An A-Rod what if

Rangers pound Hughes to tie ALCS at one
Football Open Thread

Neil Paine in the New York Times takes a look at the Rangers and how the A-Rod contract affected the franchised and how they have recovered from it.  He does his take on what happened to the Rangers, I wanted to see what the trade has mean for A-Rod’ legacy.  It would be pretty interesting to try and figure out what A-Rod’s career would look like now if he were never traded to New York. How would have his career turned out?

He wouldn’t have a ring but he also wouldn’t have ever had the “choker” label attached to him as he wouldn’t have spent much time in the playoffs. His raw numbers would be better and he would have spent more time compiling stats while still a shortstop.  A-Rod ended 2009 at 613 home runs, with 344 coming at short. Spending the last seven years in Arlington surely would have been better for his numbers than in Yankee Stadium(s). Had the trade never happened, could he be sitting on 650 career HR’s with over 500 at SS?  Very possible.  A-Rod already ranks among the greatest players of all time,  but with those kind of numbers at shortstop, even in lieu of a ring, many would consider A-Rod’s career and legacy greater if he never became a Yankee.

If I had posed this question in April 2009, I would have said undoubtedly that A-Rod’s legacy as a baseball player was hurt by coming to New York.  Because of the ring in 2009 I think the trade to the Yankees has helped his legacy.  I’m not completely sure though, as Ted Williams went ringless (and struggled in the playoffs) but is often called the best hitter in baseball history (not that it’s correct). Barry Bonds went ringless and even despite having the taint of steroids, is considered one of the top 5 hitters of all time. Statistically the trade certainly hasn’t helped his legacy in both traditional stats and sabermetric stats and at the end of the day, baseball is truly a game about the numbers.

I’m sure A-Rod is happy that the trade went through.  He has gone through a ton of crap but seems to have come through it with flying colors.  He finally got his ring and wasn’t just along for the ride, he was the one doing a lot of the driving.  His move to New York has obviously made him extra money (hundreds of millions of extra dollars) both on and off the field.  That being said, we know A-Rod is a great historian and like any great player cares about his numbers.  As much as athletes love to say it’s about winning, none of them would trade Ernie Banks’ career for David Eckstein’s simply because he has 2 rings and a World Series MVP.  Karl Malone and Charles Barkley wouldn’t think for a second about trading their careers for fellow power forward Robert Horry’s seven rings.    I don’t think he would be happier ringless in Texas with bigger numbers, but if given the two scenarios, I think it would have to cross his mind, wouldn’t it?

Rangers pound Hughes to tie ALCS at one
Football Open Thread
  • Andrew

    the difference between eckstein and banks is way more significant than the difference between arod in a rangers uniform and in a yankees uniform.

  • Kevin Ocala, Fl

    Ernie Banks v. Eckstein? You are joking, right?

    • Esteban

      What was absurd about saying every player would choose Ernie Banks’ career over David Eckstein’s?

      • Mike HC

        It is just an extreme comparison. Ernie Banks with no rings vs. David Eckstein with two rings, is far different than ARod with no rings vs ARod with one (and counting) rings.

        That statement was made to imply that rings don’t mean that much when it comes to legacy, but it is misleading. Rings don’t mean that much when you compare the greatest players of all time vs. role players. But rings do matter when comparing two Hall of Famers together.

        • Esteban

          Do they though? Is Ted Williams any worse because he didn’t win a WS?

          • Mike HC

            Yes. Ted Williams with a WS ring, is better than Ted Williams without a WS ring. But it is all hypothetical and impossible to really answer because everything would be different.

            • Esteban

              Really? The number of WS series won Ted Williams has zero with how I think of him as a player.

              • Mike HC

                Everything being equal though, would you take Ted Williams stats with a ring, or Ted Williams stats without a ring? You don’t have to answer and I agree one player can only do so much on a baseball team.

