BOSTON — Alex Rodriguez fielded a simple ground ball during batting practice and, based on the whirring sound of countless cameras, you would have thought it was a moment to be forever remembered.

Every move he made drew camera clicks and thousands of eyes watching. Every at-bat at Fenway Park attracted the loudest reaction from the crowd.

Well, the New York Yankees wanted an attention-grabber like A-Rod, and they got him.

But where are the Yankees these days? Playing better lately, but still unlikely to reach the playoffs.

This proud team is in a bit of a downturn. The Yankees lust for A-Rod, and his home run record potential, may be partly to blame — one of several moves New York has made, which has them in a hole this year, and maybe beyond.

The mega-deals in 2009 and the lack of player development are also a problem.


Let’s look at A-Rod first. When it comes to Rodriguez’s deal, we are not talking about the original contract New York assumed, when the Yankees traded for Rodriguez before the 2004 season — relieving the Texas Rangers of the remaining seven years of a 10-year, $252-million contract.

(Red Sox fans can hardly snicker about it since their team made the first grab at Rodriguez back then).

The questionable decision by the Yankees came after Rodriguez invoked an opt-out clause in his contract after the 2007 season (announced in typical Rodriguez look-at-me fashion, during the fourth game of the ’07 World Series).

Rodriguez, 32 at the time, seemed destined to become the all-time home run champion. He had hit 54 homers in 2007 and was already at 518.

Another home run king in pinstripes? First Babe, then A-Rod. The Yankees couldn’t resist and offered what is now being call the WORST CONTRACT EVER — a new 10-year deal, through 2017, for $275-million.

But that was not enough. There are also $6-million bonuses to be awarded if Rodriguez reaches certain home run plateaus — 660 (Willie Mays’ mark), 714 (Babe Ruth), 755 (Henry Aaron), and 762 (the record held by Barry Bonds).


Rodriguez, now 38, has 648 homers. The injuries continue to mount and there is the pesky little problem of facing a 211-game suspension once this season is over because of performance-enhancing drugs.

If Rodriguez loses his appeal, that suspension will save the Yankees about $32-million. But that contract remains an albatross.

There are other contracts to deal with, after New York spent $423-million on free-agent contracts for C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett before the 2009 season. New York had missed the playoffs in 2008 and were moving into a new stadium in 2009. The Yankees needed a splash.

The signings proved successful in the short term, when New York celebrated a World Championship in 2009 (That was Title No. 27, in case you needed a reminder).

This year, Sabathia is 10-10, with a 4.66 ERA. Sabathia is 33 and is under contract through 2016, with a vesting option for 2017.

Teixeira, 33, is out all season with a wrist injury. He is signed through 2016.


The Yankees are paying $8.5-million of Burnett’s salary this year, even though they traded him to before last season.

Big contracts, as the Red Sox know, limit roster flexibility. Boston had its own big splash over 2010-11, re-signing Josh Beckett, and signing John Lackey, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to contracts totaling over $446-million.

That splash got Terry Francona fired, while general manager Theo Epstein packed for Chicago.

But most of those contracts are off the books. Red Sox fans can keep sending those Thank You notes to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They now have Beckett (signed through 2014), Crawford (through 2017) and Gonzalez (through 2018).

The Yankees face more negotiations. Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hideki Kiroda and Phil Hughes can all be free agents. (I’m assuming Andy Pettitte follows Mariano Rivera into retirement).

New York’s payroll leads the majors at $229-million (the Dodgers are at $217-million, followed by the Phillies’ $165-million and Boston’s $151-million).


The Yankees reportedly want to be below $189-million next year, but the best way to cut payroll effectively is with player development. New York’s minor league system has not produced a regular player on the roster since outfielder Brett Gardner came on in 2008. New York lost draft picks when they signed free agents. The Angels got New York’s first-round pick in 2009, when the Yankees signed Teixeira, and used it to draft Mike Trout.

Even when New York has drafted well, it has not worked out, like picking touted pitcher Gerrit Cole in the first round in 2008. He chose college instead and eventually landed with the Pirates.

In’s list of the top 100 prospects, New York has three players (led by catcher Gary Sanchez at No. 30). Boston has eight (topped by No. 8 Xander Bogaerts).

Boston seems on a solid path for now and the future (“seems” being the operative word). New York is scrambling to be a wild card team, while trying to figure out a long-term plan.

The Yankees have a challenge of them, not to mention a headache named A-Rod.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.