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His 2014 season is history, as may be his career: so what is Alex Rodriguez’s legacy?

Jan 11, 2014, 2:53 PM EST

In light of today’s ruling by the arbitrator, suspending him for 162 games, commentators will once again rush to the nearest television camera or take to their laptops and websites to tell us how Alex Rodriguez‘s legacy is now “forever tarnished” or words to that effect.

When they do so, however, they will have to forget, at least momentarily, that they declared A-Rod’s legacy as “forever tarnished” many, many times before.

The last time Alex Rodriguez was truly seen as anything other than profoundly damaged goods was when he played for the Seattle Mariners. He was then transformed from a supremely-talented All-Star into a greedy mercenary when he signed his $250 million contract with the Texas Rangers in January 2001 and had that image solidified when he opted out of it while with the Yankees and signed another huge deal in December 2007. He was branded a steroid cheat and effectively denied his rightful ticket to the Hall of Fame when word surfaced of his past performance enhancing drug use in early 2009. He made claims then about how he had only used on such and such an occasion and never did again, but no one believed him, even at the time.

So take your pick on when A-Rod’s legacy truly was tarnished. Some say when he signed that first big deal, some say when he signed that second, some say when he copped to taking PEDs, but it really doesn’t matter. He’s been branded a cheater for more nearly five years and a money-first, me-first player for well over a decade. Sprinkle in all of the petty p.r. things like the magazine interview in which he was pictured kissing himself in a mirror, his on-field controversies like trying to distract fielders and trying to walk over opposing pitchers’ mounds, the lurid stories of Rodriguez cavorting with stripperspop stars and movie stars and the constant unfavorable comparisons between him and teammate Derek Jeter and you have a player who has long been viewed unfavorably, rightly or wrongly.

Wrongly in my view. We’d all take $250 million if someone was dumb enough to give it to us. Most of A-Rod’s “controversies” have been silly little things. Those less silly — like his marital infidelity — are certainly not unprecedented among the rich and famous, even if we may personally disapprove. His PED use has gained him baseball’s largest drug suspension in history, but unless and until Major League Baseball reveals the evidence it claims to have against him for obstructing justice or doing other bad things which turned this from a first time offense which should have gotten him 50 games to a 162-game ban, we can’t honestly say that it was fundamentally different from that of other players who have been implicated in PEDs.

Many players who were so implicated — Andy Pettitte, Mark McGwire, the dozens of players who have served drug suspensions and returned to the game afterward — are thought of negatively when specific thought is actually put to the matter, but they are not seen as inherently evil pariahs. Pettitte was given a hero’s sendoff both times he retired. McGwire may not get Hall of Fame consideration, but he’s a hitting coach for the Dodgers.

A couple of other players are labeled monsters and thought of as cheaters first, elite ballplayers second in the eyes of most. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are the biggest examples here. But it’s no coincidence that so much of the assessment of Bonds and Clemens follows what people thought of them before their drug histories came out — that they were jerks or standoffish or that their competitive fire burned a little too brightly, quite frankly. So it is too with A-Rod. Most people hated him before and overlooked just how amazing his baseball exploits have been over the past two decades, and now they hate him still, if not more.

Alex Rodriguez is a polarizing figure. He’s been his own worst enemy over and over again. But he’s long been though of as such and thus for us to say that today’s decision does anything to alter his legacy is disingenuous in the extreme. This is not a fall from grace. This is not a hero brought to his knees. A-Rod has been a widely hated and hated-on figure for far longer than he was ever considered, first and foremost, a baseball superstar and this is merely another brick in that very tall, very long and very solid wall.

A-Rod’s legacy, narrowly defined, should be that of an otherworldly talent who did otherworldly things. A shortstop who played elite defense AND hit .308/.382/.581 with 345 homers and 990 RBIs and multiple MVP-caliber seasons while he manned baseball’s most important defense position. A guy who then moved to third base and hit .291/.386/.534 with 309 home runs and 979 RBI, won two more MVP awards and led the league’s signature franchise to its last World Series title. Bill James once said of Rickey Henderson that, if you cut him in half, you’d have two Hall of Famers. The same is true of Alex Rodriguez. Each half of his career — his pre-Yankees and post-Yankees days — are independently historic.

