Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Alex Rodriguez is having a good season.
The three-time MVP is hitting .284 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs as a designated hitter (DH) this season while boasting a .513 slugging percentage through Monday’s games. The fact that he’s doing it during a summer where he turns 40 and following a whole year off is even more amazing.
And though his prodigious career numbers will still most likely result in a Hall of Fame snub following his retirement because of his PED-related suspension last year, getting left off the All-Star team this year was no snub.
First, fellow DHs Nelson Cruz of Seattle (who was the elected starter) and his backup Prince Fielder of Texas are both having slightly better seasons than A-Rod. (And yes, both teams will use the DH even though the All-Star Game is in an NL park in Cincinnati.)
Cruz is hitting .300 with 21 home runs (tied for third in the AL) and 50 RBIs. Fielder is second to former teammate Miguel Cabrera in batting average, hitting a sizzling .347 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs.
Certainly A-Rod’s numbers are right there with a number of the other All-Star backups. But his main problem, other than his still ongoing PR nightmare, is that he’s really not an adept fielder anymore—neither are Cruz or Fielder.
Once a former two-time Gold Glove shortstop, age and numerous injuries have severely limited his range in the infield. Through 82 games, he’s started just three times in the field and there’s no plan to up his infield usage any time soon.
It won’t be the first time it costs a DH some hardware.
In 2006, David Ortiz hit a league-best 54 home runs and 137 RBIs, to go along with a .287 average while being walked 119 times—also a league high. Despite the numbers, Ortiz, who also had the highest WAR (wins above replacement) of anyone in the top five of the MVP voting, finished third behind Justin Morneau (.321 average, 34 home runs, 130 RBIs) and Derek Jeter (.343 average, 14 home runs, 97 RBIs).
Certainly Boston’s 86–76 record may have put Ortiz slightly behind the two division winners who finished ahead of him, but his main problem was the fact that he only played one side of the game—offense.