Whether you like him or not, there's no denying that Alex Rodriguez has quite a personality, from his presence in interviews, to the faces he makes on the field. The media has been obsessed with him all offseason, and reporters are even keeping track of the exact number of pitches that he faces during batting practice, along with how many balls he's hit for home runs. He's clearly been the center of attention at spring training, but is he the only person keeping the Yankees from being boring in 2015?
According to Ryan Hatch of NJ.com, "Alex Rodriguez is saving the Yankees from being wholly inconsequential." Although I don't really agree with that sentiment, it does seem like the Yankees are gearing up for a down year. Last year's team was mediocre, but Derek Jeter's farewell tour brought a lot of fans to the stadium to see him play in person for the last time. The Yankees have already announced their plans to honor Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams this season by retiring their numbers and giving them each a plaque in Monument Park. As much as those guys deserve to be honored, it does feel partially like a gimmick to make money. Fans have also expressed strong opinions over Yoan Moncada signing elsewhere and some have discussed not spending money to watch the team this year. The Yankees aren't expected to be at the top of the AL East so it likely will be a down year, but if anything is going to draw in fans, I wouldn't think it would be A-Rod.
The only thing interesting about Alex Rodriguez at this point is the question of how he will do hitting-wise. We already saw team's react negatively to his return in 2013 (See A-Rod vs. Ryan Dempster), so we might be able to anticipate that the same thing will happen when the regular season starts. Maybe we can hope that teams are so distracted by their dislike of A-Rod that they focus more on that than on playing well against the Yankees. Other than that, the media has covered his return so thoroughly that I'm tired of hearing about him. I'm also tired of talking about him, but felt the need to defend the rest of the team. There are far more interesting things happening on the Yankees than what Alex Rodriguez ate for breakfast.
First of all, this is the first spring training without Derek Jeter in a very long time. That means we get to see an actual new person play the position of shortstop, and that's exciting to me, especially after Jeter's shoddy defense the past few years. How will Didi Gregorius do in his place? Who knows, but we get to find out. No Jeter also means that the "2-hole clause" is gone and the order of the lineup can be totally re-arranged. If Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner lead off, the team already stands a chance of being better than last year.
Fans will also get to see the Yankees go through the process of picking a new closer. After Mariano Rivera retired, David Robertson got the job by default, but now there are two players who are both strong candidates for the position. We get to see whether Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances can both follow up the strong performances that they had last season, and which of them will be named closer.
There is also a strong case to be made for Masahiro Tanaka being the most exciting Yankee to watch. In fact, when healthy, the majority of the rotation has the potential to be really good. I'm intrigued to see how they all progress through spring training and whether they can stay off of the disabled list.
Finally, there are a lot of prospects close to breaking into the majors. Young prospects like Rob Refsynder and Jacob Lindgren have a real shot at breaking camp with the team or being called up at some point to contribute, and that is something to look forward to. In his article, Hatch noted that the small number of fans who have showed up at George M. Steinbrenner Field to watch spring training workouts have only cheered for A-Rod. There have been claps for players who hit home runs out of the stadium, but the fans have even been cheering for Rodriguez when he runs off the field. Maybe the casual Yankee fan doesn't know enough about the prospects to be excited to see them up close during spring training. Then again, is it really fair the judge how interesting the team is (or how excited fans are about the team) based on the number of fans who have showed up to Tampa to watch the team workout before spring training games have even started?
So, what do you think? Would the 2015 Yankees would be "boring" without Alex Rodriguez?