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When did A-Rod become a villain?

Aug 1, 2013, 2:20 PM EST

Alex Rodriguez

Joe Posnanski reminds us that Alex Rodriguez was not always baseball’s biggest villain. There was a time when he was seen as not only the game’s best player, but maybe its savior.

Joe walks us through the timeline of A-Rod’s career, but spends extra time focusing on a day in May 2002 when the sky seemed to be the limit:

On that day in May, just more than a decade ago, Alex Rodriguez was unlimited. He was 26 years old. He was a brilliant defensive shortstop. He could draw “oohs” from the crowd by simply throwing a baseball across the diamond — that’s how strong his arm was. He could run. He was a .300 hitter. He was seemingly invulnerable — playing every day.

And he could hit fly balls that just kept going and going and going. He was as thrilling to watch as anyone. We will never know how much of that genius for baseball was his own talent and hard work and how much of it was in the chemicals he injected into his body. The sad part is that most people don’t care to know. They don’t care enough about him to think about it. They just want him to go away.

This morning Kay Adams and I talked about when, exactly, the story changed on Alex Rodriguez. While he has shot himself in the foot repeatedly for ten years, I really do think that the seeds for all of us hating him — or, at the very least, seeing everything he does in the most negative possible light compared to that which other players do — came just before that day in May 2002 Posnanski speaks of:

103 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. agelardi - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    “There was a time when he was seen as not only the game’s best player, but maybe its savior.”

    That’s when it began. Then it was reinforced when the Evil Empire got him and gave him more money than 1 person deserves to run around and have fun.

    • pack93z - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      I loathe the Yankees as much as anyone.. but it wasn’t the Yankees that threw that contract at Arod.

      It was Tom Hicks of the Texas Rangers.. I believe it was over 250 million dollars. And I believe it was Hicks that stated it was one of his biggest failures/regrets during his run with the Rangers.

      • agelardi - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:42 PM

        But A-Rod opted out of that deal when with the Yanks and then got another 10-year $275 million from them.

        I’m pretty sure if he was lending his talents to, say the Pirates or Astros, he’d get a little more sympathy.

      • bigharold - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        “But A-Rod opted out of that deal when with the Yanks and then got another 10-year $275 million from them.”

        The only reason the got that was A, the Yankees didn’t stick to their guns, had they he’d be some other team’s problem right now, .. B, Hank Steinbrenner is an imbecile how should be allowed out of the house by himself, and C, he likely thought that if there was one moron in baseball that would give me an obscene amount of money there are probably others, .. and he was right.

        I think the moment became a “villain” will be different for just about everybody. I think a turning point, for me, came when he went on 60 Minutes and announced that he never did PEDS because he never felt over matched then two years later he’s outted for being on the 2003 “survey”. Hubris!

        But, don’t see him as a villain so much as pathetic. He once had such great potential and he wasted it. In general people hate it when potential is squandered and will hold that against someone much more than other personal failings. A-Rod’s career and life are now an epic sad story that has taken on all the elements of a Greek tragedy. Too bad but in the end, like most people, the individual that is most responsible for the turmoils in ones lie is oneself.

      • kevinbnyc - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:55 PM

        The Astros or Pirates have never and probably will never be the free agency landing spot for the unquestionable best player in baseball, as A-Rod was when the Yankees outbid the rest of the league for his services. So that point is pretty silly.

        If you want to hate him for being a Yankee, that’s on your irrational thought process. The reality is that he’s evidently a sociopath and has done a lot of this to himself.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        Multi-part dis-harmony: He screwed the Mariners, who were building a possible multi-year contender (though later getting Ichiro helped them back) by going for Fort Knox with Texas (which then could not afford more than just him); in trying to beat out a grounder, he knocked the ball from the 1st baseman’s glove, totally uncool; then, in Toronto, running from 2nd to 3rd on a 2-out pop up to short, while behind the guy about to catch it he yells “mine!” so the guy lets it go and all are safe. Again, totally uncool and Joe Torre told him so later, and further evidence he’d do whatever he felt necessary, however unethical, to gain any advantage.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:35 PM