But, unfortunately, that will always be farther down the list when it comes to what history says about Alex Rodriguez. History will throw mud on A-Rod from now until he’s dead and buried and then will continue throwing mud on him after that.  It’s all we’ve been conditioned to do since he left Seattle and went to Texas and it only intensified once he got to New York and his mere unpopularity transformed into scandal. And nothing is going to change that. No matter how many people go on television today to tell us otherwise.

[this post was adapted from — with many parts taken from — my August 5, 2013 story on, yes, Alex Rodriguez’s legacy. Alas it’s a topic that keeps coming up over and over]

  1. Samuel - Jan 11, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Reblogged this on But at the end of the day… and commented:
    I’ll always remember him as the great potential that fell away with his attitude and this PED issue. He could have been the greatest, but his own ego and the pressure that came with being great got to him. Great player, but not a great attitude. So sad it’s come to this.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      Pretty much staying away from these stories b/c the signal to noise ratio is going to be absurd, but have to comment on this:

      but his own ego and the pressure that came with being great got to him.

      His own ego? The same person who willingly gave up money to get traded to Boston, only to have the MLBPA step in and say he couldn’t do it? The same person who then got traded to the Yankees and decided to move off his position for an inferior player, and never said a word about it? The one who took the brunt of all the Yankee postseason failures even when they weren’t his fault, and never complained?

      That ego?

      • raysfan1 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        Very few truly fit into a neat all good or all evil narrative, but it’s easy to dismiss everything that doesn’t fit said narrative even if it’s also lazy. Rodriguez with be forever pigeon holed into the evil egotist box, and everything you just wrote will be ignored even though true. It’s a pity, but he also mostly just has himself to blame for it.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        Oh of course, and Arod is largely at fault for this too. However, it’s laughable to me how many people want to crucify him over perceived sleights that never happened. They literally make up transgressions and make them exponentially worse than everyone else.

      • nobodyimportant00 - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:23 PM

        And this, gentlemen, sums up my feelings on Mr. Rodriguez exactly. His own worst enemy as public figure. But, if given a fair and impartial viewing is nowhere near as bad as he’s made out to be. In fact, while I’m indulging in “what if” I’ll just say that had he stayed in Texas, its likely he’d be viewed no worse than Nelson Cruz is right now and its likely he’d have the same number of WS Rings since all incarnations of the Post Season Rangers could have surely used his offence. Going to New York put his life under such a microscope that his rather mundane misdeeds were blown ridiculously out of proportion.

        Even now, ignoring the suspension, he’s still the best 3B option available for the Yankees or, lets be real here, many other teams. If he was a free agent & suspension free, with his numbers, many teams would jump at the chance to acquire him.

        One day perhaps the pendulum will swing in his favour and he might get a fairer summation. Who knows how history will play out or if other facts will come to light? One day it might be Selig who is vilified if it can be shown that this was little more than a baseless witch hunt to get Rodriguez.

  2. cubb1 - Jan 11, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    See ya, ARoid. One less douchebag in the Major Leagues.

  3. schniz61 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    Amazing player turned cartoon character.

  4. aceinthehole12 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    Shame..he was headed straight to the Hall before all this stuff happened.

  5. joestemme - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    His legacy?

    A drug addicted, conceited SOB who never told the truth. Oh, and an overrated, if talented, player who choked in the clutch while piling up great regular season stats in the 7th inning of blowouts against hapless ballclubs.

    • schlom - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      Overrated? He was the best player in baseball from his first full season to 2008. And it’s not even particularly close – by BR he has a 13 win gap over Barry Bonds (although only 6 by fangraphs). I’m not sure how you can say he was overrated – the fact that you even say that shows that he might actually have been underrated.

      • joestemme - Jan 11, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        Love all these Yankee and A-Roid apologists defending the juicer after booing him all these years for his playoff and big game chokes. A guy who hits well below his career stats when it counts the most. A guy who has found himself lowered in the batting order and even benched in the playoffs (and don’t give me he was “injured” – that happens when you lay off the needle for a while).

