Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, August 8, 2016


As he approaches the end of his career, I'm torn when it comes to Alex Rodriguez. At 41, he's a shell of the player he once was. And he was one hell of a slugger. However, every athlete whose shine has faded will attest that time will eventually get you out. Batting .204 doesn't strike fear in anyone.

Like many talented players before him attached to steroid use, you can't help but shake your head at the waste and recklessness expended in trying to go beyond great.

Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young -- that crowd -- is who they are because they didn't circumvent the path to baseball immortality. 

A-Rod had Hall of Fame potential without any supplemental assistance. The 1996 season saw him fully inserted at 20 years old into the Seattle Mariners lineup, which already had a darn good every day player in Ken Griffey, Jr. It didn't take A-Rod long to serve notice that something special had arrived. The numbers were eye popping for a lanky, 6'-3" kid playing shortstop. His .358 batting average, 54 doubles and 141 runs scored led the American League. Add to that 36 home runs, 126 RBI and 215 hits -- the latter being the highest single season total of his career. It was a 
no-brainer that Rodriguez was an All-Star selection, and yet, he finished second to Juan Gonzalez of Texas as league MVP.

The awe inspiring talent continued to grow in Seattle until December 11, 2000. A free agent, A-Rod had everyone holding onto their seats as the Texas Rangers triggered a 10-year, $252 million earthquake of a contract. At the time, it represented the most lucrative deal in sports history. When you shift the salary curve to that extreme, you'd better perform like the Incredible Hulk in a constant state of anger.

The charming, bilingual graceful performer with Madison Avenue looks did the unexpected. For three seasons he put up numbers in Texas that threatened to make a mockery of the game: 52 HRs, 135 RBI the first year; 57 HRs, 142 RBI the following season and finally 47 HRs, 118 RBI.

For all of A-Rod's individual amazement, the Rangers never finished above .500 and never smelled the post-season. The reason was simple. They didn't have enough money to fill out the roster with quality players because one guy was getting paid so much.

So coming off his first MVP award season and plenty of shelf life left, there was no shortage of potential trade partners but only two proved to be real contenders.  That they were bitter rivals only drove the price higher. A deal was in place to send Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox, but the contract took a funny bounce in that the MLB Players Association stepped in and ruled the slugger couldn't take a voluntary reduction in salary. I guess once you're at the top, there are no discounts, not even for the sake of winning.

Enter the bank of baseball, the New York Yankees. An organization consumed with winning no matter the cost. A franchise who's motto could easily have been we make the rich richer and the hyped, well, you haven't seen nothin' yet. The Rangers were elated to get what they got, Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. The Rangers even foot the bill for $67 million of the $179 million left on A-Rod's contract. What a bargain!

In his previous stops, tradition wasn't a boss, but being a member of the Yankees means embracing folklore. One such aging legend was still active and held down the position of shortstop. It was made clear that A-Rod would not be supplanting The Captain, Derek Jeter. There was, however, a need at third base. A-Rod had also worn No. 3 his entire career. Not anymore. That had been Babe Ruth's number and he was now in the house that Ruth built. Rodriquez instead tried his luck with No. 13.

After a season of adjustment and pedestrian numbers by A-Rod's standards, he returned to form in 2005 leading the league with 48 HRs, a .610 slugging percentage, and 124 runs scored. And then, there was the 2007 season. Amazing, even for a Yankee. Rodriguez belted out a league pacing 54 HRs, 156 RBI, 143 runs scored and a blistering .645 slugging percentage, the best of his career. Those numbers paved the way for a new 10 year, $275 million contract. 

The bright lights were now high beams in the Big Apple and they revealed a much larger issue.  What had been quiet speculation in locker rooms and press boxes around the league began to seep out.

Whispers... Whispers... Whispers... 

Was A-Rod using PEDs? Had he joined Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens -- that suspected crowd.

Denying such use on 60 Minutes in 2007, two years later saw A-Rod admit he did in fact, start using PEDs when he joined the Texas Rangers. His excuse was he felt the pressure of having to live up to his enormous contract. 

There's no doubt A-Rod had tremendous talent and more than likely was destined for a Hall of Fame career based solely on the talent that propelled him to a major league career. Three time AL MVP, 696 career home runs, 14 All-Star team appearances. An illustrious career without question. The Yankees aren't cutting ties with A-Rod. He'll stay on as a team ambassador, instructor and special advisor to owner Hal Steinbrenner. You just don't part ways with a guy that's owed $40 million. 

The true measure of greatness though as seen in baseball circles may forever elude Rodriguez. It should be interesting in the years ahead, especially considering there are no short cuts to the Hall of Fame.

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