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Alex Rodriguez on failed Mets bid: I would have raised payroll to $225M

Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez attend the 26th

Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez attend the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 19. Credit: Getty Images / Chelsea Guglielmino

Alex Rodriguez’s tone suggested he still thinks about what could have been.

But the aggressive efforts made by he and his fiancee, Jennifer Lopez, to purchase the Mets this year that ultimately came up short aren’t likely to be repeated.

"New York was special because it’s New York," Rodriguez said Thursday afternoon during the Long Island Association’s Virtual Fall Luncheon. "It’s a special time where so many people are leaving New York, I thought it was important for us to . . . I’ve always been a contrarian by nature so I thought going into New York at a time where so many are leaving was the right thing to do."

Rodriguez and J-Lo, of course, were beaten out by Steve Cohen and his roughly $2.5 billion bid. (Cohen is expected to be officially approved by Major League Baseball owners at next month’s owners’ meetings in Dallas.)

"The Mets were a team I grew up watching," A-Rod said. "I thought that the Mets did — and do — have an opportunity to be one of the great franchises around the world, with an incredible fan base, and we were really excited to take payroll from like $150 [million] to $225 [million] and bring a championship back to the city of New York. What I learned is that these national treasures [sports franchises] are coveted very badly."

Asked by Kevin Law, the LIA president and CEO who conducted the nearly 50-minute Q&A, about again pursuing an ownership opportunity, Rodriguez didn’t jump at the notion.

"I wasn’t looking to acquire a team [but] when the Mets became available, we became interested," Rodriguez said. "Jennifer thought this would be great as well. I enjoyed the experience, so never say never."

Law covered the gamut with A-Rod — from his birth in Washington Heights to his formative years growing up in Miami to his being drafted first overall in the 1993 MLB draft by the Mariners, to his mostly frustrating time with the Rangers to his eventual trade before the 2004 season to the Yankees.

The Yankees’ clubhouse Rodriguez arrived in already was bursting with star power, the roster including Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui, among others.

On Thursday Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star, three-time AL MVP and owner of 696 homers (fourth all-time), said the most challenging transition wasn’t coming into an established clubhouse with a championship pedigree. It was, at 28, shifting from shortstop, his natural position, where he had won two Gold Gloves but was manned by Jeter, to third base.

"I had just won the MVP [in 2003], the Gold Glove, I was just named captain of the Texas Rangers, and moving to third base in the prime of my career was probably the hardest part," said Rodriguez, who also spent a good portion of the luncheon talking about A-Rod Corp, which he founded in 2003 and oversees all of his business and real estate interests. "[And] just coming to New York. Look, those pinstripes, they’re heavy, and not everybody can play in those pinstripes. And it is the No. 1 media market in the world. And it is tangible, the pressure is tangible, it means more in New York . . . But I felt I was walking into an incredible situation. And it was a great experience."

One that included Rodriguez winning the first — and only — championship of his career, in 2009, when the Yankees beat the defending champion Phillies in six games. That followed a series of postseason flameouts by the Yankees for which he received an inordinate amount of blame.

"It’s amazing how a championship can bond grown men," said Rodriguez, who listed Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Rivera as those he has remained close to over the years from that 2009 team.

There were, of course, lowlights during his Yankees career, including the season-long suspension he received in 2014 for using performance-enhancing drugs.

"While my mistake was so big and it was on such a large stage and I served the longest suspension in Major League Baseball history for PED use, that gives me a platform that’s unique," Rodriguez said. "And now I have an opportunity to go around the world and [talk] to youngsters and talk about my mistakes and that hopefully they can avoid those same type of mistakes. So while it was a great mistake, it was a great opportunity, and I’m trying to take advantage to this day."

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