        I lived in Seattle at the time Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers. He immediately became Public Enemy #1 in Seattle because of the way he handled his free agency. He had said it was not about the money and all about finding the right fit on a winning team. At the time, the Mariners had a promising young team that had won 90 games the year before and would win 116 the next year, while the Rangers were consistently winning around 70 games and finishing last in the AL West. He clearly signed for the money and a lot of people did not like him for that. I think that was the turning point, and not just in Seattle. Going to the Yankees just served to exacerbate people’s dislike of him.

      • Francisco (FC) - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        Multi-part dis-harmony: He screwed the Mariners, who were building a possible multi-year contender (though later getting Ichiro helped them back) by going for Fort Knox with Texas (which then could not afford more than just him); in trying to beat out a grounder, he knocked the ball from the 1st baseman’s glove, totally uncool; then, in Toronto, running from 2nd to 3rd on a 2-out pop up to short, while behind the guy about to catch it he yells “mine!” so the guy lets it go and all are safe. Again, totally uncool and Joe Torre told him so later, and further evidence he’d do whatever he felt necessary, however unethical, to gain any advantage.

        Somewhere, Connie Mack is smiling at A-Rod. “That’s the way to play son”.

  2. proudlycanadian - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    So money is still the root of all evil.

    • kicksave1980 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      I don’t know. I know I’ve had my most evil thoughts when I didn’t have ENOUGH money to pay the bills.

      • jcmeyer10 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:15 PM

        Oof.

      • bfunk1978 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        That’s because the quote is “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Rather than the tool itself (money), it’s the pursuit of it as the ends, which will surely justify the means once it’s acquired, no?

      • kicksave1980 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        I get it, I just thought we were joking around…?

    • historiophiliac - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:10 PM

      On the other end of the scale, PC, the Tigers are running a ticket package special for Canadian fans for 8/26. :)

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:30 PM

        Since Detroit is broke, do they want Canada to help bail them out? They know that Canadian fans are following the Jays wherever they play, so the team and the City is going after the tourist dollars.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        Why wouldn’t they? Everyone wants tourism dollars if they can get ‘em…even the Canadian kind. :)

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        PC, Detroit has ZERO beaches. No young things in bikinis. Spend your tourist dollars in Florida. Tickets are always cheap at the Trop because no one is going.

      • bigharold - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        “.. do they want Canada to help bail them out?

        I think they just want Jays fans to have the opportunity to see a winning baseball team.

  3. slartibartfast4242 - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    “When did A-Rod become a villain?”
    The moment he killed Obi-Wan Kenobi. I mean, the man was practically a father to him, taught him everything, and then……
    I hate A-Rod!

    • mlblogsbig3bosox - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      He was always the villain we just didn’t know until the end! Like in Batman Rises!

  4. El Bravo - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    No need to read any of this. The answer is clear and simple. The day ARod chose a slice of cake over a slice of pie was the very moment he became a villian.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      I’d get mad but there’s no way that fool has the sophistication to appreciate bread pudding.

      /sniffs

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:04 PM

        Bread pudding is just not going to happen.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:34 PM

        I did not invite you all into my clubhouse.

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:36 PM

        LMAO

      • Gamera the Brave - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:53 PM

        Wait – you have a clubhouse?

      • historiophiliac - Aug 1, 2013 at 7:25 PM

        /looks guilty

        No.

        /swallows key

      • Alex K - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:40 PM

        Ice Cream laughs at all the other little desserts that think they have the top spot. There is such a large gap between ice cream and all others that they are lapping them for the 3rd or 4th time in deliciousness.

  5. jayscarpa - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    For me it was watching Boras announce during the WS broadcast that Alex was opting out. Until the I could rationalize that people were just jealous of his contract. He thought/thinks he was bigger than the game.

  6. imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    A-Rod is a baseball immortal, right there with Ruth, Mays, Gehrig, Williams, Bonds. Greatest SS ever. Can’t take that away from him….

