With 30 homers and 86 RBIs at the All-Star break and a bunch of winning hits and curtain calls, the question no longer is whether Alex Rodriguez is good enough for the Yankees.
With an aging roster, a losing record and no relief in sight, the question is whether the Yankees are good enough for Rodriguez.
The honest answer is no, they're not. The Yankees, this season at least, haven't given A-Rod what he's given them. They're going in one direction, he in another. He has taken back his crown as baseball's best player from Albert Pujols; they can't even overtake Toronto. He's putting it all together; they're on the verge of breaking apart, if this keeps up.
When the season's over, he has an option to leave town.
Which makes you wonder: Why stay?
The wise choice for A-Rod is to beat it before the Bronx burns. There's little to be gained by staying with the Yankees beyond this season except money, and even that, for someone who's already made as much as he has, isn't what it used to be. Besides, the Angels and a few others have enough in the bank to make the numbers work.
So it's not about the money, not entirely, not this time around. It's about personal happiness and acceptance, both elusive for A-Rod since he blazed into town almost 3 1/2 years ago, and winning a championship, which might be the most elusive of all.
The Yankees, you see, no longer offer him the best chance. Seriously: Does anyone believe the Yankees are any closer to a title than, say, the Indians? Or the Tigers? Or the Brewers, for heaven's sake?
In the next three or four years, those teams should contend better than the Yankees, mainly because they're not on the verge of crumbling anytime soon. They don't need an immediate and expensive makeover, unlike the Yankees, who must address serious issues in their starting pitching, bullpen and outfield, all of which are failing and getting old on them.
"My focus is on winning and getting back into this race," A-Rod said before flying to the All-Star Game.
Exactly what race was he talking about, the human race? Not the AL East race, and even the wild card is looking fainter for the Yankees, who just can't seem to string together a few good months or give their best player enough good reasons to stick around.
A few months back, in spring training, the Yankees drew the line with A-Rod: They would not discuss a contract extension, particularly not after the 2006 he had. Of course they didn't know he'd perform at a record pace that could earn him his third MVP award, second with the Yankees.
Now his choice is: Either continue with a historic contract that pays roughly $26 million a year, or roll the dice, keep his options open and dare to leave a fortune on the table.
If A-Rod chooses the latter, his loyalty will be questioned. Nobody will question his intelligence, though, because he will be doing a smart thing. By every indication, he will become a free agent this fall and the leverage will belong to him.
He will study his surroundings in the Bronx and ask himself: What's to like? Or rather, what's not to like?
Well, there's only one New York, but that can actually work against certain players who are magnets for both good and bad attention, as A-Rod is. New York will always be ready to boo, ready to micro-examine every at-bat, ready to feed the tabloid newspapers with stories that have nothing to do with baseball. That can't be fun.
Nobody in San Francisco, for example, will give an expletive what's on his wife's shirt should the Giants target him as the superstar replacement for Barry Bonds next year.
Also, with the Yankees, he will always be second to Derek Jeter in the clubhouse and on Madison Avenue, where nobody ever got the bright idea of making a bottle of A-Rod cologne. And that stadium going up in the Bronx? Jeter built that house.
Most important to A-Rod at this stage of his career is the state of the franchise. It's not good right now. Sure, these are the Yankees, who can buy ballplayers better than anyone, but when's the last time that bought a championship? That method suddenly is older than Mike Mussina and gives A-Rod no assurances that he'll ever get the only thing he doesn't already have in baseball.
He wants happiness, love and, finally, a good shot at a World Series. Which essentially means he wants out.