Culture

How Much Does Alex Rodriguez Have Left?

New York Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez reported to the team’s spring training facility in Tampa, Florida 3 days early, taking some batting practice and shagging some fly balls. One of the most exceptional baseball talents in the history of the game, Rodriguez returns following a suspension during all of 2014 for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy.

A-Rod admitted using steroids during the 2001-03 seasons when he played for the Texas Rangers, but there is a suspicion that he used performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) most, if not all of his career. His suspension did not come from using steroids, but from his actions connected with the Biogenesis affair, a huge PED scandal that touched more than a dozen major and minor league ballplayers, including ensnaring all-time time run hitter Barry Bonds.

Last Wednesday, Rodriguez released a hand-written letter to fans, apologizing for his behavior, saying “I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point,” he writes. “I understand why and that’s on me.”

Indeed, all the drama, the accusations, the finger pointing, the threats of legal action were apparently a cover. He’s guilty as hell, as the wife of his cousin Yuri Sucart, who will be tried in connection with the Biogenesis scandal, has recently said. Carmen Sucart claims that Rodriquez routinely acquired PED’s from her husband, most notably from Anthony Bosch of the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic at the center of the PED controversy:

Yuri Sucart had a front-row seat to A-Rod’s shenanigans for the 20 years that he served as Rodriguez’s gofer and fixer. During that time Sucart procured performance-enhancing drugs for his famous cousin, including from Anthony Bosch. He knows about A-Rod’s romances with various women, his drug use and his zany legal strategies.

The Sucarts told The News last year that Rodriguez bought them a house and gave them other financial favors as an effort to compensate for the damage A-Rod caused them when he inexplicably linked Sucart to steroid dealing during a 2009 press conference after reporter Selena Roberts linked Rodriguez to positive drug tests.

The relationship later soured as Rodriguez was pulled into criminal investigations into Canadian HGH guru Anthony Galea and the Miami anti-aging clinic of Anthony Bosch.

HGH (Human Growth Hormone) is a wonder drug for athletes in that it allows them to recover from injuries much more quickly. A-Rod has been in great need of that. He has not played a complete season since 2007 due to various hip surgeries and other injuries. His 10-year, $275 million contract signed in 2007 has brought the Yankees precious little in production given all the time he’s missed. So the question for the Yankees going forward is does Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July, have enough left in tank to help bring the Yankees back to glory?

At age 29, an athlete can recover from a year and a half layoff and depending on rehab and the severity of the injury, get back to approximately where he was before being hurt in less than a year. But Rodriguez is 39, and the body doesn’t respond to rehab in the the same way a younger man might. Plus, at age 40, hand-eye coordination deteriorates, bat speed slows, and most of the skills that made A-Rod a terror to American League pitching for nearly 20 years are fading.

The Yankees have already announced that Rodriguez is not a candidate to play 3rd base. He will be competing in camp for designator hitter at bats. This has given rise to speculation that the team might trade Rodriquez and his burdensome contract in exchange for a slew of young players.

A-Rod has three years and $61 million left on that mega-deal and another major league team would be nuts to burden themselves with the controversial player and his contract. But baseball general managers can be very inventive in their deal making, and the Yankees could sweeten a deal considerably by paying a big slice of that contract over the next three years. In the arcane world of baseball salaries, the Yankees might actually see an advantage to ridding themselves of Rodriguez if the haul of prospects and good young players is sufficiently enticing.

Such a deal probably won’t happen before the season. Besides, the Yankees are anxious to see just how much A-Rod can contribute before beginning a fire sale. He will never get back to the heights he reached when he was a 3-time MVP. But even a diminished A-Rod will be a threat.

Rodriguez has made no public statement since his handwritten letter was released. And given the questions still surrounding his role in the Biogenesis scandal, it is likely he won’t be addressing the press any time soon.