    • 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Well, you kind of can. He played 1272 games as a shortstop. And he was awesome. But, on games played, he’s 85th on the all-time list.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/Gm_ss_career.shtml

      So you have to weigh quality-versus-quantity. Cal Ripken actually holds the record for most homers by a shortstop.

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        Ripken can’t hold A-Rod’s jock

      • 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        See, it’s comments like this that drive me crazy. We argue about whether Trout or Cabrera deserved the AL MVP, and you’re not allowed to say I like player a without slamming player b.

        Cal Ripken was good at playing baseball.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        18th, yeah, Cal was good, but his work ethic was so dubious. Always whining about the tiniest little injury, forever on the DL for this or that. Just could never rely on him.

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:27 PM

        Ripken wasn’t a winner

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:58 PM

        Um, imnot, Mr Ripken does actually more of those World Series ringy thingies than Ted Williams and Ernie Banks combined.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:59 PM

        ^^have more^^
        argh.
        edit.

    • kicksave1980 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:09 PM

      Greatest SS ever? I didn’t know we were talking about Ozzie Smith.

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:11 PM

        Omar Vizquel with a better gimmick

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:29 PM

      “Greatest SS ever”…NOT named Osborne Earl Smith.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      Incidentally, you’re all embarrassing yourselves by arguing for anyone other than Honus Wagner.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:43 PM

        Hahaha! I appreciate your post 18th.
        However, (by now) it should be obvious to you that I don’t get embarrassed.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        Yeah…kind of hard to take it seriously when someone says Cal Ripken Jr. can’t hold someone’s jock. It’s almost as if they have never watched Cal Jr. play the game.

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:28 PM

        Nah I’m just being “that guy” I hate A-Rod and would love to see all their stats erased from the book.

    • indaburg - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      Since Ripken has hands with opposable thumbs, I’m going to say he can so hold Arod’s jockstrap. Why he would want to, I do not know.

  7. heyblueyoustink - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    When he killed Superman and beat the hell out of the Justice League. What a jerk.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:55 PM

      There is NO way that a centaur beats the entire Justice League — even with the Batman liability.

      • heyblueyoustink - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Maybe it was just the meds again……..

  8. amhendrick - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    I agree with Craig, it started when he got the contract with the Rangers. Still, he might have been redeemed if Texas hadn’t finished last each of the 3 years he was with them. And if Seattle hadn’t set an all time record for wins in their first year without him.

    • cohnjusack - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      Still amazed that within two years, Seattle had lost Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr and Alex Rodriguez and responded with 116 wins.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      I think it was his Texas teams’ failures that changed how everyone looked at him. Yes, there was a lot of jealous/anger/whatever against him being so highly paid. But I think the consensus was that he was surely the best player in baseball and deserved an enormous contract. His team sucking with him really changed the narrative.

      There’s some LeBron James parallels, but I’m a lazy man.

      • km9000 - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:27 PM

        I don’t think the LeBron comparison quite works. He was a hometown guy, could’ve earned more money staying in Cleveland, and the Heat were actually expected to compete for the title with him. He was even more vilified, but for different reasons.

    • ezthinking - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      Thank God they got rid of Griffey, Jr. after the 1999 season as well. Probably helped them win those games as well. Thank God for Brett Boone and his 37 HR and 141 RBI and .331/.372/.578 .950 OPS after the previous season’s .251/.326/.421 .747 OPS with 19 HR and 74 RBI.

      Maybe Ichiro and a better pitching staff had something to do with it as well?

      Nah. It was all getting rid of ARod that made the Mariners winners.

    • km9000 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM

      If Seattle had gone down the drain after he left, it would’ve made him look even worse.

      And even though he’d obviously gone to Texas for the money, at least we could laugh watching him lose every year. But then he goes to NY where he has a chance to win every year, and keep all that money? Screw that.

    • caeser12 - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      The 1906 Chicago Cubs also won 116 games.

