NY Sports Day
Joe McDonald

McDonald: What If Shea-Rod Happened?

“I have been a Met fan all my life and now to play here at the stadium I grew up in is a dream come true.”

  • Alex Rodriguez, December 1, 2000

You can dream, Met fans, can’t you? Or maybe this could have been a nightmare for the New York Mets, but coming off a Subway Series loss, the club had a chance to significantly upgrade themselves by signing shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a long term contact in the winter of 2000.

The Mets looked into the situation, but agent Scott Boras’s demands were just too steep. Not only would the club had to have paid over $20 million a season for the All-Star, but there were ancillary demands, such as a merchandise tent specifically for A-Rod, a private jet and other fun things.

Then-Mets GM Steve Phillips famously said he didn’t want a “24 + 1 player,” where the entire team acted upon one set of rules, except one who was treated totally differently.

Ultimately, that is why the Mets decided to pass on Rodriguez and ultimately signed Kevin Appier and Steve Traschel to replace Mike Hampton, who also left as a free agent (something about Colorado schools).

And after the 2000 World Series, the Mike Piazza era was never the same. Although they were in the race in 2001, they didn’t sniff the playoffs until 2006, after Mighty Mike was long gone.

Would it have been different if the Mets signed Alex Rodriguez, giving them another superstar in his prime, and some protection for Piazza in the lineup.?

If the Mets signed A-Rod, would he have never played in the Bronx?

Today we will look at What if The Mets Signed Alex Rodriguez?

It should have been a no-brainer. A-Rod wanted to play in New York, even claimed to be a Mets fan, and those Mets were desperately trying to derail the Yankee Dynasty. If the Mets gave A-Rod the 10-year $240 million contract the Texas Rangers offered, he probably would have played at Shea.

Chances are, it might not have taken $240 million. Phillips never made any offer, but had he opened the Mets purse, a shrewd negotiator might have sold Boras and A-Rod on the notion that playing in New York would have presented many more financial opportunities than playing in the heat of Texas, so maybe ten years and no more than $180-$200 million might have sealed the deal.

But that’s conjecture based more so if Texas had not entered the bidding war – which turned out to be a one-team race – and he did sign for the biggest in baseball history at the time, so we’ll acknowledge the two-forty big ones.

And boy, would he have been worth it. Fifty-Two, 57, and 47 home runs for his three years in Texas, with RBIs totaling 395 in those years probably would have transposed similarly in New York. Rodriguez would have given the Mets protection for Piazza, and a cushion when Bobby Valentine would have had to sit his All-Star catcher, keeping a potent Met lineup intact.

It would have translated into wins as well. In 2001, the Mets probably would have played better earlier on in the season and possibly won the National League East that season. They only finished six games behind the Braves, so you have to figure A-Rod would have been good for six wins.

Maybe the Mets might have kept Hampton, too. With A-Rod on the team, the surly ace may have stayed in New York on a long term deal, something that would have helped with his career, while keeping the great pitching staff intact.

Nah. Hampton loved those Colorado schools, and the $120 million dollars that went with them. The Mets would never have ponied up that much dough after shelling out for A-Rod.

You see, if the Mets had kept Hampton, the club would not have had a compensation pick for him, which meant they would not have drafted David Wright.

If the Mets won the East in 2001, they possibly would have faced the Yankees again in the World Series. They very well could have won with this team, giving the team another World Series. But remember, A-Rod does occasionally choke in the post-season.

No matter what happened in that post-season, this much is pretty certain: The great purge in 2002 when the Mets traded for a number of questionable superstars – in name only – would not have happened. No Mo Vaughn. No Roberto Alomar, and No Jeromy Burnitz. (I can see the tears now from everyone.) And Bobby Valentine would probably not have been fired after the 2002 season, meaning no Art Howe, and Cliff Floyd and Tom Glavine do not sign here.

Instead, the Mets would have been trying to keep the same team together. Edgardo Alfonzo would probably have left after the 2002 season, but the Mets would have replaced him with their top infield prospect, Jose Reyes, who may have eventually forced A-Rod to move to third base after Robin Ventura left in 2002.

Also, the team would not have been really bad in 2003 and 2004. Instead, the Mets would have been kept together and somewhat in contention. Before you cheer, though, it also means Steve Phillips would have retained his job as general manager as well, and since he never met a prospect he didn’t trade, Reyes and Wright – if the Mets did indeed draft him – may have played on other teams, since Phillips loved to trade prospects for middle relievers at the deadline.

Furthermore, when Phillips was finally forced out – and Valentine as well – Omar Minaya may have not gotten the general manager’s job in 2004. That means, no Pedro, Carlos Beltran, or Carlos Delgado. “Los Mets” never would have existed.

And extended further, the Mets likely never would have looked to the Land of the Rising Sun for what they thought was an automatic superstar in Kaz Matsui in 2004.

That also means the Mets would never have won the division in 2006 and probably wouldn’t have collapsed in 2007 and 2008. Without Piazza and A-Rod choking the payroll, there would have been nothing in the cupboard to replenish and since Phillips would have stripped the farm system bare, there might not have been enough prospects to replace the aging players.

Ultimately A-Rod may have opted out of his Mets contract by 2007, as he did with the Yankees. Unlike the Yankees, who stupidly gave the guy more money to come back, the Wilpons would never have renegotiated with the superstar. Rather, A-Rod would have probably signed with the Yankees after the 2007 season and won the World Series with them in 2009.

You have to wonder if A-Rod would have done steroids. He would not have been in the steroid friendly environment of Texas, yet he would have had access to the Mets supplier, Kirk Radomski. Right now, the third baseman is using the excuse of Texas. If word leaked out that he did them in New York – a place he played for seven years, he would have been fully tarnished, even more than he is now.

So maybe it was a good thing the Wilpons decided not to open the vault. With the extra fannies in the seats, it would have been good in the short term, but like everything else in Met land, all decisions have consequences and signing A-Rod would not have been a very good decision for the Amazin’s.

 


4 Comments

  1. Joe Wenzel

    January 5, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    They should have signed him.

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