        Yes, he was talented as I originally posted. But, he has been juicing for a good part of his career (one never runs out of “cousins”). Has wilted under the NYC spotlight. And, is a freakin’ liar. Nice role model, folks.

      • maikoch - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:40 PM

        “Has wilted under the NYC spotlight.”

        Really? Since he came to NY in 2004, he has 52.5 bWAR, 2 MVP awards, and 1 WS ring. That’s pretty close to a Hall of Fame career by itself. Meanwhile, in that same timeframe, Derek Jeter has 31.2 bWAR, 0 MVP awards, and 1 WS ring.

        If anyone has wilted since A-Rod came to New York, then, it’s Derek Jeter.

        And curse you for putting me in the position of defending Alex Rodriguez.

    • lirianod - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      Overrated?! Of all things ARod is overrated?! hahahahaa

    • cohnjusack - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      piling up great regular season stats in the 7th inning of blowouts against hapless ballclubs.

      The things people will make up in order to diminish a player never ceases to amaze me.

    • zzalapski - Jan 11, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      Your “F#ck A-Roid” comments show more intelligence than this pap.

  6. jt2663 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    My favorite ARod moment is him non-chalantly knocking the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand during a routine ground out in the bloody sock game. Real class act. Past Yankee greats would have been proud of his competitiveness. Real HOF move.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:18 PM

      Did you feel the same way when Dustin Pedroia did the same thing?

      • 18thstreet - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:59 PM

        When?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 11, 2014 at 8:12 PM

        http://bit.ly/1exQsBR

      • braxtonrob - Jan 12, 2014 at 4:05 AM

        @church, You’re really reaching now, not unlike A-Rod’s approach to running to 1B; he was looking to swat the ball before he was even within 20 feet of the glove.

        As for Pedroia, never heard of that, and if it ain’t on youtube, then sounds like exaggeration to me. I.e., never happened. Nice try (not really).

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 12, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        As for Pedroia, never heard of that, and if it ain’t on youtube, then sounds like exaggeration to me. I.e., never happened. Nice try (not really).

        Click the link I provided genius. Or try this one:

        http://www.fannation.com/blogs/post/75419-dustin-pedroia-does-a-great-a-rod-impression

      • braxtonrob - Jan 13, 2014 at 8:49 PM

        Wow, is that clip (of Pedroia) ever isolated.

        Talk about being taken out of context!
        But, I’ll try to analyze it anyhow –
        Obviously, he was trying to stop at the last second, and in his surprise made a last ditch (thoughtless) effort to keep from being successfully tagged.

        Although not a proud moment necessarily (for him), BIG difference between that last second bad thought, and someone (like A-Rod) who planned to swat at Arroyo’s glove before he got within 20 feet of him.

        See, the problem with you Yankee fans is you think everyone is just jealous of your 27 Championships. Albeit somewhat true, Yankee haters find the team (and especially their fans) deplorable because they commit genuinely, well thought out, shameful acts, consistently. It’s not made up, it’s real, and it just keeps on happening time and time and time again.

    • flatsorter - Jan 13, 2014 at 2:50 AM

      Reggie’s hip check in the World Series and Jeter’s fake HBP were much better, because they were successful. If A-Rod’s move would’ve led to the Yankees winning the WS, he would be loved for it by NYY fans. That was the last chance the Yankees had to win it, and he almost pulled it off.

  7. chip56 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    Interesting info from Verducci, Alex would have been better off failing a drug test. Had he failed a test he would have been subject to the 50/100/150 scale but suspensions based on non-analytical evidence are at the commissioner’s discretion.

    That kind of answers the question that many people had about how the league could suspend him 211 at the outset.

    • lirianod - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      My thoughts exactly! Just fail a drug test and you’re all but guaranteed 50 games.

  8. cackalackyank - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Four words describe his legacy. “What could have been…”

  9. canucks18 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    I would absolutely love to see ARod come back after the bulls$&@ suspension and break record upon record especially the home run record. It’s one way he can stuff it all right back up MLB and Selig’s rear end.