  9. Joe - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Non sequitur: Microsoft pimping that commercial on every HBT video has to be counterproductive. How can I buy the product when the commercial is so far removed from the reality of how players get signed?

    • historiophiliac - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      To drift further afield: I love the Stand Up to Cancer commercial w/ Mr. Met and the Phanatic having lunch.

      • indaburg - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:56 PM

        Me too. It gives me warm fuzzies. Eff you cancer.

  10. pdowdy83 - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    What I still don’t get is why MLB is going after 150 or so games to maybe even a lifetime ban for A-Rod and settled for only giving Braun 65 meaningless games. If A-Rod is 150 Braun should have at least been 100. His conduct last year was just as detremental to the game. Especially considering he was the reigning MVP and played it off like he was innocent. I agree with MLB that A-Rod should be suspended but I don’t see how they can chose who to make an example of and not just hand down equal suspensions for the 2.

    • phillyphever - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      MLB has evidence that A-Rod recruited others to the clinic AND tried to buy and destroy documents and other information Biogenesis had on him. Braun may have done PEDs and lied about it (personally, he should have gotten 100 games), but A-Rod did that and MUCH more.

      • rbj1 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        MLB also tried to buy those documents and threatened a tenuous lawsuit against Bosch for not cooperating and indemnity if he did cooperate. MLBs hands are at least as dirty as Alex’s.

  11. losangelesfan - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    When he allied himself with Satan’s Spawn Scott Boris.

    • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

  12. Arods Other Doctor - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    I think it was when he turned orange. Nobody who is not bad is orange.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      Oompa loompa’s are bad? My childhood is ruined :(

    • indaburg - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      For me personally, it’s the purple lips. What’s up with that?

  13. kirkmack - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    The Rangers were playing the Twins in the Metrodome A-Rod’s first season after signing the big contract. My wife had been given seats through work above third base, pretty close. A-Rod was still the big huge stud, but everything had changed. He was booed just going out to his position. Real, actual dollar bills were thrown onto the field. There was one kid near us that the second A-Rod stepped in the batter’s box, the kid would stand up and scream at A-Rod the whole at bat about how overpaid he was.

    I was shocked. Here was arguably the best all around player in the game, and people are treating him like he was a murderer. I just couldn’t understand it. And that was BEFORE he became the figure that we all know now- in Seattle and then Arlington (not to mention internet in its infancy) he didn’t have to look over his shoulder like he would in NYC. I just didn’t understand why, despite all the money he was given, how he was so hated.

    And then he was traded to the Yankees. And the stories started coming and the outlandish behavior and the non-stop NYC media didn’t let up, and we all saw how much of a jerk he really was and is.

    I’m not an apologist. He did enough to get himself to where he was today. But it seems to me that he had the world against him pretty quickly, pretty easily even before he really showed his true colors. I find it interesting now that the most hated player in the majors plays for the most hated team in the majors, who just so happen to hate him.

    • ezthinking - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:10 PM

      As a young man, late-’80’s, I watched dollar bills being thrown at Rickey Henderson in left field in the Metrodome. He walked over, picked them up, and put them in his back pocket.

      Perfect reaction to a fan’s overreaction.

      BTW – What’s with Twins fans and throwing money at players? Just because their billionaire owner wouldn’t the fan’s did?

      They give their money to the owner to go to the game and then throw money at opposing players.

      There’s a moral in their somewhere.

  14. shaggylocks - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Reality show idea: A-Rod and Jose Canseco living in a house together. I’d watch that show.

  15. gloccamorra - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    So when is NBCSports going to cut the grass in that infield?

  16. cadillacjosh - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    I can say personally, the point where I had my doubts about him was when they released that photo shoot where he was kissing himself. Everything kind of spiraled from there.

    I’ll never blame a guy for taking a big contract. I’d take the biggest one available, too.

  17. 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    All good people hate the Yankees. So that doesn’t help.

