At one point, early in his career with the Seattle Mariners, Alex Rodriguez was the golden child of the MLB. He was playing alongside Ken Griffey Jr., one of the most beloved athletes in sports history. Rodriguez was just a kid playing with “The Kid” and they were both so special, but by 2000 they were both on different teams and our feelings for A-Rod began to change. By the end of the next decade most were rooting against the star, but not me. Similarly with how I feel about Cam Newton, but with more childish passion, I rooted for A-Rod. Not because of who he was or who he had played for, but because of how he played.
How has he played? How about far better than anyone in my lifetime. He is the most consistently great player of my childhood and I truly looked up to him. He was dangerous offensively and a well-rounded player. He was everything I wanted to be as a kid.
Then the steroid rumors arose.
While steroid allegations are not a good thing and in a perfect world everyone would follow the rules, steroids don’t really bother me. We ask competitive people who have the opportunity to change their lives, financially, not to use a well-known substance that gives them an advantage? Seems kind of silly to me.
Anyways, that’s when everyone began to hate A-Rod. Sure a lot of people did not like him before, but that is when he became baseball’s #1 enemy. The fans went after, the league went after him, hell, even his own team went after him.
But isn’t that stupid? Shouldn’t the league, fans and the Yankees be thanking A-Rod for all the money, entertainment and drama he’s given them? He’s been the most important and talented player since Barry freaking Bonds and it’s not even close.
Alex Rodriguez, like him or not, has compiled the best numbers of any player since he entered the league. He’s actually compiled some of the best numbers of any player EVER. 700 (Not there yet) HRs, 3000 hits, 2000 RBIs, 300 SBs, 3 MVPs, 2 Gold Gloves, among a bunch of other team and personal accomplishments that do not make the list.
Alex has been the shining star the league has failed to embrace. He is one of the last faces heavily related with the steroid era, that we may or may not be done with, in baseball. He could have played the role of villain, but never had an adversary for baseball-America to root for.
It bothers me that one of the games greatest players will retire in the next few years, if not sooner, and most people will be celebrating his retirement instead of his career. He is an almost 41-year-old, starting caliber DH and let’s not forget he might just get to 750 homers before it’s all said and done.
His best years, 1996-2010 (hell of a long time), are mostly unrivaled in MLB history. He batted .358 when he was 20-years-old, he’s had 200 hits and/or 50 home runs five times, and finished top-10 in MVP voting 10 Times! Find me a run better than that.
He’s one of the best offensive players in MLB history. So good, that the fact he was a 5-tool player early in his career is mostly forgotten. Steroids may have aided his career, but his play has been better than superb. “Juice” didn’t do that.
His number 13 jersey and powerful swing will always be ingrained in my brain. I acknowledge Bonds is the greatest player this side of the century, but A-Rod is the greatest player of my memory. Unlike most other superstar athletes in my life, Rodriguez played the sport I wanted to play and damn did he play it well.
Some people hate how he moved to the Yankees, but wouldn’t we all? The most successful ball club, in the best city in the world, offers you a king’s ransom and then some, what are you supposed to do? Some reports even say he still wanted to go to Boston, but the MLBPA would not let him take less and negatively affect the wage-scale. So what is there to hate?
Sure, A-Rod playing honestly and cleanly and not hopping around teams makes for a nicer story, but who cares? The story should be that from 1994-20xx we witnessed one of the greatest players in the history of such a great game. He may not have always done the right thing, but he’s done so much. Isn’t that enough?
Maybe you hate A-Rod, but maybe you should reconsider. True excellence does not often make such a long appearance and it would be a travesty for his greatness to go unappreciated.
I am not asking you to forget or forgive A-Rod for doing steroids, but value his accomplishments regardless. Don’t ride the moral high ground over a trivial issue like competitive imbalances. The game of baseball is so much bigger than that.