              • Jonathan

                it has nothing to do with what you personally think of the player. it has to do with what the player wants. 1st ballot HOFer with no rings vs 1st ballot HOFer with at least one ring is an easy choice for most players. Karl Malone would trade his career for Garnett’s. Jason Kidd/Steve Nash/John Stockton would trade theirs for Isiah Thomas’s. And I bet LeBron would trade his career for Kobe’s right about now.

  • OldYanksFan

    I think in the long term, the ‘Greatest SS in History’ carries a lot more weight then ‘the guy who won 1 (or 2 or 3, etc) rings. There are literally a thousand players who won rings, of which we don’t know any of their names.

    What hurt ARod the most was Tom Hicks and ‘The BIG Contract’. Before he signed, as a FA, the MSM talk was that ARod might get $18m, or $19m OR EVEN $20 MILLION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Had he gotten 5/$100, while he still would have been the highest paid player, it would not seem so insane compared to some of the contracts that were to come. He still would have been at or near the top, but not insanely above everyone else.

    Had he gotten ‘just’ $20m, while expectations would have been very high, he would not be the ‘island’ he is now. He would have been worth his contract and then some. Maybe he stays in Texas longer, maybe the Sox get him, maybe the Yankees. But I believe the insane contract he got, brought him lots of bad Karma, bad will and impossible expectations.

    Had the Yankees given him something more realistic (7/$175m) his career may have ended up somewhat ‘normally’, and he and his numbers would have been respected and admired. Now, between the Texas money, and the (future) years that ARod will be grossly overpaid (based on his production) by the Yankees, he will be remembered more like a Wall Street Banker, who used the system to ‘steal’ money.

    It’s a shame. In the future, more people will remember the $25m and $275m numbers more then the 600+ (or 700+) HRs he hits, and the awesome career he will end up with.

    Ultimately, the $ numbers will overshadow his career as a ballplayer.

    • dalelama

      His cheating by using the “boost” juice doesn’t help either.

    • JGS

      He also still wouldn’t have been the greatest shortstop in history.

      • Accent Shallow

        His Rodness would have had a non-zero chance to surpass the Dutchman.

        • JGS

          As a shortstop? Unlikely. He would have been moved off short by now, probably a couple of years ago and certainly after the hip surgery.

          • OldYanksFan

            As you guys really comparing ARod to a guy that played pre-WWI? When there were no blacks or latinos in the game? When there was no relief pitching? When alcoholism was rampant in baseball? When recruiters traveled on horseback? When many players were there simply to fill a spot? When a number of pitchers pitched both ends of a double header, and stayed in the game no matter how poorly they pitched?

            Anyone that thinks the level of competiton 100 years ago even resembles what we see everyday today, is just not thinking.

            It’s OK to blindly read stats, but you need to have a little perspective.

            • Dalelama

              When they didn’t articificially boost performance with anabolic steroids, before talent was diluted between 32 teams, and all the best atheletes played baseball because there was no real professional alternative?

              • Esteban

                If players are using steroids now, and we assume that it makes them better, then that makes the competition better now. Also all the best athletes that were white . I think that the greatest all time players from the early days of baseball would have been great in any period because they likely would have taken advantage of modern nutrition, training, medicine, but they might not have been as great.

                • jim p

                  And some might have been even greater with modern approaches.

                  • Esteban

                    Ha, that’s true too, though I think the overall competition level is better now than it was then. I suppose that’s just a guess though.

              • Ed

                There’s more teams now, but talent is drawn from far more sources. The early days were limited to white players from the US. Now talent comes from all races and a lot of different countries. The population has also increased a lot since the early days of baseball. There’s a ton more talent to draw from.

    • Ed

      Had A-Rod accepted “only” $20m/year as you suggest, the words in your rant today would be exactly the same. The numbers in it would be a little lower, but your feelings about them wouldn’t be any different.

      The other giant contracts that came after him were based on the precedent A-Rod set. Whatever A-Rod signs for, Jeter probably still signs for about 75% of it. Manny probably signs for 80% of it. A-Rod’s contract would still seem insane.

