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The Suddenly Unstoppable Alex Rodriguez

What’s behind A-Rod’s hot start? Probably not what you think. Also, reacting to Pete Rose and bringing Kris Bryant to the bigs

Alex RodriguezAlex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez has come out swinging for the 2015 New York Yankees.

Leon Halip/Getty

All the baseball world is wondering what’s gotten into Alex Rodriguez. Most of us hope it isn’t drugs. Some (like this guy) are probably convinced it is.

Me? I have no idea. But before we try to determine if it is the temporary suspension of Father Time, the skill and drive of an elite performer, luck in the era of BABIP, or the benefits of an undetectable new elixir, shouldn’t we at least determine what the meaning of “It” is?

“It” is A-Rod’s surprisingly successful and issue-free Spring Training, followed by a fine beginning to the 2015 season. “It” includes four home runs, one a booming 477-footer off the Rays’ Nate Karns last week in Tampa. “It” is the longest big fly of the year, if you care about such things. Size matters, sure, but a dinger is worth a single tally on the scoreboard, whether it travels 318 feet or 565.

Great, so Rodriguez is hitting .286/.412/.643 through 13 games this season. He hit .320/.414/.480 through his first 13 games of 2013 and finished at .244/.348/.423, humbled on the diamond, suspended and disgraced off of it. Whether the latter two manifest before it’s all said and done this time is anyone’s guess, but some manner of humbling is likely to occur.

Rodriguez is not going hit .286/.412/.643 any more than Jose Iglesias is going to hit .439/489/.537. It’s April 21, for Girardi’s sake! ZiPS and Steamer projections have him at .229/.312/.399 and. 233/.310/.372 respectively, which makes more sense, but I think something south of .200 is within the realm of possibility.

I didn’t expect A-Rod to make it through March in one piece, let alone begin the season hitting .323 versus right-hand pitching. Or even be in the lineup vs. RHP. I expected nothing but injury and ineffectiveness from the Yankees’ designated hitter. So mark me down as marginally impressed. And wary.

The phrase “sample size” conjures a certain image for me; one that involves a little plastic cup. Perhaps Rodriguez is as clean as the day was long before MLB instituted pace-of-play rules during the winter. Perhaps not. But in watching the 2015 batting beginnings of 39-year-old A-Rod, and fellow PED offender Nelson Cruz (he’ll be 35 this summer), one has to wonder, if they’re clean now, why did ever feel the need to cheat in the first place?

From a leading American League villain to a National League heel, the news of Pete Rose joining the Fox baseball team of analysts is unfortunate. The phrase slippery slope comes to mind, with headlines like Buster Olney’s “Laying out the terms for a possible Pete Rose reinstatement” already appearing.

Banned means banned, OK? The actual language – “permanently ineligible” – couldn’t be more clear. Rose shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the All-Star Game festivities in Cincinnati July 14, and he shouldn’t have been furloughed to appear in the All-Century Team at the 1999 World Series.

That said, however, Olney – who pens the best daily baseball column in America – has some good ideas about conditions for Rose’s reinstatement. Since an ESPN Insider subscription is required, here is the big one: “He must cease all of his functions related to gambling or gambling establishments, such as signings at casinos.”

Requiring Rose to give up gambling permanently (there’s that word again) might be a deal-breaker. And impossible to enforce. MLB security would have to follow him around 24/7, 365 – and even then they wouldn’t know for sure without monitoring his communications; which, of course, is un-American. Mostly.

I’ve made my feelings about Rose plain before and I’ll no doubt have occasion to again, if and when. But I’d much rather not.

Jon Lester’s glove-to-first toss was great, but Terry Mulholland did it first, in 1986. Orlando Hernandez executed a similar play overhand in 1999.

Best of luck to Kris Bryant as he begins what just might be a glorious major league career. But North Siders should think twice about the “can’t miss” label that’s going around. He’s a Cub, after all. He can miss. Mark Prior has some advice on the topic.

By the way, feel free to file this under the Department of Picayune, but when a minor leaguer is called up to the bigs for the first time, it is proper to say that the young man is “promoted” to the majors, rather than “recalled.” He must first be called before he can later be recalled.

While former Dodger Bill Russell was affectionately nicknamed “Ropes” because of his habit of hitting line drives, current Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick might have a leg up on the longtime Los Angeles shortstop.

He’s smacking the baseball all over Chavez Ravine in the early going, hitting to the small-sample-size tune of .370/.431/.674, with six doubles, a triple, two homers and 10 RBIs. More impressively, as explained in a fun piece by the always-clutch Jeff Sullivan, Kendrick hasn’t popped out to an infielder since “the middle of September, 2013” (September 14, 2013 to be precise) and “has hit a total of three pop-ups since Sept. 4, 2010.” Think about that. Ropes, indeed.

In This Article: Alex Rodriguez, Baseball, MLB, sports


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