Saturday Links: Stottlemyre, Betances, Didi, Mock Drafts

Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)
Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees are playing a Saturday night game this week, though at least this one is on the East Coast. Including tonight, their next three and four of their next five Saturday games are night games. Blah. Anyway, here are some links to hold you over until the Yankees and Angels resume their series later tonight.

Mel Stottlemyre Battling Cancer Again

Former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre is again battling cancer, reports John Harper. The 73-year-old Stottlemyre was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, while on Joe Torre’s staff back in 2000, and he was told he only had 3-5 years to live. He’s outshot that projection by a decade, but the cancer returned in late-2011 and he has been undergoing treatment since.

“It’s been tough because so much of my life is controlled by doctors, by the cancer. And the side effects of the treatment have been nasty, there’s no getting around it. But I’m determined that I can beat this thing. There are times when I have my doubts but it’s not going to get me down,” said Stottlemyre to Harper. Among the side effects from the medication are heart and thyroid conditions, and a form of diabetes. He also has an Achilles tendon issue, but can’t undergo surgery due to chemotherapy.

Despite the cancer and the treatment, Stottlemyre said he is going to try to make it to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day later this month. “I want to be there in the worst way,” he said. His wife Jean said they are going to try to attend as well, though the travel from their home in Washington might be too much. Either way, let’s hope for the best for Stottlemyre, a longtime cancer survivor who is trying to do it again.

Betances Gets Pointers From Rivera

Earlier this season, when Dellin Betances was really struggling with his command, the big right-hander got some pointers from Mariano Rivera, writes Kevin Kernan. “Towards the beginning of the season when I was struggling early on, Mo told me a couple of pointers that really helped,” said Betances. “He told me he felt like my front shoulder was flying open and he offered some tips. I dropped the shoulder a little bit to stay within a straight line and have a good direction towards home, and I think that has helped me be more successful and more consistent.’’

Betances said Rivera also reminded him to “stay locked in and have confidence,” even while struggling. “Hearing that from him makes such a difference. I’ve been able to use that advice to my advantage,” he added. Dellin’s numbers since his early-April struggles are insane — he went into last night’s game with five hits and six walks allowed in his last 24 innings, with 43 strikeouts. Bonkers. Somehow Betances has been even better than last year. If only Rivera’s words had that much of an impact on everyone.

Gregorius Gets Pointers From A-Rod, Beltran

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Meanwhile, the Yankees have turned to two current veteran players to help shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has improved at the plate lately but has struggled overall. In addition to hitting coach Jeff Pentland and assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell, both Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran have been helping Gregorius in recent weeks, reports George King. “Alex and Carlos had a big hand in talking to Didi,’’ said Pentland.

“You have to have the same approach in the batting cage that you do in the game, and that was something that was missing to me. He is the guy who has to go out and do it. Hopefully he has found something to work with,” said Beltran, who added he considers helping young players part of a veteran’s job. Both Beltran and A-Rod encouraged Gregorius to be “more selective in the (strike) zone” as well. This is the second time Rodriguez has lent a hand coaching Didi — he worked with him at shortstop a few weeks go.

Yankees Invite Whitley For Private Workout

According to Dan Zielinksi, the Yankees had New York HS OF Garrett Whitley in for a private workout before Monday’s draft. (Whitley said he worked out for the Braves and Brewers as well.) I’m not sure if the workout took place in Yankee Stadium or in Tampa, but that doesn’t really matter. Here’s my profile on Whitley, a projected first round pick and one of the highest upside players in the draft. Pre-draft workouts are not uncommon but teams don’t invite just anyone either — they’re usually reserved for players clubs have significant interest in, and, more than anything, the workout is so more members of the brain trust can see the player, including the higher ups. There’s no word on who else the Yankees brought in for a pre-draft workout.

