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 11, 2014, 6:55 AM EDT
The scoreless streak is over for Clayton Kershaw, but the dominance remains.
Jul 11, 2014, 12:02 AM EDT
Kershaw’s streak is the third longest since 1990.
Jul 10, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Grady Sizemore was released by the Red Sox last month, but he’s getting another chance with the Phillies.
Jul 10, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
The original plan called for Cubs prospect Arismendy Alcantara to get a cup of coffee in the big leagues for a couple of days while Darwin Barney was away on paternity leave, but his big game against the Reds this afternoon has changed things.
Jul 10, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT
The diagnosis is in on Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and it’s not particularly promising.
Jul 10, 2014, 9:05 PM EDT
Derek Jeter’s farewell tour continued this evening at Progressive Field in Cleveland and the Yankee captain walked away with some pretty cool gifts.
Jul 10, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Marco Estrada was scheduled to start Saturday, but he’s been terrible all season while serving up an NL-high 27 homers in 18 starts.
Jul 10, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT
Carl Crawford was the Dodgers’ primary left fielder prior to landing on the disabled list in late May with a left ankle sprain, but now he’s a really expensive bench player.
Jul 10, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
The field for next week’s Home Run Derby is officially in place.
Jul 10, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT
The Cardinals and Reds were both dealt some tough blows on the injury front today, but the Brewers are doing their part to let them hang around in the National League Central.
Jul 10, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon is out for the All-Star game because of a wrist injury, so MLB has named Angels shortstop Erick Aybar as his replacement on the American League roster.
Jul 10, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
Viva democracy. Especially Chicago-style democracy.
Jul 10, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Wilson failed to make it out of the fourth inning yesterday and hasn’t made it past five innings since June 19, allowing 22 runs in 16.2 innings during that span.
Jul 10, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Hardly anyone throws it anymore. Why?
Jul 10, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn repeatedly expressed confidence in his ability to get No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon signed despite the North Carolina State left-hander being a Scott Boras client and sure enough the two sides have reached an agreement.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT
A tough, tough break for the Cardinals and Yadier Molina.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:48 PM EDT
Carlos Beltran was scratched from the Yankees’ lineup last night when a ball he hit during batting practice bounced off the screen protecting the pitcher and struck his eye. And now he’s been diagnosed with two facial fractures, but they’ve been classified as “small” and the Yankees think he’ll avoid the disabled list.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Cincinnati’s injury woes keep getting worse, as Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips will be “out a while” with a ligament issue and possible tear in his left thumb.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Braun has hit exclusively second (37 times) or third (32 times) in the lineup this season and has a grand total of just three career starts in the fifth spot, all of them coming 2008.
Jul 10, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
It’s a magical realism thing: features a coach putting Jeter at second base.
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 0
- Masahiro Tanaka diagnosed with partially-torn UCL in elbow 64
- Yadier Molina to miss 8-12 weeks with a torn thumb ligament 30
- Carlos Beltran placed on concussion disabled list after batting practice mishap 16
- Derek Jeter is the most popular MLB jersey this year 16
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 52
- The Rockies “aren’t looking around very hard” for a trade of star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki 29
- Jury finds the Dodgers partially negligent, awards $18 million to Bryan Stow 48
- Shocker: the Red Sox publicly criticize A.J. Pierzynski after cutting him (188)
- John Lackey on Nelson Cruz: “Not even going to comment … I’ve got nothing to say about him” (143)
- The 2014 All-Star rosters have been announced (103)
- Giants broadcaster says Angel Hernandez “does not belong in the big leagues” (101)
- David Ortiz is not pleased that his name got pulled into the John Lackey-Nelson Cruz thing (99)