Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NOW Pay-Rod Says He Shoulda Been A Met

The back page of today's New York Daily News has habitual attention-hog Alex Rodriguez moaning that he should have signed with the Mets back in 2000, instead of taking the record-setting $252 million ten-year contract that Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks threw his way.

I think I speak for many Mets fans when I say, So freakin' what?

If Pay-Rod had signed with the Mets back when they were hot-and-heavy over him, we might not be enjoying the contributions of homegrown Jose Reyes and David Wright. After all, the kind of money the Mets would have wound up paying him -- probably not $252 million over any number of years -- would definitely have prevented Reyes from coming aboard, at least as a shortstop (Rodriguez' original position). The Mets have had a history of shifting promising players to different positions in the past -- Edgardo Alfonzo's late-90s third-to-second-to-third shuffle comes to mind -- but chances are that Rodriguez' presence would have jammed up the shortstop position for years to come and, if there had been a third-base or second-base prospect considered more promising than Reyes, the jam might have prevented him from becoming a Met at all.

Last year Rodriguez was foolish enough to follow the advice of his mercenary agent, Scott Boras, and turn down a sure-thing offer from the Yankees in favor of testing the free-agent market. Apparently $25 million a year was no longer enough to live on, or maybe Boras' share, $2.5 million or so, wasn't enough for him. There was plenty of speculation that the Mets might sign him, and David Wright had gone on record during the season to assert that he'd gladly shift to second base if that was what it took to land Pay-Rod. Thankfully that didn't happen, because this lifelong Mets fan was ready to shift allegiance to the Yankees for good if they had signed Mister Me for all the money the Wilpon family had in the bank. When Steve Phillips, the Mets' general manager back in 2000, claimed that he had stopped negotiations for fear that signing Rodriguez would create a team of 24+1 instead of a 25-man unit, he was widely ridiculed. I think the time that has passed, and Rodriguez' true contributions to the terrible Texas Rangers team and the not-good-enough Yankees, have proved Phillips right. Yeah, OK, A-Rod won an MVP award with the Rangers, but on a last-place team that's meaningless. What could it mean: that the team wouldn't have been as deeply in last place? The basement is still the basement, whether the team in front of you is only one game ahead or 20.

Having said all that, though, I could easily be wrong. I cried foul when the Mets let Alfonzo go in favor of an unknown thrid baseman named Ty Willingham. I figured he'd be just another in the series of forgotten names on the list Mets' third-basemen. But Willingham turned out to be a good hitter and fielder. During Ty's second year, though, there was all this talk about this wunderkind in the minors named David Wright.

"Oh no, not again," I thought. I figured the Mets had just "lucked out" this time with Willingham and that there was no reason to tinker with a good thing. Again, I was wrong -- Wright has turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to the Mets team.

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