Baseball Prospectus’ Mock Draft v2.0

Over at Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d), Chris Crawford posted his second mock draft yesterday, and, like everyone else, he has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick. That’s not set in stone just yet, but it sure looks like Arizona is leaning in that direction. Crawford has the Yankees selecting Whitley and California HS C Chris Betts with their top two picks, 16th and 30th overall, respectively. Here’s my profile on Betts. (The Whitley profile is linked above.) The Yankees have been connected to both players for weeks now. There’s a decent chance Whitley will be off the board by time that 16th pick comes around, but Betts should still be available.’s Mock Draft v4.0

Meanwhile, Jim Callis posted his latest mock draft yesterday as well. He also has the D’Backs taking Swanson with the top pick. As for the Yankees, Callis has them picking UCLA RHP James Kaprielian and Betts with those 16th and 30th overall picks, respectively. Here’s my profile on Kaprielian. (Again, the Betts profile is linked above.) Callis says the Yankees “want a college pitcher,” but we’ve also heard they want a bat, so who really knows. This draft is very deep in right-handed pitchers, both high school and college, so the best available player for that 16th pick could easily be an arm.

Four Players To Attend 2015 Draft

According to MLB, four players will be at the MLB Network studios for the draft broadcast on Monday: Whitley, Florida HS SS Brendan Rodgers, Indiana HS RHP Ashe Russell, and Pennsylvania HS RH Mike Nikorak. Rodgers is a likely top five pick — he was a candidate to go first overall, but apparently the D’Backs want a quick moving college player — while the Yankees have been connected to the other three guys at various points these last few weeks. Here are my profiles for Russell and Nikorak. Look up a few paragraphs for the Whitley profile. It would be pretty neat if the Yankees drafted a kid who was actually in the studio, wouldn’t it?

Ibanez Changes Agents

Free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez recently changed agents, according to Ben Badler. Ibanez left Praver Shapiro Sports Management and is now represented by Relativity Sports. He has been eligible to sign since February, but Badler says Ibanez is likely to wait to sign until after July 2nd so his bonus (and penalties) get pushed to the 2015-16 signing period. The Yankees have shown some interest in Ibanez, a 22-year-old light hitting/good fielding second baseman, but if he waits until July 2nd, they’ll have no shot to sign him. Part of the penalties for last year’s international spending spree is a bonus cap of $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, and $300,000 won’t be enough for Ibanez.

A-Rod showing the value of having a great full-time DH rather than a DH rotation


Over the last few seasons Joe Girardi and the Yankees have employed the rotating DH strategy. Rather than have one set DH, they rotated their regular position players into the spot every so often to give them “half days off,” as Girardi calls them. This has caught on around the league too — David Ortiz and Billy Butler have been baseball’s only pure DHs the last few years.

This year the Yankees are unable to employ a rotating DH. Alex Rodriguez is closing in on his 40th birthday and he has two surgically repaired hips, so at this point of his career playing the field regularly just isn’t happening. Girardi has installed A-Rod as the team’s full-time DH almost because he has no other choice. Alex is too productive to sit yet too frail to play the field.

So far this season A-Rod has been arguably the most productive DH in baseball, especially since Nelson Cruz has played more right field (33 games) than DH (19 games). Here are the most productive DHs so far this year among players with at least 100 plate appearances at the position, via Baseball Reference:

1 Prince Fielder 189 23 64 9 0 9 32 10 23 .368 .418 .575 .993 165
2 Alex Rodriguez 190 28 47 9 1 11 27 23 41 .292 .384 .565 .949 152
3 Jose Bautista 126 18 29 12 1 3 20 22 20 .287 .405 .515 .920 147
4 Jimmy Paredes 141 23 43 9 2 6 22 8 34 .323 .362 .556 .918 143
5 Kendrys Morales 202 32 56 16 0 6 37 15 30 .304 .361 .489 .851 127
6 Evan Gattis 190 23 42 9 2 11 34 8 47 .233 .263 .489 .752 97
7 David Ortiz 189 14 38 9 0 6 18 20 25 .228 .307 .389 .696 87
8 Billy Butler 221 22 54 9 0 4 26 14 34 .267 .317 .371 .688 86
9 Adam LaRoche 148 12 25 5 0 1 11 23 45 .203 .338 .268 .606 67
10 Victor Martinez 127 9 24 3 0 1 15 14 11 .222 .315 .278 .593 63