  10. hojo20 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    I enjoyed KFC’s Barstool Sports commentary on A-Rod better.

  11. metalhead65 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    he will be remembered as a liar and a cheat and deservedly so. I could care less about his private life or that he took the most money he could get from teams dumb enough to give it to him. but the fact remains he cheated and then lied about it. we suppose to believe that what he accomplished with the mariners which led to him signing an obscene contract with the rangers was the reult of talent and hard work? and that he only took roids when he got to texas? live in his fantasy world if you want or be one of those who say roids do not help you be a better player if you want, but for those us who live in the real world his legacy is being a liar and a cheater.if taking ped’s does not make you a better player then why do players take them? it will not make you a athlete if you are not already one but it will help make you a better one.

  12. jt2663 - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    The Yankees are dancing their way to the bank to get money for Tanaka while the Yankee fans cheer them on.

  13. arrooo - Jan 11, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Now playing 3rd base for the Long Island Ducks, Alex Rodriguez

  14. tfbuckfutter - Jan 11, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    No Hall for you.

    I actually think I know how the PED era will play out in the HOF…..I don’t think any of the big timers will be inducted, A-Rod included, by the BBWAA.

    I think some will eventually get in, begrudgingly so, by the veteran’s committee.

    And maybe that’s a reasonably punishment.

  15. mfinneran - Jan 11, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    Goodbye loser.!

  16. anxovies - Jan 11, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    ARod was the low-hanging fruit for MLB’s campaign to redeem itself from its shameful neglect and avoidance in addressing the steroid problem. Other players have been given a pass or even praised for coming clean about steroid use but when Rodriguez made his admission MLB had at last found a target. When this all dies down and he finally retires, I think ARod’s legacy will be looked at in a more positive light. However, in the future we may view Bud Selig’s administration of the baseball as something akin to the Presidency of Warren G. Harding.

    • tfbuckfutter - Jan 11, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      A-Rod is definitely the fall guy for MLB’s inability to catch Bonds, Clemens and some of the lesser but still big stars.

      Perhaps if MLB could have brought the hammer down on one of them A-Rod could have heeded the warning, cleaned up, and no one would have ever been the wiser.

      But, as per usual, his arrogance is his downfall.

    • karlkolchak - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      Big +1 for the Harding analogy. Too bad Selig’s Reign of Error has lasted about seven times longer than that of Mr. Normalcy.

  17. realitypolice - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:25 PM

    I agree the majority of this article. The only thing I take slight issue with is the implication that his career may be over. There is zero percent chance he doesn’t come back for his money in 2015 and zero percent chance the Yankees wiggle out of paying him.

    So the only possible way his career could possibly be over is if the Yankees give him 60 million dollars to not play, or to play somewhere else. Not only would that be wasteful and stupid, but the way things are shaping up, he will probably STILL be their best option at 3rd base in 2015.

    • tfbuckfutter - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:00 PM

      If they are on the hook for it anyway, and they don’t want him to play, they should offer him up to non-contending teams, and offer to pay between $18-$20m a year of his salary.

      He can go into exile, compile whatever numbers he can, and a small market team gets a draw. Maybe Miami would work.

      This seems like, even if he has a no-trade clause (which I assume he does but I’m not checking) a solution that satisfies all parties. He gets a full time job, can chase records, he doesn’t pose a threat to the Yankees, and for a few million bucks the receiving team sells a few extra tickets.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:20 PM

        He has 10 and 5 rights along with a contract that makes him almost untradeable.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jan 11, 2014 at 6:55 PM

        Yeah.

        My point is he would probably waive those rights due to the reasons I mentioned in my post that you’re referring to after having read.

      • mazblast - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:07 PM

        “OK, Alex, you and your trained monkey/agent listen up and don’t talk until I’m done.

        “Here’s your alternatives–One, you get your money here and sit on the bench for three years except for a weekly pinch-hitting appearance; or Two, you waive your 10 and 5 rights, go to Miami, who’ll only have to shell out the minimum MLB salary because we’ll be glad to pay the rest to see your a** out of here forever.