      Oh, also… do you remember DiMaggio more for his playing ability, or for his salary demands?

    • Accent Shallow

      Ultimately, the $ numbers will overshadow his career as a ballplayer.

      Concur, but it’s not his fault that Scott Boras is really good at his job/Tom Hicks is a dope.

      The real mistake was the Yankees giving him 10/$275M. Ridiculous.

    • MikeD

      Historically, the contract $$ will be an indicator of his greatness. It will not be viewed as a negative. Just the opposite.

      • Mike HC

        Good point. That will be a landmark deal for many years to come and definitely an indicator of greatness. Although it definitely had its negatives, like unrealistic expectations and jealousy.

        • Dalelama

          Actually it will be a shining example of what not to do.

          • Mike HC

            Good point too, ha. I guess it is possible it will be looked upon as a mistake. As Texas had to trade him away and took about 4-5 years before they could recover from it. Time will tell how his current Yankee deal will play out.

            I tend to think history will look upon the deal as a measure of how great he was, and how much he was worth. But you definitely have a point as well.

            • MikeD

              My point is when the legacy of A-Rod is written, they will note all his on-field accomplishments and that those accomplishments helped him sign the two largest contracts in MLB. It will be viewed as a positive to A-Rod’s legacy.

              People/media today focus on the $$ value. They did the same with Catfish Hunter when he signed his contract. It seemed huge at the time, and it was compared to what other MLB players were making. Catfish was basically finished after one great year, and one okay year. While he didn’t give the Yankees five great years, the contract, and its importance, are now part of history and actually enhanced his legacy. The world was stunned by the contract the Yankees gave Reggie Jackson, also small by today’s stanards. He was reguarly knocked in the media, with reporters writing Jackson could never live up to the $$$$$. No one cares about that anymore.

              No one will care about A-Rod’s contracts thrity years on, and what will be written about them will be a positive to A-Rod, not a negative.

  • Phil

    I think Barkley has said that he’d trade his career to have won some rings. Now, he could’ve been full of it, but I don’t believe it’s so cut and dry.

    As far as A-Rod is concerned, I really doubt he’d even consider the numbers over the World Series.

  • yankthemike

    “Statistically the trade certainly hasn’t helped his legacy in both traditional stats and sabermetric stats and at the end of the day, baseball is truly a game about the numbers.”


    you make that rather grandiloquent statement, but then add nothing to back it up. How hasn’t the trade helped him? what trad and non trad stats are you even talking about?

    • Steve H

      Clearly I’m assuming he would have stayed healthy but if he had stayed at SS longer he would have accumulated more WAR and had he stayed in Arlington it’s pretty likely he would have hit more HR’s., knocked in more runs, etc. Arlington is one of the best hitting parks in baseball and YSII and YSIII are death to righties.

      • Ed

        More home runs, sure. Things like RBIs and runs scored though? Those are largely team functions, and the Texas lineup would’ve been weaker than the Yankee lineup.

      • MikeD

        His legacy would have been enhanced by staying at SS, probably up until the hip injury. WAR is not important. It is to us, but not when most of the world evaluates players. Yet it doesn’t matter in this case since people won’t need WAR to understand the value of a SS with 550 or so career HRs at short!

        He would have hit more HRs at Arlington. Even another five a year (which is a lot) would place him just short of 650 for his career at the end of 2010. We shouldn’t ignore, however, that A-Rod has not had any issues hitting the long ball at Yankee Stadium(s). What he’s lost to left center he gains to right field. He’s always had great opposite field power, so that part of the Stadium benefits him. He’s probably been one of the few (if only) righthanded power hitters not hurt by the Stadium. That said, he’d still have hit more in Texas.

  • Accent Shallow

    Banks v. Eckstein?

    Playing in a racist era v. stratospherically high salaries and hot groupies?

    Touch choice

    • M

      they had hot groupies back then, don’t forget DiMaggio was banging Marilyn Monroe.

