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 30, 2014, 11:19 PM EDT
From FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi comes word that the Marlins and White Sox “have discussed a possible trade” involving left-handed starter John Danks.
Jul 30, 2014, 10:02 PM EDT
Dan Uggla’s stay with the Giants lasted nine days. MLB.com’s Chris Haft reports that San Francisco has released the veteran second baseman, who went 0-for-11 with a walk and six strikeouts in four games after being called up from Triple-A Fresno on July 25.
Jul 30, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
Albert Pujols can barely move these days and for some reason went with a pop-up slide into first base, but this throw on Wednesday night from Manny Machado was still fantastic …
Jul 30, 2014, 8:22 PM EDT
Derek Jeter’s farewell tour continued Wednesday night at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas with another set of retirement gifts.
Jul 30, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Blue Jays are targeting Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera — who is known to be available — and would ask him to play second base.
Jul 30, 2014, 6:49 PM EDT
Oscar Taveras has been mentioned as a possible centerpiece in trade talks this week for top-tier starting pitchers like David Price and Jon Lester, but if Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak is to be believed that was all speculation from the outside.
Jul 30, 2014, 6:13 PM EDT
The 44-64 Astros could jump into this seller-friendly market before Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Houston is “looking to move” first baseman and designated hitter Chris Carter.
Jul 30, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT
Now that it’s clear he can’t ramp up for 2014, the Mets have cleared Matt Harvey to throw.
Jul 30, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
White Sox reliever Nate Jones has been on the disabled list with a back injury since the first week of the season, but now he’s got an even bigger problem.
Jul 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
It’s been a rumor for a good while, but now it’s going where rumors go when they die.
Jul 30, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
The very essence of the trade deadline just played out on Twitter
Jul 30, 2014, 3:51 PM EDT
Injuries derailed what was a very promising career for Chavez while with the A’s, but he bounced back and got healthy enough to thrive in part-time roles for the Yankees and Diamondbacks.
Jul 30, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT
Felix Doubront made it clear that he wanted the Red Sox to either put him back into the starting rotation or trade him, and then he went out and had a terrible relief appearance that many took to mean he was trying to push a trade.
Jul 30, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
A few minutes ago we thought this man could soon be a Fish. Now it seems unlikely. HAPPY TRADE DEADLINE!
Jul 30, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
Zeid pitched well for the Astros as a 26-year-old rookie last season, but struggled mightily this season with a 6.97 ERA in 23 appearances.
Jul 30, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT
They’ve been rumored to be in on all the big names, but now it sounds as if they’re out.
Jul 30, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT
Cleveland turned down Justin Masterson’s attempted contract extension offer back in spring training–balking at what seemed to be reasonable terms at the time–and now the Indians are trading the impending free agent to the Cardinals, according to Peter Gammons of MLB.com.
Jul 30, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
And no mention of Lester because I legit thought he’d get traded in between the time we taped this and the time it went live.
Jul 30, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy would probably already be in the majors to stay if not for blowing out his elbow last season, but now the former No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball is struggling while rehabbing in the minors.
Jul 30, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
But the Padres may be playing hard to get.
- Cardinals acquire Justin Masterson from Indians 48
- There’s a “very good chance” the Red Sox trade Lackey and Lester 51
- Hey, Rube: Phillies pay dearly for Amaro’s misguided loyalty 85
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 57
- Dodgers announce Vin Scully will return for 2015 season 52
- Jon Lester scratched Wednesday amid trade speculation 38
- Rays are “talking and willing” to trade ace lefty David Price; Cardinals and Dodgers interested 41
- Phillies wanted Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias from Dodgers for Cole Hamels 96
- Expert’s Corner: How to troll fans of all 30 teams (201)
- “Caucasians” t-shirts are hot sellers on Canadian Indian reservations (199)
- Must-click link: sexual depravity — and possibly rape — in the minor leagues (105)
- The Nationals and Orioles dispute over TV money is about to explode (104)
- Phillies wanted Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias from Dodgers for Cole Hamels (96)