After the 2000 season, Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers. But during a recent taping of Undeniable with Joe Buck, Rodriguez said that he would have taken half the money to play for the New York Mets after the 2000 World Series.
The quote is new, but the sentiment of wanting to play in New York is not a new idea from A-Rod. Here’s what he told John Harper of the New York Daily News in 2008 about his desire to play for the Mets for the 2001 season:
“I went for the contract when my true desire was to go play for the Mets … [I didn’t want to be] taken down a road where I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, where am I? Oh, $400 million to play in some place I hate? Great, I’ll blow my —- head off.'”
Later in the interview, he explained one of the reasons he regretted his decision is that his daughter missed her bedroom and her toys in New York. In fact, A-Rod said he grew up watching the 1986 Mets. He also reportedly met Jennifer Lopez, who he’s currently dating, at a Mets game.
Though his stats in Texas weren’t exactly what they would’ve been in Queens, it’s easy to imagine what the Mets would have looked like with the star shortstop. Rodriguez had 52 home runs in 2001 and posted 7.6 WARP. He and Mike Piazza would have been the best offensive tandem in baseball, both in the top 10 for WARP. Meanwhile, Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez had a 1.2 WARP. That’s an approximate six wins extra for New York … who finished six wins behind the Atlanta Braves in the division.
Here’s what former Mets executive Jim Duquette said of the situation at the time : “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.”
Instead, the Mets changed up their roster the next season, lost Robin Ventura, and gained the tandem of Roberto Alomar and Jeromy Burnitz. That alone was a net negative; Alomar had -0.3 WARP–he had 6.9 in 2001 before he joined the Mets–and Burnitz had -0.7 WARP. Mets manager Bobby Valentine moved Edgardo Alfonzo (5.0 WARP) from second base to third base to replace Ventura with Alomar now at second. Ordonez had a 1.1 WARP at shortstop.
Away from the Mets in Arlington, A-Rod was top-five in baseball with 7.5 WARP and Ventura had 4.4 WARP with the Yankees. Assuming they would had kept their infield intact with Rodriguez in the mix, they would have had a combined 16.9 WARP from A-Rod, Ventura and Alfonzo. Instead, they had 5.8 WARP from Ordonez, Alfonzo and Alomar; that equates to approximately 11 more wins. The Mets, of course, finished last in the NL East.
They also finished last in 2003. Phillips was fired as general manager. The Rangers also finished in last place–but for three straight seasons–and Rodriguez wanted to leave. Soon, Rodriguez was on the Yankees for 2004 and the Mets debuted Jose Reyes and David Wright.
During a radio interview in 2016, former Mets general manager Steve Phillips offered more details on why it never worked out to sign Rodriguez. He said that it “would have been historic” to pair Rodriguez with Piazza, especially after the Mets had just lost to the Yankees in the World Series. But he knows there were challenges to add Rodriguez, who he called “the best player” he had ever seen.
“We weren’t going to pay $25 million a year, I can tell you that. My sense from Mets ownership is we weren’t in that ballpark, but I wonder if we had gone back and said this is what we’re willing to do, are you willing to do it, whether Alex would’ve been in a position to change the conversation.”
If what Rodriguez told Buck has validity, then perhaps the Mets blew it. But Phillips added that Boras and Rodriguez had requested an office space at the stadium “for marketing purposes” as well as lots of billboards around the city. Boras also requested four full-time employees on the media relations to handle requests for A-Rod. A private plane was also mentioned.
During that offseason, Phillips said such a demand would “destroy the fabric of the team” saying: ”I have serious reservations that a structure in which you have a 24-plus-one-man roster can really work. In fact, I don’t think it can work.”
Phillips said that building a baseball team is about 25 players and when that’s compromised, it becomes difficult to win. Eventually, he lost his job with the Mets to Duquette.
Rodriguez went on to win the AL Most Valuable Player award in 2003, 2005, and 2007 and won the World Series with the Yankees in 2009. The alternate history of Rodriguez on the Mets is fascinating, and opens up several questions.
How long would he have stayed with the team? What would they have done with Wright and Reyes? And, despite Phillips’ quotes, was it really just the money that kept the Mets from signing A-Rod? If the Mets had offered $170 or $180 million–something that the former GM once hinted may not have been enough–it seems now that Rodriguez would have accepted. If so, baseball in New York would have been very, very different
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