Over the course of a long game, baseball color commentators often tell stories from their own careers. But in doing so, they don’t usually reveal 18-year-old details that send multiple fanbases across the game into a spiral of “what-ifs,” as Alex Rodriguez did on Sunday Night Baseball tonight.
The revelatory conversation Sunday began when ESPN play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian asked A-Rod what advice he would give Bryce Harper heading into the outfielder’s impending free agency. Rodriguez proceeded to say he wished he had taken greater control of his free-agent process, instead of listening too much to advisers. Pressed further by Vasgersian, he dropped somewhat of a bomb.
“Growing up in Miami, I was a huge Mets fan,” Rodriguez said. “Keith Hernandez was my favorite player. And I thought I would make great concessions to go play for the Mets. And I thought it was just a great story for baseball, it would’ve been a great story for me to play for the team I grew up watching. And I thought Mets-Yankees would have been a great story.”
A-Rod didn’t explicitly say he wished in retrospect he had signed with the Mets, but he concluded his answer by saying, “I would just say this: If I was to do it again, I would just take control of my career a lot more.”
Vasgersian, to his credit, didn’t let the conversation end there, instead asking Rodriguez what had gone wrong with the Mets.
“I’m not sure what happened,” A-Rod said. “But like I said, being proactive I would have probably called Fred Wilpon, met with him myself. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a face-to-face meeting.”
None of this is entirely new. Rodriguez indicated back in 2000 that he was interested in negotiating with the Mets, with general manager Steve Phillips famously rejecting the idea because “It’s about 25 players working as a team. The 24 plus one-man structure really doesn’t work.” But to our knowledge, A-Rod has never come quite so close to saying he actually wishes he had signed with the Mets.
The hypotheticals here are just irresistible. If A-Rod had signed with the Mets, the team would have charted an entirely different course. Instead of years of mediocrity in the early- to mid-2000s, they could have been enjoyed regular playoff berths — or better. If so, they would have had no reason to place Rodriguez on the trade block, meaning he would have likely never wound up in pinstripes. Without A-Rod, the Yankees probably don’t win the 2009 World Series… but also don’t have to endure the many controversies the slugger brought to the Bronx.
But we’ll never know any of that for sure, because A-Rod didn’t call Fred Wilpon and didn’t sign with the Mets. Now he’s left with a regret, and we’re all left to wonder.