It seems that no matter what Alex Rodriguez does, he will always have strong opposition. Many people will never be able to forgive the superstar who, miraculously, somehow personally betrayed millions. He will never be back on the pedestal he once was accustomed to. That asterisk will always follow not too far in his shadow. He'll never again be the star of a team or face of the league. That can't be changed, and he understands that. What he can do though is help the New York Yankees, and he's well on his way.
Just look at the spring training he's put in. He hit .286 in 19 games this spring. His three home runs tied for the team lead. He took eight walks in 50 plate appearances. To the surprise (and dismay) of many, he looked solid. Now let's understand the circumstances—which are baffling. Rodriguez is 39, making him the oldest player on the Yankees roster. That fact alone should contextualize his success. Add in the fact that he didn't play in a game in about 18 months, and try to quantify that.
Making the team alone was expected given his contract, but he's got the starting DH job. He wasn't handed it either. He overcame competition and many obviously rooting for his failure. Garrett Jones is no stud, but his presence in spring can't be ignored. Rodriguez outplayed him without question. Forget the name "Alex Rodriguez" and just look at the facts. No one would ever expect a 39-year-old player one year removed from major league play to make the New York Yankees Opening Day roster. Without the name Alex Rodriguez (and probably the steroids) that's a Hollywood screenplay with an underlying theme of determination and hard work. For some reason, when you add his name back in it becomes a villainous tale of arrogance and disrespect, but we can ignore the inconsistencies for now. Although many would never admit it, Rodriguez's accomplishments this spring are astounding.
Some critics might believe that Rodriguez will be a poison to the locker room, deteriorating the morals of the new youth with the Yankees. People have this bizarre scene looping in their minds of Rodriguez trying to sell steroids to his teammates. I couldn't disagree more. Strictly from a baseball sense, Rodriguez knows the game and talks about it in an intoxicating fashion. He has 20 years of wisdom on the left side of the infield to share with Didi Gregorius. He's got 20 years of at bats to share with, well, any hitter on the team. Possibly more than any player ever, he fully knows the potential cruelty of the New York media, and knows how to (and probably more how not to) handle them. It may be a bold and unfavorable opinion, but Rodriguez will be added value to the Yankees locker room in 2015.
On the field, Rodriguez could hit .270 and park 20 home runs this season. That isn't an insane projection at this point either. But before spring training broke, there were a handful of "baseball experts" who didn't even project Rodriguez to make the Major League roster. He's proved himself in an unusually quiet way. His bat speed has impressed. His bat also showed pop. He was somewhat patient at the plate, willing to take some walks. He didn't even play that badly in the field, though that shouldn't be much of a factor. Rather than using spring as his prep, Rodriguez obviously worked hard beforehand, saving the time to truly prove his worth to the team.
There are many who are unhappy that Rodriguez will be playing baseball this year. He'll surely face his fair share of boos. Sure, he may not be the most morally sound person in many eyes. He may not handle himself best with the media. He might not make many friends in opposing clubhouses. He might not be the best liar, either. But if there is one thing Alex Rodriguez can do, it's play baseball. He can understand, evaluate, talk and most importantly play baseball. When he is doing it well, there's almost nothing better to watch.