Monday, February 16, 2004

At least this will tick off Red Sox fans, which is nice

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

What’s the word on the LA streets about the Alex Rodriguez deal?

Out here in the Land of the Small Markets, the mumbling goes something like this: “Talk about the rich getting richer”; “As if we needed another reason to hate the Yankees”; and “This ruins my excitement over the Royals signing Benito Santiago.”

Yada yada yada.

I think the Yankees acquiring A-Rod is a waste of George Steinbrenner’s money, so I’m all for it.

In one sense, A-Rod is worth the quarter-of-a-billion dollars his 10-year contract included, certainly in a baseball universe where Chan Ho Park is worth $65 million for five years and Jason Kendall gets $60 million for six. He’s arguably the best player in baseball (it’s really just between him and Bonds, and Barry doesn’t play as critical a defensive position). And it’s also important to note that George is on the hook for “just” $112 million of A-Rod’s salary over the remaining seven years on his contract.

But is he worth even that much to the Yankees?

Presumably, other than playing mind games with the Red Sox, the reason the Yankees want Alex Rodriguez is to secure another World Series banner or two for Yankee Stadium and bump up future gate, merchandise, and broadcast revenue.

I’d argue that A-Rod was of more value to the Rangers than he’ll be to the Yankees, who have "more stars than there are in the heavens." The Rangers didn’t make a mistake in signing him. Their mistake was in blowing the rest of their money on much less productive players. Without A-Rod, they would have been much, much worse.

But back to the Bronx: Concentrating on the AL East pennant/World Series ring angle, how much marginal advantage does A-Rod provide the Bombers? This is a team, after all, that has been in the World Series six of the last eight years, winning it four times. It’s not as if they needed this deal to finally put them over the top.

For this season, they lost Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, but picked up Javier Vasquez and Kevin Brown. They added Gary Sheffield to an already-powerful outfield. They scored 877 runs last year, fourth most in all of baseball, without Sheffield and Rodriguez, and had the most wins, 101.

With A-Rod, they get a 118-RBI, 124-runs-scored producer, but lose Alfonso Soriano, who scored 114 runs and knocked in 91 of his own last year, despite being a free swinger in a ballpark more hostile to hitters, as Joe Posnanski points out. They lose a second baseman and gain a second shortstop – and part of what makes A-Rod so valuable is his position. At third base, he’s untested, but even if he’s great, he will be less great compared to other third basemen than he has been compared to other shortstops.

To boil it down and save some pixels, how’s this: Regardless of whether the Yankees win the World Series, A-Rod is overkill, because they could win without him, or with someone not quite as good. And if they don’t win with him? Let’s just say George would be much happier blowing money on a winner.



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