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At first glance, it’s pretty easy to have a short and simple reaction to Alex Rodriguez’s retirement announcement yesterday. Cheater. Good riddance. Never going into the Hall. And on 2/3 of those reactions, you just may be right.
But me? I’m going to miss A-Rod. Maybe not this shell of a ballplayer that’s stepping into the box once a week that he’s devolved into, but the guy who, for about fourteen years, was a top three player in baseball. Fourteen years is a god damn lifetime in professional sports. I’ll miss the guy who provided an elite villain for over a decade, because every sport needs a villain. And I’ll miss the guy who, for all of his faults and missteps, was an absolute baseball treasure from the day he broke into the show, for better or worse, and a deserving Hall of Famer.
Now anyone whose head is currently screaming “STEROIDS!” I get it. Yeah, A-Rod did his share of juicing and got popped for it. Shitty move that tarnishes the game and some of his accomplishments? Probably, yeah. But in my opinion, baseball is all about what is relative to the era a guy played in.
A-Rod juiced, but the past quarter century has been littered with guys dabbling in a little extra performance enhancement. If you’ve rooted for a team in the past twenty years then you’ve definitely been pulling for a guy who’s getting some sort of artificial edge. Of all the players in that era, clean or not-so-clean, A-Rod stood head and shoulders over 99% of them. Love him or hate him, my man put up numbers that no one was matching, all while playing exceptional defense.
The dude’s Baseball Reference page looks like a fucking video game. There’s only a handful of guys who can even sniff the statistical run that guy made, so don’t give me any shit about how steroids make the player. You guys ever heard of Ozzie Canseco, Jose’s identical twin and identically juiced up brother? Exactly.
But maybe it’s not just that. Maybe you don’t like him because he comes off as a whiner. That’s fair. Or that his contract was a god damn monstrosity. Also fair. Or these pictures:
It’s a lengthy list — slapping the ball out of Arroyo’s glove, postseason choking (because everyone forgets him being the cog on the ’09 WS team), etc.
I’m not going to say it’s all undeserved, but it’s a little harsh to say the least. Those narratives gloss over admirable things about A-Rod. You’ve seen the replay of him bitch-slapping the ball out of Arroyo’s glove 25,000 times, but you don’t see the 300 hacks he took in the cage that morning, as the guy was notorious for out-working all of baseball. You hear a ton about his doping, but very little about how generous the guy is with his time and money on his minor league rehab trips.
Not to mention that fresh off winning back-to-back Gold Gloves he chose to defer short-stop to an inferior defender in Derek Jeter (yes I said it) for the good of the team. Yeah, don’t forget about good guy and team player A-Rod.
So just like your favorite college town strip club, A-Rod wasn’t perfect, but he sure was special while we got to experience him. In 2021, his name is going to come up for Hall of Fame voting, and if recent history is continued, he’s not going to get in. And that’s a damn shame.
The Hall is a celebration of baseball history, not a revision. Every era had their own special performance enhancers. Pre-1947 players didn’t play in integrated games. Hey, white people, how much easier is that pickup game at the local YMCA when it’s all white guys? Thought so. As for the four to five decades after, anytime you see highlights just lean back in your chair and smile thinking about how amphetamine’d out 90 percent of the players on the field were. 1980s baseball games mirror a college library during finals week.
Even the Hall itself is littered with questionable personalities. Ty Cobb and Cap Anson were so racist that they’d root for Leonardo Dicaprio’s squad in Django Unchained. They set the game back in terms of integration, but the numbers don’t lie, so there they are. I don’t care if you have to put a massive asterisk on A-Rod’s plaque; if those klansmen are enshrined, so should A-Rod, Clemens, Bonds, etc.
One day I’m going to be watching some old A-Rod highlights and my son will ask me, “Dad, who’s that?”
I’ll respond, “That’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen. He just did some dickish things from time to time.”.
Image via YouTube