20/20 Hindsight: Signing Alex Rodriguez after the 2000 season could have altered baseball history

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.

Name Slash wOBA wRC+ fWAR
Melvin Mora .260/.317/.423 .316 85 0.4
Mike Bordick .260/.321/.365 .308 80 0.2
Kurt Abbott .217/.283/.389 .289 67 -0.2
Rey Ordonez .188/.278/.226! .235 33 -0.7
All Mets SS .234/.302/.357 .290 68 -0.5
MLB Average .264/.331/.399 .321 84 1.9

 

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

9.         Pitcher

 

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?

By his account, Rodriguez began taking steroids upon his arrival to Texas, perhaps supplied to him by teammates Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez, perhaps not.

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.

Do the Mets perform a mini-firesale and deal Rick Reed for Matt Lawton?  No.  Do they deal Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell? No.  Do they get rid of Robin Ventura? No.

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.

16 comments for “20/20 Hindsight: Signing Alex Rodriguez after the 2000 season could have altered baseball history

  1. February 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Nice article. I love what ifs

    • Joe Vasile
      February 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks. There were some things that I didn’t put in also, like does Alfonso Soriano stay with the Yankees? Does Gary Sheffield play Third Base in 2004, as there was talk of this happening? Do the Mets evenutally trade A-Rod? What happens once David Wright and Jose Reyes are ready? Do they get traded or move to another position? Too many questions to answer in this article.

  2. February 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Joe,

    Bear in mind that Kirk Radomsky — notorious PED distributor — was a Mets employee back then: he was assistant strength coach or some such title. I have a feeling A-Rod would have dipped into that poisoned pool regardless of his address at the time.

    • February 4, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      According to Wikipedia, Radomski worked for the Mets from 1985-1995. Not to say that there wouldn’t have been someone around to be his supplier but it would’ve been someone besides Radomski.

    • Joe Vasile
      February 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Radomski was only a clubhouse employee from 1985-1995. Unless he was still visiting the clubhouse 6 years after he was no longer an employee, it’s doubtful that he was still distributing steroids to Mets players in 2001.

  3. AV
    February 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    “By his account, Rodriguez began taking steroids upon his arrival to Texas…”

    I have a reliable source, a co-worker that played minor league baseball, that told me otherwise back in 2004. I can’t say more than that other here than to imply this assumption is a bit of a stretch.

    • Joe Vasile
      February 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      There has been rumors that he’s been doing steroids since he was in high school, and he is clearly not the most reliable source, but in order to not say anything that I don’t know to be true, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

      • AV
        February 5, 2013 at 11:58 am

        That’s what I was told by my former co-worker. He played minor league ball with someone that played in high school with A-Rod. (It wasn’t a teammate but it was someone in the same league that knew him.) It could just be gossip but I was told this in 2004, three years before the infamous Katie Couric “60 Minutes” interview and before any A-Rod specific steroid allegations became common.

        With that said though, I’ve often wondered “what if” A-Rod had come to the Mets after the 2000 season. Aside from the one comment I took issue with, this is a nice piece that answers some of the questions I’ve wondered about. Thanks!

  4. February 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Why would he NOT use steroids in New York?

    Ever visit gyms in NY?

    • Joe Vasile
      February 4, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      I never said he wouldn’t have used steroids if he went to the Mets, I say he may not have, because at that point there weren’t any Mets players (that we know of) that could easily supply him with PEDs. In Texas, there were such players.

  5. February 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    I don’t think it’s fair to give names of Texas players you assume gave Alex steroids. Not that I don’t think for one moment hat possibly most of the team was using.You take it for granted that he is telling the truth. Problem is that he lost his credibility some time ago.You could always add Juan Gonzalez and Reuben Sierra to the “are they users” list but what’s the point? A-Rod will continue to break down and and hopefully decides to fulfill his contract obligations so he can stick it the Yankeees and the baseball gods stick to him by not breaking any records as a Yankee.

    • Joe Vasile
      February 4, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      “I don’t think it’s fair to give names of Texas players you assume gave Alex steroids.”

      Valid point. That was mostly just a throw-away line, but I understand where you’re coming from.

  6. February 5, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Joe,

    In terms of associations, it is true that athletes feed on each other. You can see this with hair styles, jewelry, etc. They are young kids who, like teenagers, sometimes have herd mentality. I think it is fair to say this about steroids, too. If he was alone on the team in terms of using, it might have impacted him.

    But NY is where anything can be purchased and the iron-gyms are everywhere and Arod wanted to be the best and wanted to recover quickly as possible and if you consider what kind of money he has, it makes sense.

    He says, “Go get me a cup of coffee” and someone jumps instantly.
    “Go get me a limo” and someone jumps.
    “Go get me some HGH” and someone does.

    Once the pattern is in place, it is, psychologically, difficult to break.

    This was my point.

    The same could be said about Gooden/Strawberry. It was security guards that caught them buying and using coke at the stadium. It is also why some coaches ask GM’s (in all sports) to move known trouble makers away from young kids.

    It was an interesting article, and as someone else said, “what ifs” are interesting to ponder, especially in off season.

    Thanks for the article.

  7. stevejrogers
    February 7, 2013 at 11:11 am

    In a lot of ways, it’s almost like a bullet that the Mets missed.

    A lot of good what ifs, but at the same time, there is a conspiracy theory that suggests that the Wilpons used this to help leverage out Doubleday (ARod would have made the franchise value greater). So would the Wilpons still have been the sole ownership if ARod had been brought in as well?

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