A-Rod conspicuous by his absence

Usually, we talk about what Alex Rodriguez does. On Tuesday, we were baffled by what he didn’t do.

Appear in the All-Star Game.

Fifty-eight names in the official boxscore. No sign of the most famous player in the major leagues.

“He didn’t play, right?” David Ortiz asked, making sure that he understood a question after the American League’s first All-Star Game defeat since 1996. “Yeah, I’m surprised now.”

He wasn’t alone.

A-Rod’s conspicuous absence wasn’t the biggest reason for the AL’s 3-1 defeat. There was the choppy relief work by Phil Hughes and Matt Thornton. There was Big Papi’s ninth-inning blunder on the bases. There were the early evening shadows that provided additional cover for the National League’s power arms.

Really, though. We’re talking about Alex Rodriguez here. He is the best-known and highest-paid player in baseball, even if he’s no longer the most talented.

But he was the only AL position player left on the bench when the night was done. Apparently, there was no moment for A-Rod anywhere in a three-hour game – not even a token midgame pinch-hit appearance.

May we ask why? Was there a specific reason?

“No,” AL manager Joe Girardi told reporters afterward. “We were talking about pinch-running him in a situation. We also had a little issue with (Adrian) Beltre – we were concerned about his hamstring. So if we (got) the tying run on, Al was going to pinch-run.”

Didn’t happen.

And if A-Rod was, in fact, nursing some unspoken injury, then why not take him off the active roster and let Michael Young play? Young had been in limbo for the previous 48 hours, because of the possibility that Beltre would be sidelined by his injury.

You wonder if Girardi and Rodriguez will laugh this off on Friday, when they reconvene in The Bronx. Otherwise, the Yankees will have a silly sideshow on their hands during a weekend better spent remembering George Steinbrenner and trying to preserve their narrow lead in the American League East.

I always thought All-Star managers wanted to get every player into the game – especially their own. That was the motivation behind the rule change that allows one designated player to reenter if the bench is empty when someone is injured.

Baltimore’s Ty Wigginton was that man for the American League. He had already appeared and was ready to return if needed.

So, why not use A-Rod as a pinch runner right away in the ninth?

The plodding Ortiz stroked a leadoff single to right. The moment was ripe to put a little more speed on the bases, even if Big Papi didn’t represent the tying run.

Besides, Girardi said later that A-Rod “probably” would have replaced Ortiz as the designated hitter in extra innings. So make the move a little earlier and be sure that Your Guy gets into the game.

The non-move hurt the AL almost immediately. With one out, John Buck lofted a fly-ball single into right field. The AL was about to put the tying run on base. But right fielder Marlon Byrd scooped up the ball and hosed Big Papi at second.

No one will confuse A-Rod with Carl Crawford, but he’s definitely faster than Ortiz. He would have arrived safely at second. The inning, and perhaps the game, would have taken on a different hue.

Instead, Rodriguez could be found in the dugout, limbering up, preparing to be the hero … and not getting the nod from his manager.

The guy in the other dugout didn’t get it, either.

“I definitely was looking for him,” NL manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s one of the better hitters in the game, if not the best. That was going through my mind.”

Poor A-Rod. He didn’t even leave with a good reason why.

“We had a couple situations where we could have gone in, eighth or ninth inning,” said Rodriguez, engulfed by a media huddle after a game that he technically had absolutely nothing to do with. “I felt good. I was loose. I was ready to go. I sat there for about three hours.

“You know, Beltre had some good chances. So did (Evan) Longoria. … I was ready to go. It was just up to him (Girardi) on what situation to put me in.”

Disappointed?

“No, no, no,” A-Rod replied. “It’s not my first.”

He’s right. This was his 13th All-Star appearance. Rodriguez wasn’t crestfallen over it. But he did wear an amused look throughout his postgame interview.

Actually, A-Rod should get high marks for his performance during the All-Bench Game. He was a good sport during pregame introductions, when his big boos were an immediate contrast to the wild cheers for hometown favorite Torii Hunter.

“Placed perfectly,” A-Rod said, smiling. “The Angels, the Angels, and then me. I tried to get a little of Torii Hunter’s credit, but I couldn’t sneak that in.”

Maybe that should have been a hint that this wasn’t going to be Rodriguez’s night. Just the day before, he told the New York Post, “I would love to be the hero late.” But for the first time in 14 years, the AL didn’t have an All-Star hero. And A-Rod didn’t get the chance to be one.

A little odd, don’t you think?