There were reasons and logic on both sides of whether the Miami Marlins and Alex Rodriguez should have gotten together – and not a lot of gray in between. Chances are many Fish fans were excited by the possibility, while the rest were shake-their-heads incredulous to think it could actually happen.
The debate entangled the team itself, which this weekend weighed whether to offer Rodriguez a chance to end his ever-so-brief retirement, or resist the notion as tempting but wrong.
Oh well. Would have been interesting, at least. For about a minute we were tantalized to imagine A-Rod in a Marlins uniform batting for his 700th career home run in late September the same season Ichiro reached his 3,000th MLB hit for the club. For good measure, or bizarre measure, perhaps, we could toss in a pinchhitting appearance by hitting coach Barry Bonds. Heck, how about an at-bat for Don Mattingly, too!
Well, Ichiro did hit 3K. And I suppose a late-season cameo by Bonds isn't impossible. But the notion of Rodriguez joining Miami was shot down by both sides Monday as Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said the tream was not actively pursuing him while an A-Rod spokesman said he'd not be playing for anyone – this season, at least.
I thought the idea of Miami signing Rodriguez was intriguing, though with an asterisk:
Do it, Marlins, I'd written in this column's orginal version, when the possibility remained. (*-But not for the wrong reasons).
Club owner Jeffrey Loria would have been in charge of the wrong reasons. We put Mattingly, the manager, in charge of the right ones.
The wrong reasons would have been the ancillary stuff. Loria loves the splash of bold moves and big names and the attention they bring. He is not risk-averse; hence, the Bonds hire. He loves the Yankees and their lore; it's one reason he jumped at Mattingly. And he knows a franchise that still struggles to draw fans, even in a new(ish) ballpark and in the midst of a playoff chase, would get a goose at the gate by adding A-Rod.
The right reasons would have been baseball – the team and season, period. If you thought Rodriguez made you better and enhanced your shot at earning that second NL wild-card ticket, sign him. If you couldn't see him fitting in or thought the needle on his career gas tank was too near 'E,' then don't.
For sure, the weekend groin injury that will shelve Giancarlo Stanton for the rest of the regular season is a major blow that only feathered the argument there was a need for A-Rod – or for somebody else. Rumors fly. One indicates interest in Houston outfielder Carlos Gomez, though he is not the power hitter Rodriguez still is capable of being.
The splash factor and likely attendance boost from A-Rod would have been offset by the circus he'd have brought – the distraction of a fading 41-year-old superstar with steroids interwoven in his legacy. But positive or negative intangibles should not be why the Marlins signed Rodriguez or didn't.
Would he fit? Can he hit? Can he help? Those are the only questions that should have mattered to Mattingly and Hill, the two men we'd hope were at the front of the decision.
For sure, this could have happened if the Marlins and A-Rod had mutual interest. It seemed a natural.
Rodriguez lives in Miami. Graduated from Miami Westminster Christian. Has his name on the Hurricanes' ballpark he helped fund. Met his wife (they are since divorced) at a Miami gym. Their daughters, 11 and 8, live here. And A-Rod enjoys “Miami's own” rights; Marlins Park would be an unusually forgiving landing spot for a guy who served baseball hard-time and saw his reputation hammered by PEDs.
Money surely would not have been an issue. Rodriguez still is owed $27 million by the Yankees. You figured he'd play here for loose change here for a chance to reach 700 homers (he has 696) and show the Yankees they did him wrong last week by abruptly telling him he was done. “Of course I think I can [still] play baseball,” he said then. The balance of this season could have been a six-week stage to prove that to the rest of MLB.
It made sense for A-Rod. But did it for the Marlins?
The key would have been Rodriguez adapting to play first base (where the extent of his experience is two games in 2015), with maybe an odd game filling in at third, so he wasn't just a pinchhitter. He's been mostly a designated hitter since 2012, but with no DH in the NL, Miami would've had to find a spot for him and count on his bat outweighing any defensive shortcomings.
A-Rod is hitting an even .200 this season but still has some power-pop – and the Marlins sincerely need home run punch, especially with Stanton and Justin Bour, their only two real sluggers, now both out injured. Rodriguez hit 33 home runs last season and this year has nine in 225 at-bats, or 1 every 25 at-bats. Not counting the absent Stanton and Bour, that would rank second on the Marlins, trailing only Marcell Ozuna's 1-in-22 ratio. (And the slumping Ozuna has only two homers since July 1).
Stanton's troubling injury history is a tale for another day. The fragile thoroughbred just cannot stay healthy, a $325 Million Man seeming to have Dollar Store Durability. Four of his past six seasons have been significantly truncated by injuries, and this will be his third in a row to end on the disabled list.
But the urgent question now is how the depleted Marlins adapt and best chase a playoff spot from here. They can still do it; Miami entered Monday's road swing 11-3 this season in games Stanton did not play.
Adding A-Rod would have been the unusual combination of high-attention but low-risk, and augmented a most eventful Marlins year.
Still not sure if this will prove to have been a playoff season, but either way it certainly has been an interesting one.