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Alex Rodriguez and the 2001 Giants team that wasn't meant to be

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Fan-fiction you didn’t ask for, but you might as well read it

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Earlier today, I wrote about the alternate histories of Alex Rodriguez on different teams. Specifically, the teams that were rumored to have interest after the conclusion of the 2000 season. That list included the Dodgers and Rockies, among others, and my conclusion was something like "Those teams would have improved with Alex Rodriguez." It was a half-serious, half-silly post, and I urge you not to pay attention to it.

However, there was one team I left out of this fan-fic. That would be the San Francisco Giants, who were never, ever, ever in the A-Rod derby. Not the first time. Not the second time, when he was on trade market. Not the third time after he opted out. Not that time when you were tweeting about your great trade ideas and hoping that Brian Sabean was searching Twitter for great trade ideas.

What this post presupposes, though, is what if they were? Let’s answer the same questions as all the other hypothetical teams from that SB Nation article, then. Alex Rodriguez on the Giants. Would would that have meant?

Why did it make sense?

Consider that the Giants were ...

  • Coming off a successful, if ultimately disappointing, 97-win season

  • Desperate for help at third base (which Rich Aurilia would have handled with aplomb)

  • In their new ballpark, which is famous for shooting money out of giant money fountains whenever a Giants player hits a home run

I’m not saying the Giants were in the absolute best position for Rodriguez, but they made a lot of sense on several levels. They were nouveau riche hillbillies who had money to spend and a fan base to excite, but they were also a team that answered to a couple dozen investors. They would have been much more interesting with a megalomaniacal billionaire for an owner, even if things eventually worked out.

What would have happened?

The name of the ballpark would have changed from Pacific Bell Park to the Hall of Doom, sponsored by Solomon Grundy’s Snack Niblets.

artist’s conception

Oh, how the Giants would have been hated. Bonds and A-Rod? Basically an Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff of baseball, except they would have been as beloved. They probably would have hated freedom more, too.

And, oh, how they would have been feared. Bonds, Rodriguez, Kent would have been the middle of the order for two seasons, or at least until Kent was arrested for strangling one of the two. This is peak Bonds, mind you, so we’re talking 73 home runs and a .515 OBP. Now they get to swap out Ramon Martinez and Pedro Feliz for Rodriguez’s 50+ homers as a Gold Glove shortstop.

Would it have translated to at least one World Series win? Seems like a stretch to presume it would have, considering that championships take Codys Ross as much as they take Alexes Rodriguez. Considering the Giants didn’t win a single championship in the Bonds Era, it couldn’t have hurt. At least at the time, but we’ll get to that.

Bonds and Rodriguez probably would have hit more home runs combined than the 2016 Giants might finish with. They would have been a dynamic pairing for years, the Ruth/Gehrig for a new generation, and that’s not even hyperbolic.

They also would have both been roided to the gills, and juuuuust as the sting of BALCO disappeared, the Giants would have had to deal with Biogenesis. It would have been our double-comeuppance for being lucky enough to watch two great careers so closely, and it would have messed the perception of the organization up with some level of permanence.

Still, that would have been hundreds and hundreds of dingers and an arrogance you could slice out of the air with a butter knife. It would have been something.

But that’s enough daydreaming for now. Because we can’t forget ...

The butterfly effect

That is, the law of unintended consequences. Once you start messing with the past, man, you won’t even be born. Or something. But check this mess out:

If Rodriguez is around in 2001, the Giants have a worse draft position in 2002. So no Matt Cain.

If Rodriguez is around in 2005, the Giants have a worse draft position in 2006. So no Tim Lincecum.

If Rodriguez is around in 2006, the Giants have a worse draft position in 2007. So no Madison Bumgarner.

Without those three pitchers, the Giants flail and flounder and do some seriously desperate things to acquire pitching. They would probably fail because most desperate pitching moves fail. Brian Sabean is gone. The front office cleaned out. All we would have are memories of Bonds and A-Rod being awesome and weird, but we wouldn’t have the golden age of Giants baseball that we got used to so quickly. And we wouldn’t have known what we were missing.

The Giants would have re-signed Bonds to the same annual value as Rodriguez after 2001, so as not to hurt feelings. The two would constantly squabble in the dugout, clubhouse, and through the media.

After 2006, tired of sharing the spotlight with A-Rod, Bonds would have signed with the Yankees to break the home run record. Then he would have re-upped with them for three more years, helping them win the title in 2010 as a 46-year-old DH.

In 2008, the Giants would have traded Rodriguez to the Yankees for Jose Tabata and Jesus Montero.

In 2011, the entire Giants organization would have floated into the Bay and drifted off into the Western sunset, never to be seen again.

You would be reading about No Man’s Sky right now instead of baseball.

So all things considered, it’s probably a good thing that Rodriguez didn’t sign with the Giants for a record-setting deal. There would have been no hope, jobs, or cash, and there would have been no Lincecum, Cain, or Bumgarner.

At the same time, that 2001 team would be one of the very, very best memories a baseball fan could have, assuming they overcame their mediocre pitching and made us proud. It’s a good thing that the Giants didn’t spend a quarter-billion dollars on a single player who would have made them better, while also messing up the future we got to enjoy.

Happy retirement, Alex Rodriguez. And thanks for not coming around, even if I’d love to peek into the alternate history where the Giants stunned the world.