First of all, that’s it, just ten players have batted at least 100 times as a DH this year. Only six have batted more than 150 times as a DH, so yeah, the full-time DH is a dying breed. Teams love that rotating DH concept.

A-Rod has been baseball’s second most productive DH this season behind only Prince Fielder — Fielder has only played ten games at first base this year — in terms of OPS+, and he is tied for the DH lead in home runs. Only five full-time-ish DHs have a better than league average OPS+, and one of them is Jose Bautista, a right fielder who only played DH because a shoulder injury limited his throwing for a few weeks. So it’s really just four DHs with a better than average OPS+.

In theory, DH is a pretty easy job because all the player has to do is hit. There’s minimal defense work, leaving plenty of time to watch video, review scouting reports, hit in the cage, the whole nine. But it’s really not that easy, especially for players used to playing everyday. Jason Giambi is a great example of a player who was always less productive at DH because he didn’t know what to do with all the downtime. He’s far from alone. Going from playing everyday to being a DH is a tough adjustment.

A few years ago MGL found that, like pinch-hitters, there’s a “penalty” while serving as the DH. Players generally do not hit perform as well at DH as they do when playing the field, the same way players are less effective when coming off the bench to pinch-hit. The penalty is around 5%, and while that doesn’t seem like much, remember that’s only the average. Some players suffer an even bigger drop. Being a DH is hard! Sitting around between at-bats is not natural.

A-Rod seems to having figured out how to be an effective DH, however. He’d never worked as a DH for an extended period of time before this season — his career high for starts at DH was only 16 back in 2013 — but he’s been able to make the adjustment this year and remain productive. There’s been no drop off in production. Quite the opposite, in fact. Alex is hitting far better than I think even the most optimistic fans expected coming into the season.

As unsexy as it is, DH is a position, and a tough position at that. The list of players who can sit around between at-bats day after day and still rake is very short. Rodriguez has figured out a way to be one of the most productive DHs in baseball, and that’s a big advantage for the Yankees, especially since they got a combined .209/.283/.340 (62 OPS+) batting line from their DH spot from 2013-14. (I checked that three times!)

The DH is there for one reason and one reason only, to provide offense, but the Yankees got minimal offense from the position the last few years. Most teams around the league aren’t getting much production from the position either because they keep rotating players in and out, and most players see their numbers take a hit as the DH. This year the Yankees have the luxury of a great full-time DH in A-Rod, who is living up to the H part of DH game after game.

Sunday Links: A-Rod Promo, Eddy Julio Martinez, Drew

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Yankees and Rangers wrap-up their three-game series later tonight with the ESPN Sunday Night Game. Sigh. Getting sick of all these late Sunday games. Anyway, here are a handful of links to hold you over until first pitch.

Minor league team apologizes for A-Rod “juice” box promotion

On Friday, the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs (Rays) scheduled an Alex Rodriguez “juice” box promotion for their game against the Tampa Yankees. The team was going to hand out juice boxes labeled “The Sports Drink: 100% Juiced. Side Affects include: tainted records, inflated ego, omission from the Hall of Fame, and more!”

First of all, an A-Rod steroids joke? I award you no points for creativity. Secondly, Marc Topkin reports both the Yankees and Rays objected to the promotion, so it was cancelled. The Stone Crabs then issued an apology, according to Topkin. Here’s part of the text:

“On behalf of our entire organization I apologize to the New York Yankees, our affiliate club the Tampa Bay Rays, and all fans who may have taken offense,” said Stone Crabs General Manager, Jared Forma.  “While our intent was to raise awareness for the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition and the Salvation Army, we realize this promotion may have been offensive to many and for that we are sorry and have decided to cancel the promotion.  The Stone Crabs organization has the utmost respect for the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays organizations and wishes both organizations only the best in the future.”

