The verdict finally came in for Alex Rodriguez and the 162 game suspension makes for an interesting new chapter in the always tumultuous story of the Yankees slugger. Even if he returns after his suspension and puts up some Pujolsian numbers in the final years of his contract, the steroid allegations and this suspension are likely to be the defining moment in the career of one of the greatest right handed hitters of all time.
And while it didn’t take the mainstream media long to pile on A-Rod for his latest misstep — like this awesome SNL sketch below with rapper Drake portraying the disgraced star — you have to look at the man’s entire career to better define his legacy.
For the majority of his career on the diamond, A-Rod’s skills have fallen somewhere between ridiculous and prodigious even as he has been beset by age and injury in recent years he has still shown remarkable skills on the field. But one area where Rodriguez has excelled even more than on the field is making people dislike him.
Originally, Rodriguez drew the ire of fans around the league based only on his stellar play, like all the greatest stars he was loathed by the fans of the teams who fell victim to his incredible talents. But then when he signed the infamous $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers he was able to make the Seattle faithful hate him as well.
Signing the monstrous deal earned him not only several lifetime’s worth of money but also some new nick names such as Pay-Rod and A-Wad. He continued putting up mind numbing numbers year after year in Texas until he was traded to the Yankees making him even more hate friendly. Still the production continued and even though the Yankees only won a single championship in the time he’s been there his assault on the record books continued unabated as he became the youngest player to hit both 500 and 600 home runs. Sure the playoff success hadn’t shown up yet and he earned the moniker Mr. April for his annual October vanishing act. But e was on pace to shatter the records of both Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds and leave the controversy of Bonds as the tainted home run king in the past.
But then 2007 came propelling A-Rod to new heights of douchebaggery first he was caught in some questionable behaviour in Toronto, then being an incredibly poor sport shouting for a fly ball while running the bases against the Jays. But then the final straw was announcing that he would be opting out of his contract during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series. But he was able to save some face by apologizing for the timing of the announcement firing agent Scott Boras and expressing an earnest desire to stay with the Yankees. This suddenly humble A-Rod seemed to be gaining some traction in the court of public opinion.
In 2009 is where I think that A-Rod went from being just an arrogant narcissistic star to a loathsome cheater in the eyes of most baseball fans. In that summer a list of players who had tested positive for PED’s in 2003, before the game had rules against their use, was leaked with Rodriguez as one of the big names headlining the list. Rodriguez eventually “admitted” to having used PEDs from 2001 to 2003 in an effort to live up to the pressure put on him by the millions of dollars he was being paid. But what is a confession from a liar, as his actions since these allegations have come to light, clearly his word means very little to him.
Now surely it is unfair to single out A-Rod for the sins of an entire era of the game of baseball, but too me A-Rod being tied to PEDs was the player that hurt the most. As a Blue Jays fan I loathed him, time after time I had watched him torch my favourite team racking up the home runs and helping the Yankees to a seemingly endless parade of division titles and playoff appearances. But for all the ire I had for him I respected him and was in awe of his natural abilities. To see that in the era of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco the best player in the game was still clean was something to cherish. So him being tied to the drugs wasn’t just another player trying to get an edge it just drew into question all the perceptions that were in place.
Clearly A-Rod was a generational talent, no matter what drugs or supplements you take its incredibly hard to hit a baseball thats coming at you that quickly, and to hit it hard and far enough to get it out of the ball park with a wooden bat takes even more skill. So when someone with his talent makes the decision to use PEDs everyone else is left asking “what if?” What if he had just played cleanly his entire career, sure his numbers may not have ended up being quite as spectacular, but the numbers also would have had integrity. Unfortunately there is no way to distinguish what was the player and what was the drugs. There is no way to know for sure if he only used PED in those years he claims too.
The Biogenesis saga only deepens that mystery, how long was he actually using before he got caught… did he ever even stop using them? We can never know what that super star kid from Miami could have done to leave his mark on the game. I find it easiest to compare A-Rod to a fart in the shower, where the steam blends it vapours with your own for nearly lethal potency, but you can never know what sort of effect those gases would have had in a dry environment. And that’s what A-Rod will always be now regardless of any attitude changes or additional World Series rings, he will always be just a shower fart, leaving everyone to wonder what he actually could have been.