Yankees: One On One – There’s Nobody Better Than A-Rod

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

Yankees Spring Training Instructor, Alex Rodriguez, once said of himself, “I’ve always said I’m a teacher at heart.” He’s proving that right now, and the Yankees are fortunate to have him in that role

The Yankees took a chance on Alex Rodriguez when they invited him to Spring Training as an instructor because athletes who excel rarely make good teachers. Just ask Don Mattingly about his experience with Barry Bonds when the Marlins hired Bonds as a full-time hitting instructor.

Not so in the case of Rodriguez, though. Cynics would say, “Well, he’s gotta do something to earn that $21 million this year”, but that is missing the point, which is that Rodriguez is a born teacher, and not everyone can be a teacher. There’s a knack to it, and you can’t be overbearing like Bonds was with his splashy it’s all about me approach. You have to be subtle at the same time you are entertaining.

In today’s New York Daily News, Mike Mazzeo writes a rather unflattering piece about A-Rod holding court at a dinner he sponsored for a select group of Baby Bombers. The dinner followed the pattern set by Derek Jeter, who hosted a similar event earlier in the week.

Mazzeo makes a valid and inescapable point about the dinner when he includes in his headline that Rodriguez “spouts off ‘a lot of cliches’” during the question and answer period. Rob Refsnyder was the source of Mazzeo’s quote and Refsnyder explains:

"“It was a lot of clichés,” Refsnyder continued. “But sometimes clichés are the most important thing in our game. Alex did a really wonderful job just being really raw and honest, and I think the young guys are going to take a lot out of that dinner. He talked a lot about his career and what we could learn from it.”"

Perhaps, though, what both men were trying to say is that these dinners are pretty boring. Because we know that’s what you get in a group setting, cliches and generalizations. But if you take that same teacher and put him in a one on one situation, everything changes.

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The trouble is, of course, there is only one Alex Rodriguez and one Derek Jeter to be spread around the seventy or so Yankees in attendance for Spring Training. Jeter has made it clear that he is moving on from baseball and is prioritizing being a father and family man. He owes the Yankees nothing after twenty years of diligent service to the franchise.

However, the same cannot be said about Rodriguez. A-Rod does owe the Yankees something, and he knows it. Again, cynics will say that he’s “nice” only because he wants to rebuild his image and the “new Alex” is merely a show. Whatever. The fact is that Rodriguez radiates his engaging personality when he’s engaged in these on-the-field conversations with the young players. And for that, he’s getting rave reviews, which is all that should matter.

Again, from the same Daily News story, Refsnyder explains:

"“I can tell you as a guy with barely any major-league experience, a guy who’s competing every day to compete on a roster,” Refsnyder continued. “And you’re talking to a guy who’s done things in baseball most people haven’t done, not even close. Things that when I would look on the scoreboard and see Alex’s career stats, just unfathomable stuff. And for a guy to be in the cage the way he was, going about his business the same way and taking time to talk to guys like me, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge about the game of baseball and hitting, you don’t have to do that.”"

Refsnyder’s right, you don’t have to do that. Because if he wanted to, Rodriguez could sit back and do nothing this year and still collect his guaranteed $21 million. He chooses not to.

The problem, though, is that the Yankees seem to be pulling him another direction and they are engaged in talks that would make Rodriguez an analyst for the YES network. They’re doing this for a reason they do everything else, which is to make money. YES, ratings are tanking and Alex, who is already a star with FOX, is just the kind of catalyst who can spur viewership.

But if the Yankees want to do something good for the franchise and still make money, albeit, at a much later date, they should Rodriguez loose as a full-time instructor in their minor league system. At least for this season when he’s under contract.

There are hundreds of kids in the farm system who did not have dinner with Rodriguez the other night and who aren’t even in camp. There will be more coming when the June amateur draft is completed, and many of them will be playing only a few minutes away from the Stadium in Staten Island for the Yankees Single-A team. It just makes sense to use his talent in this way.

Next: This Week In Yankees History

Because as Rodriguez himself said, “I’ve always said I’m a teacher at heart.”