Yeah, that probably wasn’t a good idea. It’s fine to hate A-Rod, most do, but an affiliated minor league club scheduling a promotion mocking an active player? That’s not going to sit well with the team, the league, and the MLBPA. Better luck next time.

Yankees among teams interested in Cuban OF Eddy Julio Martinez

According to Jesse Sanchez, the Yankees are one of several teams interested in free agent Cuban center fielder Eddy Julio Martinez, who has already been cleared to sign by MLB and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Sanchez says Martinez is in showcase mode right now — he’s held several workouts for scouts and has a few more scheduled.

Martinez, 20, has been described as an “impact talent” according to Kiley McDaniel, who says he has 70 speed and 50 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. Jeff Passan hears Martinez’s signing bonus could approach $10M. There’s no indication whether Martinez is ready to sign, but he is subject to the international spending pools, so the Yankees can offer him any amount until June 25th, the final day of the 2014-15 signing period. If Martinez doesn’t sign by then, New York can only offer him $300,000 due to the penalties from last year’s international spending spree.

I don’t know much about Martinez at all, just what’s in this post basically, but, as always, I am pro adding young up-the-middle talent at all times. The Yankees have dipped their toe in the Cuban market the last few years but have yet to dive in — they attend showcases and invite players in for private workouts, but have yet to pull the trigger and sign one. Their last notable Cuban signing was Jose Contreras more than a decade ago.

(In other Cuban player news, Ben Badler reports highly touted 21-year RHP Norge Ruiz has left the island, but the Yankees won’t have a shot to sign him because he won’t be cleared until well after June 25th.)

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

For first time, Cashman noncommittal about Drew’s job security

A few weeks ago, when Stephen Drew was scuffling offensively but playing solid defense, Brian Cashman told Andrew Marchand the team was not considering a change at second base. “No. I think Drew’s been fine,” said the GM. “Right now, I’m not looking at anyone being an alternative at second base to Drew. I’m surprised you asked the question.”

Now, in late-May, Drew is still scuffling at the plate and playing solid defense, and, for the first time, Cashman indicated Drew’s job may not be set in stone. “(Drew has) got rope, but if someone pushes his way into the mix, so be it,” said Cashman to Joel Sherman yesterday. “I am open to having Drew all year or someone else taking this if they can. I can’t predict what is going to happen.”

That someone would be Rob Refsnyder, who continues to tear the cover off the ball for Triple-A Scranton after shaking off his slow start. His defense is pretty bad, so he’d fit right in with the Yankees (hardy har har), but at least there’s a shot at an offensive upgrade. Drew’s been terrible at the plate, has been going back to last season, and his leash shouldn’t be all that long. Slade Heathcott is doing well in his very (very) limited big league cameo. Maybe that will make the Yankees more willing to roll with another young player.

Yankees losing a big bat during interleague play at a bad time for the offense


Yesterday afternoon’s shutout loss to the Royals capped off a week in which the Yankees really struggled at the plate. After hitting five homers and scoring eleven runs on Monday, the Yankees scored just eleven runs in their next six games combined, with five of those runs coming Saturday. They were shut out yesterday for the first time all season.

This week, the Yankees will temporarily lose a big bat, and not to injury or anything like that. They’re set to play a quick little two-game series on the road against the Nationals, and NL rules mean no DH. Alex Rodriguez is hitting .250/.351/.563 (146 wRC+) on the year and Joe Girardi has already said A-Rod will be limited to DH duty going forward, which figures to put him on the bench in Washington.

