Most Charleston RiverDogs fans cheered for Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez as he approached the plate at Riley Park for the first time. A few booed the New York Yankees star, and that was just part of the contradictory zaniness under the big top Tuesday night.
Hall of Famer?
A-Rod was bullish on his two-game rehabilitation stint for the RiverDogs and his recovery progress after hip surgery.
“I have to be honest,” Rodriguez said. “I’m 37 going on 38, not 28. I’m no longer a spring chicken. But I still feel like I can go out there and be productive.”
But if A-Rod makes it back to the big leagues in three or four weeks, will Major League Baseball zap him with a suspension tied to the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug mess?
Do the Yankees really still want a guy who hit .272 last season in the midst of a $275 million, 10-year contract?
A-Rod thinks so, hopes so.
“We have the same interests,” Rodriguez said. “We have the same goal, which is to get me back to New York as soon as possible and hopefully, like in 2009, win a championship.”
‘I got benched’
It was a strange scene. We are a famously polite city, even if we’re also infamously snobbish (Travel and Leisure No. 10 in the nation, baby!). So, of course, A-Rod gushed about the “Southern hospitality.”
Tyler Webb, a South Carolina Gamecocks pitcher as recently as a month ago before signing with the Yankees and joining the RiverDogs, enjoyed the big thrill.
“You didn’t get to see a future Hall of Famer in college,” Webb said.
But no single cheer was anything close to ear-splitting for a man with 647 career home runs. Not before Rodriguez hit into a first-inning double-play against the Rome Braves, not before he struck out looking in the third inning.
Consider the other sluggers in the top five on Major League Baseball’s career home run list and the receptions each might receive at The Joe:
Barry Bonds (762 homers). Not tears of joy, of course, but a rare public Bonds sighting would draw a huge conclave of sociologists, chemists and statisticians. From all over the world and parts of Cooperstown they would come to debate the meaning of contrary Barry.
Hank Aaron (755). Absolute adoration for The (Real) King.
Babe Ruth (714). Now dead. But, are you kidding? Even John Goodman in retro Yankees gear triggers party city.
Willie Mays (660). Almost Aaron.
A-Rod (647). Uh, well. He used to be the greatest player in baseball.
Now he is arguably about as valuable to the Yankees as shortstop Eduardo Nunez, the other rehabbing big leaguer in Charleston.
The Yankees and their fans remember A-Rod’s forgetful American League Championship Series performance against Detroit last fall.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “Let’s be honest, the way the year ended last year was pretty bloody. We got swept. I got benched, and pinch-hit for. And I have no one to blame but myself because I stunk up the house, that’s for sure.”
Bring on Jeter
But Brett Gardner last season, A-Rod and Nunez now. You have to admire the Yankees for helping out around here with rehab assignments.
Just think of the potential in that deep Disabled List in the Bronx. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have fellow injured Yankees rehab together in hospitable Charleston?
The potential RiverDogs (temporary) lineup:
Curtis Granderson, cf
Eduardo Nunez, 2b
Derek Jeter, ss
Mark Teixeira, 1b
Kevn Youkilis, dh
Francisco Cervelli, C
Michael Pineda, P
And the RiverDogs can throw in a few outfielders. Or we’ll just take Jeter in a grand return to Charleston; The Captain played with Mariano Rivera against the Charleston Rainbows at old College Park in 1993 as a member of the Greensboro Hornets.
But you know what? When the Yankees want to announce something, they will.
For now, we are left to wonder about Alex Rodriguez and his 2,901 hits.
Are Charleston’s A-Rod Night I and A-Rod Night II stepping stones to 3,000?
Or part of a farewell tour?
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.