        And as they say on “Law & Order”, this offer is open for the next 30 seconds.”

      • flatsorter - Jan 13, 2014 at 3:06 AM

        Wow, great deal! The Yankees offering to pay $18-20 a year means he can be had for only $5 million a year. The Yankees should demand 2 or 3 young prospects in the deal too.

  18. jaylaw01 - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    Good piece Craig.

  19. doctornature - Jan 11, 2014 at 7:42 PM

    Total FRAUD. Used PEDs starting in High School and never stopped. Erase him from the books, as Bonds should be for the years when he bulked up with Roids.

    He is also a contemptible human being, liar and cheater. He needs to crawl away somewhere dark and die.

  20. metalhead65 - Jan 11, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    will the yankees have to pay him this year? if this is not a violation of the personal conduct clause included in player contracts or conduct detrimental to the team then why even bother having them? seriously why bother having them when they mean nothing if you get paid for violating them? this would be one fight the owners should take on the union over.

    • mazblast - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:10 PM

      No, the Yankees do not have to pay him this year, assuming the suspension is not overturned by the federal courts. His salary does not count against the luxury tax number, either. The CBA is very clear that drug and other personal conduct suspensions (such as for fighting, contact with umpires, or bat corking) are unpaid.

      The Yankees are still on the hook for 2015 through 2017 unless Rodriguez retires, which isn’t going to happen.

      • metalhead65 - Jan 11, 2014 at 11:50 PM

        thank you for clearing that up. glad to see that for once a guy is held accountable and does not get paid due to some technicality or help from the union.

  21. Jack Marshall - Jan 11, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    Arod, Bonds and Clemens showed themselves to be narcissists before they cheated, and that was a big reason why, as already elite players who had no reason to cheat and who knew they risked doing great damage to the game and other players by cheating, they behaved as the did. The fact that “it’s no coincidence that so much of the assessment of Bonds and Clemens follows what people thought of them before their drug histories came out” is not proof of confirmation bias, as Craig seems to be implying, but that their PED cheating was the natural product of character deficits that they had demonstrated earlier and in other ways.

  22. weaselpuppy - Jan 12, 2014 at 2:31 AM

    This should be titled Requiem for a Centaur

  23. braxtonrob - Jan 12, 2014 at 3:39 AM

    For Seattle fans, it was 2001 when they realized he had zero loyalty (given the way he handled it all at the time).
    For Rangers fans, it was somewhere in the middle of 2002 when we realized he really plays for no one but himself.
    For everyone else in the league (particularly the AL), it was when they saw him take acts of immaturity to new heights ON the field (like yelling “I got it” while running into 3B, or when he knocked the ball out the glove while running to 1B, in the playoffs no less).
    I’ll let Yankee fans chime in on when it occurred for them, as they are (potentially) the only ones in the baseball world who might still have a shred of respect for his character.
    [Everyone respects his talent, always have, but almost everyone (now) thinks of him as a low-life. And, they’re right.]

  24. ch0psuey - Jan 12, 2014 at 4:47 AM

    Yankee’s didnt care if he juiced if he kept producing. Terrible organization.

  25. ctony1216 - Jan 12, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    A-Rod is still under contract to play 3 more seasons and earn $61+ million. To salvage what’s left of his career and enjoy his remaining years in the game, he might consider a 7-step program: 1. fire his idiot greedy lawyers, 2. drop his lawsuits against the Yankees and their team doctor, 3. drop the appeal of his suspension, 4. admit he took steroids and apologize to baseball fans and the Yankees, 5. get in shape to play in 2015, 6. announce that he’ll donate the bonus money he’ll earn for tying Willie Mays HR total to PED-prevention organizations, and 7. stop taking PEDs (seek AA-type counseling, if necessary).

    A-Rod has made some really bad choices. But his career isn’t over. If he could just stop lying to himself and start making better choices, he might actually enjoy what’s left of it.

    • flatsorter - Jan 13, 2014 at 3:09 AM

      He might do all that, but it’s not time yet. There’s still a small chance he can play in 2014, that’s what matters right now.

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