Jan 11, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
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 strippers, pop 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]
Jul 31, 2015, 11:55 PM EDT
John Axford has allowed runs in five consecutive appearances, blowing four saves. He’s out as the Rockies’ closer for now.
Jul 31, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT
Wilmer Flores: your feel-good story of the year.
Jul 31, 2015, 11:20 PM EDT
The Orioles designated struggling Orioles pitcher Bud Norris for assignment to make room for new outfielder Gerardo Parra on Friday.
Jul 31, 2015, 10:52 PM EDT
Starling Marte’s defense prevented Mark Melancon from blowing a save and potentially taking a loss.
Jul 31, 2015, 10:35 PM EDT
The Angels lose C.J. Wilson to an injury but are expected to get Jered Weaver back.
Jul 31, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT
It don’t matter if he’s left or right.
Jul 31, 2015, 9:53 PM EDT
Madison Bumgarner was upset Delino DeShields was upset.
Jul 31, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT
The Giants placed Tim Hudson on the disabled list, which created room on the roster for incoming pitcher Mike Leake.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:55 PM EDT
A.J. Burnett hits the DL with an elbow issue. Recently-acquired pitcher J.A. Happ will take his spot in the rotation.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:28 PM EDT
Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart laughed when he recalled the Padres asking for Paul Goldschmidt in return in a potential trade involving Craig Kimbrel.
Jul 31, 2015, 7:49 PM EDT
Kendrys Morales is more nimble than we give him credit for being.
Jul 31, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT
Yankees pitching prospect Luis Severino will make his major league debut within the next week.
Jul 31, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT
Clayton Kershaw has been scratched from a start yet again due to a hip problem.
Jul 31, 2015, 5:37 PM EDT
Yes, I realize it’s silly to do this an hour after the trade deadline, as time is required to see how this stuff truly shakes out. But what is the Internet for if not kneejerk reactions?
Jul 31, 2015, 4:33 PM EDT
J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton, reunited.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
He was DFA’d by the Dodgers as soon as they got him but he may platoon at 1B for Pittsburgh.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
People thought they’d make four or five trades. They ended up doing nothing.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT
We’re recapping all of the deals as they come down.
Jul 31, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT
Bullpen help for Chicago.
Jul 31, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT
The Mets add a big bat to their anemic offense. And they don’t have to part with Zack Wheeler to do it.
- The benches cleared in Friday’s Giants-Rangers game 141
- The Winners and Losers at the Trade Deadline 66
- 2015 MLB Trade Deadline Tracker 11
- Report: Yoenis Cespedes heading to the New York Mets 36
- The Blue Jays pick up Ben Revere from the Phillies 65
- Cubs trade for Dan Haren 28
- Cardinals add more bullpen help, get Jonathan Broxton from Brewers 13
- Orioles trade for Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra 19
- The benches cleared in Friday’s Giants-Rangers game (148)
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers (112)
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies (106)
- Royals make another big move, get Ben Zobrist from A’s (95)
- Report: Rockies trade Troy Tulowitzki to Blue Jays for Jose Reyes and prospects (90)