“We haven’t talked about it. After Sunday there is an off day. I will have to see what we do there. I could depend on the next few days. Right now I haven’t thought about it,” said Joe Girardi to George King last week when asked about A-Rod’s status for the Washington series. Given the team’s newfound commitment to keeping Rodriguez off his feet so he can stay in the lineup, it’s tough to see how he’ll be a factor as anything other than a pinch-hitter these next two games.

Now, that said, Mark Teixeira fouled a pitch off his toe yesterday, and he eventually had to leave the game after trying to play through out. Thankfully x-rays came back negative, but Teixeira is still day-to-day, and it wouldn’t be a total surprise if the soreness lingers into tomorrow. A-Rod has already started one game at first base this year — it went awkwardly, like all things A-Rod — and starting him at first has to at least be a consideration if Teixeira can’t go. Right? Has to.

Girardi acknowledged Teixeira’s injury could lead the A-Rod playing against the Nationals — “It could,” said the skipper to King yesterday — but ultimately it doesn’t really matter who plays first base. Assuming the Yankees don’t suddenly reverse course and decide to play Alex at the ultra-demanding third base, they’ll be without A-Rod or Teixeira for the Washington series, and they’re basically the team’s two best hitters. Two best power hitters at the very least.

Teixeira has put up a .248/.366/.576 (149 wRC+) line on the season, and, if you had to pick between him or A-Rod for the Nats series, you’d have to pick Teixeira, right? They’re comparable hitters but Teixeira has the advantage of being a switch-hitter and an above-average defender at first. A-Rod’s two hip surgeries and recent hamstring issue figure to rule him out completely at third base, as it should. They can’t risk injury for two measly games. I love Alex, but Teixeira’s the more functional player right now by a considerable margin.

Girardi has a choice to make this week but not really. He’s going to lose a big bat during the series in Washington no matter what, and if Teixeira’s toe allows him to play first base, he has to play over A-Rod. I’m not sure I see a non-health reason to start Alex over Teixeira at this point. If Teixeira’s toe issue keeps him out of the lineup, then that’s a different story. I think the Yankees should run A-Rod out there at first over Garrett Jones in that case, even if it’s only for six or seven innings.

Either way, the Yankees are losing one of their very best hitters for the next two games, and that’s bad. The offense is having a real hard time scoring as it is. Remove A-Rod or Teixeira and suddenly the underperforming Brian McCann and Headley and Carlos Beltran have to carry even more of the load. The Yankees are catching a break by avoiding the Nationals’ top starters, but that doesn’t make me feel much better. The offense needs to break out of its funk, and they’ll have to do it the next two days without one of their top hitters.

Stephen Drew quickly emerges as backup third baseman as Yankees look for ways to keep A-Rod in the lineup


Even prior to last season’s suspension, staying on the field has been a bit of a problem for Alex Rodriguez later in his career. He played 664 of 972 possible games from 2008-13 — he hasn’t played more than 140 games in a season since 2007 — due to a variety of injuries, ranging from the very minor (pulled calf in 2010) to the very major (hip surgery in 2009 and 2013).

The Yankees and Joe Girardi have limited A-Rod to mostly DH duty this season — he’s started 27 games at DH, two at third base, and one at first — knowing his 40th birthday is two months away and those two hip surgeries are not far in the rear-view mirror. And yet, Rodriguez is still dealing with a minor hamstring issue, suffered when he legged out that triple over the weekend. His bat is too valuable and they have to do what they can to keep him healthy.

So, in an effort to keep A-Rod in the lineup, he is no longer being considered Chase Headley‘s backup at third base. Stephen Drew spent some time working out at the hot corner in recent days and was thrown into the fire last night, getting the start at the hot corner. Girardi confirmed this is all because they’re looking to scale back Rodriguez’s time in the field. “We’re just thinking of keeping him at DH mostly,” said the skipper to Mark Feinsand.

