A morning K-Rod what-ifBy
Unless something major is breaking, odds are good that the three of us are sleeping right now. It’s about 6:30 a.m. in Vegas, and while I woke up Joe with a 5:30 a.m. Vegas time text about Sabathia, I promised I wouldn’t do that today unless the sky happens to fall.
As we gear up for the last day of Winter Meetings and Mike’s upcoming Rule V draft live-blog, I wanted to play a little what if game based on an Anthony McCarron tidbit. In the few hours between K-Rod’s signing and the CC Sabathia news, the New York newspapers quickly filled up with glowing articles about Francisco Rodriguez. As part of the Daily News’ wall-to-wall coverage, McCarron unveiled a K-Rod timeline featuring this juicy tidbit:
September 24, 1998: Rodriguez, only 16 years old, signs with the Angels as an amateur free agent. The Angels beat out several other teams, including the Yankees, with a $900,000 offer. Yanks were reportedly ready to go higher than that, but Rodriguez believes Angels when they tell him he’d have a quicker path to the majors.
Now, I haven’t really been able to confirm this 11-year-old piece of news. 1998, the year the Yanks won 125 games and dominated the Padres in the World Series, was a year before time. We had no blogs; we barely had the Internet. No one paid attention to signings of 16-year-olds out of Venezuela. Jesus Montero would have been just a blip on the radar of the Yankee Universe a decade ago.
But it does pose an interesting “what if.” What if the Yanks had been the ones to sign K-Rod? What they offered him more money, as McCarron said they did, and he bit? It’s safe to say that the last six years would look much different.
In 2002, in the ALDS, K-Rod, then 20, had thrown just 5.2 innings at the Major League level, but because of a quirk in the rules concerning injuries, the Angels were able to add him to the Major League roster. He took the playoffs by storm. He earned the win in two of the Angels’ victories against the Yankees, and Anaheim would go on to capture a ring. All told, K-Rod earned the W in five of the Angels’ 11 playoff wins that year. It’s not a stretch to say that the 99-win 2002 Yankees would have suffered a far different fate had K-Rod been in their system.
Beyond that, it’s too tempting to play even more dangerous “what if” games. What if K-Rod and not Tom Gordon had faced David Ortiz in 2004? I’ll let you turn that one over in your mind, knowing that the Red Sox have beaten K-Rod the closer a few times. K-Rod the premiere set-up man would be an entirely different beast.
Of course, baseball is filled with these what if’s, and as Rodriguez finally comes to New York, it’s interesting and dangerous to imagine what could have been had he chosen the Yanks’ money over the Angels’ promise.