  • MikeD

    Andrew and Kevin have both hit on the flaw in your argument. Not a proper comparison.

    A-Rod would have eventually moved to third base, but it might not have happened until 2009 when his hip issue surfaced. He would have cemented his position as the greatest offensive SS ever, which would have enhanced his legacy. Yet he now has a chance to be one of the greatest SS’s *and* third basemen ever. Since he wouldn’t have been on a contending team, he might have one less MVP award, losing out to Ortiz.

  • Ed

    don’t think he would be happier ringless in Texas with bigger numbers, but if given the two scenarios, I think it would have to cross his mind, wouldn’t it?

    If you’re Barry Bonds, with his attitude that anything less than the best ever is unacceptable, then yeah, it’s probably a tough choice.

    For A-Rod, I think he only puts any thought into the issue if he retires around #2 or #3 on the home run list. Otherwise, the difference between the Texas and NY versions of A-Rod is so small that he’d rather have the rings and everything else that comes with being a champion.

  • Mike HC

    A-Rod will be remembered forever as a Yankee and a champion. He will have a place at old timers day, will own the city of NY, will go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee and so much more that goes into being a Yankee in retirement. It is such a no brainer that the trade was good for him it is not even funny, in my opinion.

    Not only that, winning is so much more important than you are giving it credit for. Knowing you will be on a contender year after year is immeasurably better than being on a perennial bottom dweller.

    I can’t believe this is even a question.

  • JAG

    I also wonder how differently the two teams’ histories would have turned out. Obviously being hampered by A-Rod’s contract probably would have hurt the Rangers’ ability to sign the ace pitcher needed for them to make a post-season run but you have to think that A-Rod’s offensive production would have helped them contend. It’s entirely possible A-Rod as a Yankee with a ring and as a Ranger without one aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Of course, it’s also worth considering what would have happened to the Yankees. I wonder if perhaps the Yankees don’t get to Game 4 of the ALCS being up 3-0, in which case the history of that post-season changes somewhat. The Red Sox winning the World Series is obviously still big, but it wouldn’t have been the same story it was having not had the dramatic comeback. Hell, it’s possible that without that momentum the Cardinals make a series of it and maybe even play stopper.

    What ifs are always fun to wonder about, although I doubt A-Rod would give up his ring for slightly better career numbers all things considered.


  • Poopy Pants

    “He wouldn’t have a ring”

    That’s quite a statement. Please illuminate us with your scientific research method. Did you travel to parallel universes to watch all the other parallel universe seasons play out?

    Can’t wait for a response.

  • x

    dude, learn how to write

  • OldYanksFan

    ARod was a HOFer before he came to the Yankees.
    He will be remembered as a Yankee, but as a Champion?
    As I said, there are tons of players with rings that we have never heard of, and Gritty Eckstein will not be remembered as a champion.
    The guys we remember, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Williams, Mays, Musial, etc… we do so because of great individual accomplishments… not because they won a WS.

    ARod has 7 years and around $180m still coming from the Yankees. He had his worst year this year, and we don’t know how much his hip may be impairing his game and future career. If things go badly for him, what the Yankees will be paying him will be the majority of the talk about ARod.

    If he got $20m instead of $25, no way the Yanks (or anyone else) gives him near $27.5m last time around. Ultimately, I’m afraid the money he’s made, and depending on how the future goes, maybe doesn’t earn, will be part of his legacy.

    I believe Hick’s insanity was bad for baseball, and ultimately, bad for ARod.

    • MikeD

      I won’t repeat what I wrote above, but no one will care decades from now if A-Rod limped off into retirement making a ton of money. We only care about that NOW. The future will only care about what A-Rod did during his career. He’s already cemented himself as one of the all-time greats. Even with a rapid decline, he’ll still make it to 700 HRs. History will care more about the steriod admission. I don’t think that will ultimately keep him out of the HOF, but it will delay his entry.