  18. giantssb42champs - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    I think he became a villain the day he signed with the Yanks. Lets not fool ourselves though, he is amongst a large handful of other players who have been or should be vilified for similar actions. ARod is the easiest target though because of his demeanor, his salary and his team. And deservedly so.

  19. Jack Marshall - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    It was when Derek Jeter decided he wasn’t his friend any more.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 1, 2013 at 7:29 PM

      Can you imagine what would happen if word got out that the two of them got into a fight and A-Rod punched Jeter?

  20. themohel - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    I think this question probably has many answers, depending on who is answering. I agree that for a lot of people it was the contract with the Rangers – I think some of the anger toward him was for jilting his team, which he had every right to do, but some were rooting for the nostalgic notion that he’d stay with one team his whole career.

    But to some, I think, the reason has to do with timing. Coming off the initial steroids stuff with McGuire, Bonds, Sosa, etc., many were looking at him as the savior to rescue baseball’s purity. When it turned out several years ago that he was forced to admit to using (and sounding very weaselly while doing so) PEDs, many were more miffed than otherwise might be the case because of this hope. The Savior turned out to be one of them.

    As Craig points out, he has handled many things poorly over the years, so it is probably not just one thing; but the Rangers contract and the initial admission of PED use are the main culprits, I believe.

  21. dowhatifeellike - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    How about the day we found out about the Mitchell report. Or the day he fessed up to it. Or every day he got paid via a contract that was offered based on his juiced performance. Take your pick.

  22. mottershead1972 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    So as a guy from San Diego, and I thought when all the Michael Vick stuff went down… I thought, thank God we traded away the first pick and let Atlanta pick him (remember the chargers had just gotten over Ryan Leaf) (granted you have to follow me on this one)… Do you think the Red Sox are counting their lucky stars that the league voided the trade? Remember he (arod) was headed to Boston?

    • 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      That trade was Manny and Lester for A-Rod. So, yes, we’re very happy it didn’t happen.

  23. sdelmonte - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    I wonder if it started when he made all those demands of the Mets way back when. Though I think the general reaction to this was divided between “A-Rod’s pretty arrogant” and “same old Mets, screwing up a no-brainer.”

    And for the record, I don’t hate him. He isn’t a murderer. He’s not Bernie Madoff. He’s not even a casual racist. He’s just a guy who cheated at a sport, and who tends to be immature and arrogant far too often. He’s not someone I want to be with, or be like, or root for. He’s earning his fate. But I save hatred for those whose actions actively harm people in ways that go far beyond “he hurts the integrity of the game” and “he took my ticket money under false pretenses.”

  24. atepper001 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    what bothers me the most is that he didn’t have to do it. his narcissism grew and grew and he became such as a$$. when he was just a kid playing baseball in or around 1996 he was awesome, hit 330 something with 30 something bombs and almost 200 hits i believe and when a reporter asked him about being mvp his reply was, how can i be mvp of the league when i am not even mvp of this team (referring to junior). he was both great and humble and then… the parading around the country with borASS and the monster contract with texas really did a number on him. having an office at the stadium, allowed to speak about personnel decisions and so forth made him think he was bigger than the game. it takes a fool to give him that leeway (hicks) but it also took a major f*cking a$$hole to capitalize on it. would have been nice to see him stay in a humble place with good leadership and a strong influencing manager (seattle, pinella etc), could have been the GOAT but instead, he is the laughing stock of all time. sad.

    • peymax1693 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:57 PM

      That’s the ARod I remember. When he first came up in 1995/96 he was so good at every facet of the game, it was scary. Watching Mike Trout reminds of ARod back then, except ARod made it look even more easy than Trout does. The most pathetic aspect of this whole sordid story is that ARod didn’t need PEDs in order to thrive, he was that talented.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2013 at 8:28 PM

        Do we really know that he was clean back then? I certainly have my doubts.

  25. Old Gator - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    Are you kidding? A-roid was born a villain. His mother unloaded a boxful of his extra Y-chromosomes at a yard sale to pay for his private school tuition.

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