Alex Rodriguez has not played since June 7, and the Yankees haven't missed him all that terribly (Eric Chavez's OPS is "only" 50 points lower than A-Rod's this year). It'll be nice to have him back, but as of right now, he is a $31 million complementary player. At least on the field, whenever he gets back on the field, anyway. Off the field, though ... boy, it's nice to see A-Rod again, isn't it?
A-Rod's "poker" "scandal" is almost surely going to amount to nothing — as Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra points out, unless they find drugs in his system, there's not any proof that he's even done anything wrong — but it's still the dominant sports story in New York right now, behind "what shed can A.J. Burnett be dragged behind and shot?" This is the same reason that The Smurfs is making money and they're making a movie about Battleship. It's just good, normal nostalgia.
A-Rod has been so quiet the last couple of years, widely adopting the Yankees media strategy of keeping him politely separate from the rigmarole. Tyler Kepner of the Times in August 2009 detailed The A-Rod Plan.
Rodriguez has relied much more on Jason Zillo, the Yankees’ media relations director, who is roughly Rodriguez’s age and understands the sports media better than the other advisers. Zillo was blunt with Rodriguez, telling him he was probably the only New York athlete to whom reporters wanted less access, not more.
The weeks Rodriguez spent recovering from his March 9 surgery in Vail, Colo., turned out to be a godsend. He concentrated on his recovery and let Zillo’s advice sink in. Teammates were thankful.
There have been a few blips in that time, mostly the result of centaur paintings and popcorn. But mostly, A-Rod has been a shadow of his former tabloid self. This is why this story is so fun even if it's so meaningless. A-Rod is back to being mocked again! Buster Olney is talking about "Baseball's A-Rod" problem again! He's a "lightning rod" again! We'd sort of missed it. The Yankees had become a bit dull, with all the likeable Curtis Granderson stories, and the Jeter 3,000 hits, and the detailed stories of Bartolo Colon's nether regions. A-Rod isn't a major factor in the Yankees' success this year, but he's no longer irrelevant off the field. Whew. Somebody bring out the A-Rod centaur
picture again. It's Retro Night!
By the way, remember in February 2009, when Nate Silver projected that A-Rod would fall short of passing Hank Aaron's home run record? Silver was mocked for saying that A-Rod's home run total would diminish at such a rapid pace that he'd end up 25 short, even in the best-case scenario. He projected A-Rod would hit 33 homers in 2009, 30 in 2010, 27 in 2011, 25 in 2012, 18 in 2013, all the way down to 1 in 2019. Well, in the three years since Silver's study: A-Rod hit 30 homers in 2009, 30 in 2010 and has 13 this year. So, already, A-Rod is 17 behind the pace. And we're only three years in. The good news: He'll be a Yankee through 2017! So, long way to go.