Right now, 10 AM, somewhere in midtown Manhattan, a baseball player steps through a 15-room duplex. The building’s name most likely begins with TRUMP. As he enters his spacious, snow white, high-ceiling master bath with bulbs dotting the perimeter of the mirror like what I imagine Celine Dion’s dressing room @ Caesar’s to be, he turns to his reflection. They say certain A-list celebs forbid the crew on a movie set to “look them in the eye,” for sometimes that causes a performer to consider actions that demand a willful ignorance toward self-awareness. Alex Rodriguez looked himself in the mirror this morning. What did he see?
Did he see a man who amassed 8.9 dWAR in eight seasons @ shortstop? Not Ozzie Smith nor Mark Belanger numbers, still outstanding in conjunction with his historic offensive output. Did he see someone who was faced with an opportunity to not simply change the mythology of his career in the Bronx? Did he see someone that needs to not just offer to take the place of the injured Derek Jeter, the iconic Yankee captain and spirit of the franchise, but to demand the spot? What greater stage to come to the team’s rescue in its time of need than the post-season.
What is Brian Cashman thinking in his office right now? The organization is on the hook for close to $120 million dollars over the next five years. Not Cashman’s fault, as the narrative goes, but the roster remains his responsibility. The Yankees still have an enormous investment in A-Rod. If they miss the playoffs, in the grand scheme of things, so what? Their attendance (for them) is something of a mess, right now. A fair amount of fans that actually went to the game entered with discounted tickets. This organization needs a Reggie moment. Raul Ibanez’ heroics are outstanding (Ichiro, too), nice that a supporting cast member stepped up, but he’s not the lead in this drama. Alex Rodriguez is still a star on this stage. He’s also a rotting asset. For the health of the organization, it’s more important to keep A-Rod’s frame of mind positive than it is to win this series. The way tickets are selling, the overall age of this club, if I’m Hal Steinbrenner, I would be begin to be concerned about YES ratings for 2013, because this is the next rung after attendance slippage. Check out the upper deck on those “Great Moments in Yankee History Clips” when Mattingly hits the grand slam. Empty. Almost completely empty. That’s when general admission ticket prices were in the single digits in a thriving economy. You really don’t think that couldn’t happen again?
We are going to know, once and for all, what kind of competitor Alex Rodriguez can be. This can be his Willis Reed moment. He was the best shortstop in the game for many years. Is he going to sit by and allow the ballclub to start the choice of two barely replacement-level players? Here’s what I want. I want to read that A-Rod demanded the spot and Girardi turned him down. I want to read that A-Rod begged to play short today. I want to read honest, smart reasons why he’s not in there today. I want the story now, not the anonymous, "sources say" explanations in a Sunday Daily News article sometime next January. If you are a beat writer with access, it’s your job to get an explanation on this TODAY. If you cover the team and you're on the field or in the clubhouse this afternoon, this is what you need to ask:
1) Joe, did A-Rod ask to play short today? 2) Joe, did Derek make any suggestions as to who should play short? 3) Alex, do you want to play shortstop today? 4) Alex, do you ask to play shortstop today?
There is a narrative here that cannot be overlooked. Either one of the greatest shortstops in the history of the game will start at the position when his team needs him most or he won’t. I sincerely hope, as he got himself prepared for this afternoon’s match and stepped into the car waiting to take him uptown, he considered his place in history. The moment demands him.
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