Instead, they were chosen to play the foil, with Bartolo Colon cast as their leading player.
That set the stage for the Yankees' third baseman, who hit three home runs and drove in a career-high 10 runs to pace the Yankees to a 12-4 win over the Angels in Friday's series opener.
The three homers generated some rich imagery in a building absolutely saturated with such moments, while his 10 RBIs placed Rodriguez second to just one. Tony Lazzeri set a franchise record, as well as an American League mark, when he drove in 11 runs on May 24, 1936, against the Philadelphia Athletics.
Tuesday also was the first time since July 25, 1999, that a player had three homers against the Angels. You have to go back to Albert Belle, who hit three as a member of the Orioles.
"It was a great game by a great player," manager Mike Scioscia said of Rodriguez, who hit a two-run homer, a three-run homer and a grand slam. "He had an incredible night tonight. Unfortunately, it was at our expense. We focused on getting outs, but A-Rod had a great night. You couldn't do much more than Alex did this evening."
Rodriguez had two more shots at tying the big-league record of four homers in one game. But he singled to drive in Hideki Matsui in his fourth at-bat in the sixth and lined out to center in the eighth.
"This is definitely a night I'll never forget," Rodriguez said.
The eight-time All-Star was not the only tempest brewing for the Angels. The wind gusted steadily on Tuesday, and Colon found it difficult to get loose while warming up prior to the game in the visitors' bullpen.
But it would be difficult to place the blame on the conditions, as most fly balls were knocked down as harmless outs and Colon was giving Rodriguez due credit. It was simply a dominating performance by arguably the best player in the game.
Colon got behind early in a number of counts on Tuesday. All three of Rodriguez's homers came with two outs, but in each case Colon also walked at least one batter ahead of Rodriguez.
"It was a combination of both, the fact that I made mistakes and the fact that he is a great hitter," Colon said. "It seems like every time I get something up in the strike zone, he hammers me."
Every pitcher has a hitter who is his nemesis and vice versa. For Colon, that man is Rodriguez, and Tuesday only scratched bolder marks into the scouting report. Rodriguez came into the game hitting .378 with three homers against Colon and has improved those marks to .425 and six homers with 15 RBIs.
Colon admits that Rodriguez has his number.
"I have to find a way to change that," Colon said. "Maybe he has it down to anticipating my mechanics."
Manager Mike Scioscia also cited the wind as a possible factor, but noted two other elements that weighed more heavily Tuesday night: the walks and the errors.
Colon (3-2) was coming off a pair of solid outings. Over his previous 15 innings, Colon had allowed just one run and two walks, but five free passes forced him to pitch as if he were cornered for most of his 3 2/3 innings.
Two errors by Chone Figgins in the fateful fourth, when Rodriguez hit the grand slam, extended the inning by at least two batters. Figgins pulled Darin Erstad off the bag on a grounder by Andy Phillips to open the inning and then tried to turn a double-play on a bouncer by Bernie Williams, but he lost the handle, allowing a run scored.
Sheffield then flew out to left, but Matsui walked and Rodriguez followed by crushing a 3-2 pitch to straightaway center.
"You can't walk seven of them and give them extra outs," Scioscia said. "You can't do that to a lineup like that."
Colon walked Derek Jeter on five pitches to open the bottom of the first, and after two quick outs, he walked Matsui. Then he ran the count to 2-2, but Rodriguez jumped on a fastball and drilled it to left-center for his first home run of the night.
In the third, Colon issued a one-out walk to Sheffield and retired Matsui on a fly ball before Rodriguez drilled a 1-0 pitch to left.
The only question left was whether or not Colon would face Rodriguez for the third time. He did, but felt up to the challenge.
"I wanted to face Alex. If Mike comes out to get me, I'm going to fight him," Colon said. "Mike has shown confidence in all of the starters. If he feels a game is still in doubt, he always shows confidence in us. I always appreciate that."
Vladimir Guerrero had two RBIs, while Garret Anderson and Figgins each knocked in a run for the Angels.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.