Much like when Jeff Bagwell tried and failed to return from the darn shoulder issue even though he kept trying, A-Rod’s benching during these playoffs is a symbolic ending to what was a great career. Rodriguez will keep playing and probably be more productive than what Jeff ended up being but A-Rod is gone and Alex Rodriguez lives on. He might have one more decent to above average season left but never again will we see the dynamic ball player that was part of the elites of the game. The day Jeff Bagwell came back and we saw him hit opposite field singles instead of towering homeruns, we knew first hand that father time would always be undefeated.
As interesting and surprising as Rodriguez’s benching might have been to the baseball world, it shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise. Over the season, Alex’s stats had been merely normal, not bad but simply okay. Of course, that was simply okay for A-Rod’s standards, any other 3B would have been very happy with his numbers but for A-Rod, they were disappointing. More than just disappointing, they showed signs that the unbreakable persona was crumbling. Age and injuries have caught up to Rodriguez and now that Joe Girardi has sent Alex to the bench during the most important part of the Yankees’ season, it speaks volumes. Once a superstar starts to decline, it can be hard on a player and a manager but Joe had no issues pulling the future Hall of Famer, that’s a problem. It’s one thing to pull Willy Taveras for a hot hitting Chris Burke but this is Alex Rodriguez. The sad truth was not only that it was the right move but that it was painfully obvious.
Remembering back to Jeff Bagwell’s final days can be a bit painful and something I’d rather forget but for the sake of this comparison, why not. Jeff might have been able to survive a few more years but injuries eliminated that possibly. Even before that, it had gotten really bad for Jeff. Signs were everywhere that Bagwell’s career was on a steep decline. By the 2004 season, his status on the club had dropped and he was no longer the key focal point of the team, instead that responsibility belonged to Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent. While he was still the leader of the clubhouse, his numbers were merely good but no longer great. As 2005 came around, he was given honorary starts at DH during the World Series which might have cost the ‘Stros dearly. His time was up and everyone knew it, rehab or not, the Astros legend had reached an end point.
Maybe a smart thing for Alex to remember is that his career is already pretty much complete. There is that homerun record thing that now may only be a longshot achievement but he has won a title, MVPs and the recognition as a true legend. It’s said, the great ones have to be dragged out kicking and screaming before they quit the sport they love, which could end up being the case with Alex. Watching Rodriguez play ball this season has gotten a bit tough, not sure that’s the way I wanted to remember the great Alex Rodriguez.