Drew had never played third base as a pro before last night but didn’t seem too concerned about manning the hot corner — “I’ll be fine. You’ve got to do it sometime, right?” he said to Feinsand — after all, he had never played second base until the Yankees ran him out there last summer. He spent a few days taking ground balls at third and wasn’t really tested last night. Had one kinda sorta tough play. That was it.

Didi Gregorius played ten innings at third base last year, his only time at the hot corner in his career, but I understand why the Yankees didn’t try him at third. He’s settled in nicely at shortstop after a rocky start and he could possibly be a long-term solution there. Drew’s the guy you move around, the guy on a one-year contract trying to hang on. Jose Pirela, the other third base candidate on the roster, has played only 14 career minor league games at third.

There’s nothing wrong with having Drew or anyone else take ground balls at third base before games — guys work out at other positions all the time — though it was a surprise to see him start a game at the position so soon. The real issue is A-Rod’s lack of flexibility. He’s hitting very well, so the Yankees want him in the lineup every day, but the only real way to do that is by keeping him at DH. That means fewer DH days for the defensively challenged and also old Carlos Beltran, for Brian McCann, for everyone.

Only a handful of teams have full-time DHs these days. It’s basically just the Yankees, Red Sox (David Ortiz), Tigers (Victor Martinez), Athletics (Billy Butler), and Royals (Kendrys Morales). Everyone else uses a rotating DH and MLB seems to be moving in that direction. The Yankees did it the last three or four years in fact. They can’t do it now because of A-Rod, and now his apparently inability to play third even part-time gives Girardi even less maneuverability.

That said, if eliminating Rodriguez’s time in the field is the best way to keep him in the lineup on a regular basis, then that’s what they have to do. A-Rod has very quickly re-established himself as a core piece of the offense. If using Drew at third base is the best way to keep Alex healthy and in the lineup, so be it.

Cashman confirms Yankees aren’t planning to pay A-Rod’s home run milestone bonus

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

On Friday night, Alex Rodriguez helped the Yankees to a series opening win over the Red Sox with a pinch-hit homer, the 660th of his career. That tied Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list and triggered the first of five $6M milestone bonuses in A-Rod‘s contract. It’s actually not his player contract — it’s a separate marketing agreement.

We’ve heard the Yankees are “confident” they can get out paying the $6M bonus because A-Rod’s performance-enhancing drug issues have rendered the milestones unmarketable. Prior to Saturday’s game, GM Brian Cashman became the first team executive to go on the record and say the Yankees do not intend to pay the bonus. From Dan Martin:

“We’re going to follow the contract, as we follow all contracts, so there is no dispute, from our perspective,” Cashman said before the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 4-2, at Fenway Park, a day after Rodriguez’s landmark home run. “We’re going to honor our responsibility of the contract. We have the right, but not the obligation, to do something.”

“It’s not, ‘You do this, you get that,’ ” said Cashman, referring to specific numbers automatically triggering bonuses. “It’s completely different. It’s not all of a sudden we’re choosing not to do something.”

A portion of the marketing agreement was broadcasted on YES on Saturday. Here’s what it says:

“It is the sole discretion of the New York Yankees to determine whether each of these milestones is commercially marketable as the home run chase. … The Yankees have the right, but not the obligation, to determine whether it’s a commercially marketable milestone.”

I’m no lawyer, I have no idea how likely it is the Yankees will be able to get out of paying the bonus. A-Rod will inevitably file a grievance and the union will back him — “The union would challenge any breach of contract with the union. A player can’t be punished again for something he’s already been punished for,” said an MLBPA source to Martin — because they don’t want to set a precedent by letting a team void an agreement with a player.

The marketing agreement between A-Rod and the Yankees calls for $6M bonuses when Rodriguez ties Mays (660), ties Babe Ruth (714), ties Hank Aaron (755), then ties (762) and passes Barry Bonds (763) on the all-time homer list. As good as he’s looked so far this year, I don’t think we can safely assume Alex will reach the second milestone bonus before the end of his contract.

