The glory years, the “Core Four”, the Captain, the Rocket. All positive ideas that help people reminisce about the Yankees of old. Then came the big trade. The one that sent Alfonso Soriano to Texas in exchange for Alex Rodriguez. In 2004, Alex Rodriguez donned the pinstripes, and Yankees baseball hasn’t been quite the same since.
The Yankees are the superpower team of Major League Baseball. Their interlocking “NY” is more recognizable across the world than Mickey Mouse in some countries. George Steinbrenner was the man responsible for creating the free agency market that it has become today. Much of that was highlighted with A-Rod.
It was fun to watch Rodriguez at first. Sure, his post-season numbers were a little sketchy, but the bombs he launched as a Yankee were fantastic. It really started to go sour after the 2006 playoffs, when Alex Rodriguez was rumored to opt out of his contract. As a Yankees fan at the time, it was hard not to think the Yankees should let him walk away. Who needs such a greedy guy like that? Certainly there are other third basemen who could do the job just as sufficiently. What did the Yankees do? The bowed down the Alex Rodriguez and worked out a new deal with him; a deal that will not play out the way the Yankees had hoped it would when they made the deal. As of August 12, Alex Rodriguez will no longer be a member of the Yankees on-field team. Instead, he will take a special supervisor role, mentoring young kids coming up through the system.
Around the time Rodriguez opted out of that original deal with the Yankees, it then became really difficult to cheer for him or like him. When he tried to fight Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox in 2004, the whole scenario felt very fake, and very forced. It didn’t help that the Red Sox would later go on to win their first World Series in over 80 years that year, and all the Yankees fans had footage of to remember the season was Rodriguez cheap-shotting Varitek.
If you’re a fan of a team, do you need to really like every player? It would be fun to watch the carousel of free agents come in and out of New York; Gary Sheffield, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Pudge Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, etc. But regardless of the team that was put on the field, it was always really easy to boo for Alex Rodriguez.
And then there was the steroid scandal. It was hard to really get behind A-Rod before he admitted to steroids. Once he did conduct that interview with Peter Gammons, any chance of liking that guy went straight out the window. At that point, it felt like watching Alex Rodriguez earn a paycheck playing baseball was the equivalent of watching somebody rob a bank. He already felt like a fraud from the get-go, but to see him keep playing after admitting to the steroid use, that was the icing on the cake.
The Yankees are an organization that tries to put players on the field who will demonstrate pride in putting on the pinstripes. Alex Rodriguez, on the other hand, acted as if he was bigger than the Yankees. If there was a managerial issue, or a disagreement between his agent and Brian Cashman, or any other matters that should have remained “in house”, A-Rod spilled the beans to the media, portraying himself as a martyr.
As Alex Rodriguez prepares to play his final game next week, it’s hard to think anything other than “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”. The Yankees had given Alex Rodriguez more chances than he deserved, and as he takes on a role of special advisor, one can only hope that his pupils take in everything he has to say with a grain of salt. Alex Rodriguez claimed in his press conference that he plans of teaching the up-and-coming players based on both his positive experiences, as well as the negative. Hopefully when he discusses those negative issues, he reminds the younger generation that all of those mistakes he made, he brought on to himself.
With A-Rod being gone, as a fan, it will be easy to cheer for the entire starting nine, and no longer feel like there is a cancer eating away at the Yankees organization.