With reports coming this week tying Alex Rodriguez to yet another steroid scandal, now seems like a good time to look back at when the Mets decided to make a run at the then 25-year-old shortstop. So hop in the DeLorean, and close your eyes because we’re going to rev it up to 88 miles per hour and go back to the year 2000.
Open your eyes. It’s November of the year 2000. The Subway Series has just ended, Al Gore is demanding recounts, askjeeves.com is everyone’s search engine of choice, “Independent Women Part I” by Destiny’s Child sits atop the Billboard charts, and Steve Phillips is running the show in Flushing. It seems like so long ago.
Shortstop seemed to be the Mets number one concern coming into the offseason, since defensive wiz Rey Ordonez spent much of the season on the Disabled List, Mike Bordick was certainly not coming back, and Melvin Mora had been traded to the Baltimore Orioles for the aforementioned Bordick. In short, the Mets shortstops were terrible in 2000.
|All Mets SS||.234/.302/.357||.290||68||-0.5|
That’s the reason why the Mets made a push to trade for Barry Larkin, which was ultimately vetoed by Larkin and why they traded for Bordick.
It’s also the reason why Phillips sat down at the GM meetings with super agent Scott Boras to discuss the possibility of Rodriguez playing in Flushing, allegedly his childhood dream.
A Mike Piazza-Alex Rodriguez combination in the middle of the order would have instantly made the Mets favorites to return to the World Series in 2001, even with NLCS MVP Mike Hampton departing for the lots and lots of money better school system that Colorado offered.
Here’s what the lineup would have likely looked like:
1. RF, Timo Perez
2. 2B, Edgardo Alfonzo
3. C, Mike Piazza
4. SS, Alex Rodriguez
5. 3B, Robin Ventura
6. 1B, Todd Zeile
7. LF, Benny Agbayani
8. CF, Jay Payton
Assuming that the Mets hypothetically still go out and sign Kevin Appier and Steve Trachsel, the starting five combined with that potent lineup would certainly be a good enough combo to bring the Mets back to playing October baseball, and perhaps back to the World Series for the second consecutive year. Things look good for the Mets.
But what about for Rodriguez?
Could it be possible that if Rodriguez had landed in New York, that he wouldn’t have gotten into taking PEDs, and stayed clean? Yes, it is possible.
While people speculate that he got into PEDs because he wanted to live up to the contract, I have a hard time believing that. Rodriguez took steroids because he wanted to be that much better than the competition, and his teammates in Texas gave him a way to be.
Would Rodriguez be one of the most hated New York sports figures if he’d have helped the Mets raise a third World Series banner less than two months after the September 11th attacks? Of course not.
Would he have dated Madonna? Well I guess Rodriguez’s life wouldn’t be completely different.
Unfortunately, none of this ended up happening; Phillips decided not to give into Boras’ extreme salary and perk demands and watched as A-Rod signed with the Texas Rangers and went on to win four MVP awards.
The Mets got off to a bad start in 2001, recovered a little but ended up missing the playoffs thanks largely to one of the most heartbreaking games my 9-year-old eyes had ever seen.
What stings more than thinking about what could have been is thinking about what wouldn’t have been part of the Mets history.
It was summed up best by Jim Duquette, Phillips’ Assistant GM, in an interview with Ian O’Connor of ESPN New York, “If we sign Alex that championship window would have stayed open a lot longer for us, and we might not go down the Mo Vaughn road or the [Roberto] Alomar road or the [Jeromy] Burnitz road.”
Wouldn’t that have been nice.