Alex Rodriguez goes 1-for-4 with a single in his first game back with Yankees

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Let the spectacle begin.

Despite being handed a 211-game suspension from MLB for his alleged connections to Biogenesis, Alex Rodriguez is making his season debut tonight against the White Sox. In his first game in the majors since January hip surgery, he’s batting cleanup and playing third base. And you can count on HBT to bring you all the details.

8:39 PM: With the Yankees down 3-0, Rodriguez led off the top of the second inning against left-hander Jose Quintana for his first at-bat. Not surprisingly, he didn’t get a very warm welcome for the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, with boos raining down on him after his name was announced and during the at-bat.

After Rodriguez took the first two pitches for balls, he dumped a single into shallow left field which Casper Wells failed to catch on the dive. See, he’s already a massive improvement at third base. Rodriguez scampered to third base on a double by Vernon Wells — and looked perfectly healthy doing so — but he ended up being stranded there after Quintana sat down Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki, and Eduardo Nunez. That’s Yankee baseball in 2013 for you.

9:38 PM: Rodriguez took his second at-bat in the top of the fourth inning with one out. After swinging through a pitch for strike one and taking a ball which got away from the catcher, he flew out a few feet away from the warning track in center field. Rodriguez was visibly frustrated after he made contact, as he likely realized that he just missed a potential home run. As for the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, it was more reason to celebrate a 7-0 lead for the home team.

10:21 PM: Rodriguez had his third at-bat in the sixth inning with one out. After taking two balls and swinging through a pitch, he ripped one just short of the warning track in left field. He hit the ball hard and gave it a pretty good ride, but Casper Wells was right there to secure the out. Rodriguez is now 1-for-3 with a single and two fly outs on the evening.

11:04 PM: Rodriguez came up for his fourth at-bat with no outs and a runner on first in the top of the eighth inning. Facing reliever Matt Lindstrom, he ran the count full before striking out looking, which was followed by a loud ovation from the fans. It’s worth noting that the boos and chants were even louder in this at-bat than earlier ones, likely because the fans realized it would be his final at-bat of the night.

11:23 PM: The Yankees lost to the White Sox by the score of 8-1 while Rodriguez ended the night 1-for-4 with a single, two fly outs, and a strikeout. While his range at third base isn’t great at this point, he handled all of his chances in the field without any major issue and looked fine when he ran the bases. Rodriguez will have a really tough test on his hands tomorrow night when the Yankees go up against Chicago’s ace Chris Sale.

Players are waking up and getting ready to fight

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There’s this idea out there that the owners have been eating the players’ lunch at the bargaining table in recent years because the players are, generally, rich and happy and maybe don’t care about a lot of the stuff the previous couple of generations of players did. There is probably some degree of truth to that. The difference between a good deal and a bad deal, in both collective bargaining and on the free agent market, is way less dire now than it used to be and thus the urgency may not have been there over the past several years the way it was in 1981 or 1994.

But it goes too far to say that such a mindset is universal among players. Or that it’s a mindset which, even among those who hold it, will always persist. Players may not have been as vigilant about labor matters over the past several years as they used to be, but they’re not idiots and, at some point, the owners are gonna push ’em too far and they’ll respond.

As we find ourselves in the second straight offseason in which teams simply don’t seem all too keen on signing free agents, it’s starting to happen already.

Earlier this week Dallas Keuchel tweeted out some things critical of the current market and teams’ approach to it (and took another swipe today). This afternoon Giants third baseman Evan Longoria chimed in on Instagram, posting a picture of Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and saying the following:

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

Most of that is common sense, the sort of which we’ve been arguing for around here for some time. Fans should care about good players and winning baseball games, not whether or not their front office can get a great bargain for its own sake. It may be interesting to talk about payroll and salaries and wins/$, but the point of baseball is to win, right? When so many teams seem rather uninterested in that, it’s a problem that all of the interesting analytical insights can’t really make up for.

The second part is worth keeping your eyes on. Maybe players have not been on a war footing the likes of which their predecessors were in the 1970s through the 1990s, but it doesn’t mean they won’t get back there if pushed. As is abundantly clear, the owners are pushing. Salaries are dropping in both an absolute sense and, especially, compared to baseball’s revenues. Players are getting a smaller piece of the pie than they have in a while and ownership seems quite pleased to see that continue.

If players are saying stuff like this publicly, it means that players are talking about it amongst themselves privately. The last two years have likely served as quite a wakeup call for them, and they seem to be waking up. Evan Longoria is. Dallas Keuchel is. So are some others. If current trends continue, more and more will wake up.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2021 season. What happens over the rest of this offseason and the next two is going to determine the mood of the players. The mood of the players, in turn, is going to dictate the tenor of negotiations. If they were to begin right now, those negotiations would be very, very rocky.