- if not more.
And if Rodriguez, with his attendant fame and super-sized salary, had failed in the post-season in Boston, it's easy to see him succumbing to the same temptations that have, now, reduced his legacy to rubble.
In the 10 years that Rodriguez has been with the Yankees, the team has won one title, and in that season, Rodriguez seemed to exorcise the demons which had long dogged him.
But October of 2009 seems like a long time ago. Rodriguez isn't just warring with MLB, but also, the Yankees themselves.
General manager Brian Cashman didn't want to re-sign him in 2007, but was overruled by ownership, which believed the team needed stars to continue to sell tickets and attract viewers.
The Yankees can't seem to figure which they would prefer most: his suspension to be upheld, or his surgically-repaired hip to give way, enabling them to recoup the $86 or so million remaining on his deal after this season.
He's the Yankees' problem now, for which the Red Sox can only breathe a sigh of relief, knowing how close he came to being theirs.