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Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand
Friday, February 14, 2014
Stepping on a butterfly needle.
...Rodriguez played for the Rangers for three seasons, leading the AL in home runs each year, winning two Gold Gloves at shortstop and one MVP, and missing just one total game. Yet seemingly all anyone remembers is that the Rangers never won more than 73 games in those three seasons despite giving Rodriguez all that money. Apparently, it was A-Rod’s fault the team’s ERAs those three years were 5.71, 5.15, and 5.67.
...Meanwhile, in their very first season without Rodriguez, the 2001 Mariners won an AL-record 116 games with Carlos Guillen as their everyday shortstop. Guillen went on to some great years in Detroit, but that season he hit .259/.333/.355 and was clearly the weak link in the Seattle lineup. Had the new CBA not altered his service clock, Rodriguez would have hit free agency after a season in which he was the best player on a team that likely would have smashed the major league record for wins in a season. The Mariners probably would have won a mind-boggling 120 games. The Rodriguez-free Mariners lost to the Yankees in the ALCS; Guillen had been benched for Mark McLemore in the playoffs, and McLemore went 2-for-14 in the series. Three of the Mariners’ four losses came by one or two runs in a tight series, and Rodriguez’s presence in the lineup would have been huge.
If Rodriguez had led the Mariners to the MLB record for regular-season wins and then propelled them to the AL pennant and possibly a world championship, he would have cemented a very different legacy very early in his career.
...The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since that remarkable 2001 season, so if Rodriguez’s free agency had come up a year later, the narrative would center on a franchise that never recovered from losing its greatest player, the way the Red Sox flailed after selling Babe Ruth or the way the Pirates endured 20 consecutive losing seasons after Barry Bonds left. Instead, the narrative is that the Mariners set the AL wins record the year after Rodriguez took the money and ran.
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