I can understand why the Yankees want to save the $6M — it’s actually $9M since the bonus would be subject to the luxury tax — but as an outsider it looks sorta petty. (Obviously $9M is a ton of money though, even to the Yankees.) Last I looked, the Yankees are still selling A-Rod shirts and merchandise in the team stores at Yankee Stadium, which indicates they think he is at least somewhat marketable.

I dunno, things seem to be going well between the Yankees and A-Rod right now. This feels like an unnecessary battle, like the Yankees are holding a grudge.

Al’s War

Remember Disney’s “Hercules”? I recall seeing it in theaters as a kid and liking it because, hey, funny talking satyr voiced by Danny DeVito. On merit or accuracy to the actual Hercules myth, I doubt it holds up any, if at all. Regardless, a major plot point in the cartoon’s progression is that young Hercules has all this talent and strength that should be admired, but his bumbling personality and pervasive awkwardness thwart his efforts at appreciation and acceptance. Sound familiar?

About 2,000 years after Hercules, the Yankees were gifted, thanks to a big contract and the player’s union, a similarly talented and equally awkward star in Alex Rodriguez. In that decade-plus, he and the Yankees have been through euphoric highs, lamentable lows, and just about everything in between. Even before he came to the Yankees, this shifting dynamic defined A-Rod’s image. His image was variable: built up, torn down, redeemed, sullied again. Now, it looks like we’re on redemption part two. And surely next year, there will be yet another title to hoist upon Rodriguez.

To paraphrase “Field of Dreams,” the one constant through all the A-Rod years has been interest. Love him, hate him, we can’t stop talking about him. And I loathe to do this, but I can’t help but compare him to Derek Jeter, another figure we couldn’t stop talking about for 20 years, though for other reasons.

Despite more recent criticisms of his fielding and batting order position, the vast majority of Jeter discussion was positive, if empty. He was lauded, applauded, cheered, and revered. But, generally, he was boring as hell and in retrospect, perhaps a bit aloof in an untouchable way; it’d be impossible for anyone to reach that status. Rodriguez, meanwhile, has run the gamut as the Grantland piece demonstrates. He’s been deified and vilified; he’s been cheered and booed. He’s done all the right things; he’s done all the wrong things. He’s been warm and open; he’s been distant and unaware, awkward and aloof in an entirely different way than Jeter was. Like the young Hercules, Rodriguez’s aloofness and awkwardness tended to stem from trying so hard, almost too hard, to want to be loved and adored by his fans. With the possible exceptions of his actions leading up to/during his suspension, none of Rodriguez’s faults and miscues were malicious. He wanted to always do and say all the right things and be the hero in all the big spots and never let anyone down, but it didn’t play out that way; baseball hardly ever does. Still, he is a student (and teacher) of the game and in love with it in ways that we as fans hope players are and he’s managed to somewhat reinvent himself at an advanced age, showing he can still do it despite sitting out a year.

Ultimately, he and Jeter are among the best in history at what they do (or did in Jeter’s case). At times, though, Rodriguez has done it while being more flawed and nuanced than Jeter ever was. In that way, he appears more real to us, more relatable. Perhaps that is why we’re so drawn to him. We love stories and narratives, especially complex ones that we can examine and mold to any extent we desire. The Rodriguez narrative, even in 2015, is ever-evolving and hardly follows a straight path; it offers us just what we tend to like in narratives. No matter if you have rooted for him from day one or have been skeptical of him from the get-go, it’s impossible to deny that nothing regarding “Al From Miami” is ever easy or straightforward. But that’s what makes Rodriguez so relatable. Complex stories like his tend to be the most fascinating ones to follow because they’re real. Like our own lives, there’s no script for Rodriguez to follow here. The only thing we know with certainty as Rodriguez’s story wraps up over the next two and a half baseball seasons is that this last part of his journey will be just as unpredictable as his story so far.