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The forbidden fruit

By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Admit it. You've thought about it.

We all have.

He's just sitting there on the waiver wire, helmet on, bat in hand, waiting to be called into action. His Hall of Fame numbers (though he'll never be inducted) only add to the fascination.

We know you're out there, A-Rod.

As of Wednesday, Alex Rodriguez was owned in 21.3 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. That's a 12.5 percent increase from just a few days ago.

So are the 12.5 percent who jumped on the A-Rod bandwagon brilliant or just plain reckless?

Well, it could be a little of both.

If you're trying to score points with the big man upstairs, picking up A-Rod probably won't help your case. Associating yourself with a cheating (allegedly), mirror-kissing, centaur-enthusiast such as A-Rod is at best, a morally ambiguous act.

But karma can wait. First thing's first. You've got a fantasy league to win.

Let's look at some of the pros and cons.

First of all, assuming you're not in a dynasty or keeper league, you won't have to worry about having the rug pulled out from underneath you. Multiple sources, including our pal Tyler Kepner over at the New York Times, predict that a verdict on Rodriguez's PED suspension won't be reached until November or December. So rest easy. A-Rod's not going anywhere.

We all know A-Rod is in the latter stages of his career. But a washed-up A-Rod might still be better than most of the league's other third basemen. Aside from Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre, the talent pool at the hot corner is as thin as it gets.

Rodriguez set career lows in batting average (.272) and slugging percentage last season (.430). If he put up those numbers this season, he'd be among the top ten third basemen in both categories. The home run rate Rodriguez collected in 2012 (25.7 at bats per home run) would be eighth best out of all third basemen.

So even at his worst, Rodriguez is still a top-10 player at his position.

Despite posting awful numbers at the beginning of his rehab (3-for-21, 6 K's in eight games with Charleston and Tampa), Rodriguez has performed at a very high level since then, driving in seven runs and amassing a .714 slugging percentage over his final seven rehab appearances.

Of course, corking rocket blasts in Trenton isn't exactly the same as staring down David Price or Jake Peavy in the AL East.

But if we're looking for a silver lining (and usually we are), game tape of A- Rod's rehab stint reveals a number of subtle improvements that he's made to his game. The most notable of these changes is a leg kick, an element of A- Rod's batting stance that he had abandoned in previous seasons.

Adding a leg kick transformed Jose Bautista from an average Joe (no pun intended) to one of the league's best, and it could have a similar effect on Rodriguez. MLB Network's Harold Reynolds noted that the leg kick is helping A- Rod catch up to fastballs he was swinging and missing at last season.

These are all positive signs. But we can't ignore the negatives.

Rodriguez is 38 and coming off major surgery. Not only that, but in the humble opinion of one famous sportswriter (ESPN's Buster Olney), Rodriguez looks to be a little on the pudgy side. That hasn't stopped other festively plump stars like David Ortiz and CC Sabathia from having success (though not lately for CC) but then again, those guys aren't being asked to play third base everyday. Only time will tell if A-Rod's lousy conditioning has any affect on his play.

And remember, Rodriguez's most recent big league contribution was a meltdown of epic proportions. The 14-time All-Star hobbled his way to a .120 average in seven postseason outings against the Tigers and Orioles last year, and was actually benched for most of the ALCS. At least he had time to grab a couple phone numbers from his seat in the dugout (I wonder if there's a league that counts in-game flirting as a rotisserie category).

Equally concerning is the fact that the Yankees just aren't scoring runs right now. Their offense has been one of the most stagnant in the league since the All-Star break, having scored the second-fewest runs in baseball. Even hitting out of the cleanup spot, the Yankees' lineup doesn't present much RBI potential for A-Rod.

So in the end, we're pretty much back where we started. A-Rod is just as polarizing in the fantasy world as he is outside of it.

If you're in need of a corner infielder, A-Rod is a readily available, low- risk option.

If not, don't bother. It's that easy.

If only the rest of A-Rod's life was this simple.

08/07 18:54:55 ET


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