To make a point, two personal stories. After his first couple years as a teenage major league shortstop in Seattle, I met him before a golf event in Fort Lauderdale. I had retired several years earlier, he was just beginning his career, and I sensed a great respect as he addressed me as Mr. Schmidt. It made me feel old, but at the same time, he impressed me with his approach.
Fast forward to the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in 2008 when he was one homer away from my 548 on the all-time home run chart. We were standing at third base, I was a little uncomfortable not knowing what to say, so I tried to make conversation by mentioning the home run list. He asked me if I was planning on being there to see him match me. It was sort of an aloof response to my question — to ask if I was planning on following him till he tied me was a little presumptuous and a blow to my ego. It came off as the exact opposite of our first meeting. This was 500 home runs and $200 million later in life.
I may be reading too much into these moments, Alex wouldn’t even remember them. He was there to play the game, not carry on a conversation about home run records with me. Just the wrong choice of words in a stressful moment, that can happen.
...Imagine if he had never signed that contract, made a normal amount and never had a brush with performance-enhancing drugs. Imagine if there were no Internet, no Twitter or Facebook, only a couple newspapers and radio shows, and limited television exposure. Would he be today’s Mickey Mantle?
But that’s the reality, and because of it he has his $200 million and the pressure that comes with it. He signed on for this and now he faces challenges few if any ever have. I was never benched, never removed for a pinch hitter. The Phillies believed I was always one swing from changing a game and a series. Apparently, Joe Girardi didn’t feel the same about Alex Rodriguez.
Alex seems to my eye to still be a fundamentally sound and potentially very productive hitter. Staying healthy at 37 is the issue. Age is a funny thing. I seemed to hit a wall in my late 30s. I can’t explain it other than to say fastballs I used to hit a long way ended up on the warning track, nagging injuries increased, I didn’t get to groundballs I used to eat up.
And as this happened, I began to doubt my ability. I had an excuse: I was old, so I retired. It happens to all of us. But in Alex’s case when it does — if it isn’t happening now — it won’t be that easy. He will be making $30 million a year, guaranteed! For that kind of money, you aren’t allowed to get old.
Posted: October 19, 2012 at 08:11 PM | 32 comment(s)
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