When the news broke Saturday afternoon that the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriguez were holding a news conference at 11 AM Sunday morning, speculation began to swirl as to what exactly could it be about. However, thoughts of what the purpose of the news conference is became increasingly clear.
Alex Rodriguez announced Sunday morning that he will play his last major league game on Friday August 12th against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, ending what has been a lengthy career that has been clouded with controversy, drama and accomplishments. As the press conference progressed, many thoughts and questions began to surface as into how will Rodriguez’s career will be ultimately remembered.
This is where things become complicated; very complicated. It is difficult for one to sit back and look at his career with such celebration when he has admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs. It is difficult to celebrate his career when he went above and beyond to nearly throwing the MLB Players Association, Yankees ownership and brass, and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig under the bus for his involvement in the biogenesis scandal in 2013.
To understand why it is difficult on a day when Alex Rodriguez announces his retirement from playing Major League Baseball to celebrate his career, you have first reflect on his career prior to 2009.
Reflect on when his playing days with the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers, the type of player that Rodriguez was at the time.
He was unquestionably the premiere power-hitting shortstop in baseball and that he was looked as the man who was truly the best shortstop whom one day could become the all-time home run king at the shortstop position. Rodriguez was truly one of the most gifted players who was highly recruited coming out of high school. It was during these years in which the steroid era was rampant throughout baseball and no one thought that Rodriguez was or would ever need to take PEDs.
Rodriguez was looked at with such innocence especially in the late 90s-early 2000s that even when steroid usage clouded and shrouded some of the game’s biggest and brightest stars, Rodriguez was looked at as one of the good guys in the game.
When Rodriguez arrived in New York to play for the Yankees in February 2004, after being traded by the Texas Rangers in exchange for Alfonso Soriano, it seemed as if his own personal image was going to skyrocket being in the Big Apple playing for the most successful franchise in all of sports.
However, the first five seasons in the Bronx provided a mix bag of results in a market fueled by huge expectations. Although Rodriguez won the American League MVP in 2005 and 2007 with the Yankees, it was not enough as he was the center of harsh criticism by both the fans and the media of his inability to perform in the postseason. Then something happened in the winter of 2008-2009 that forever changed everything from how he was perceived to his image.
Lets reflect on February of 2009. Alex Rodriguez comes out an admit that he used PEDs while with the Texas Rangers in an interview with Baseball Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons. Rodriguez explained that he was “naïve” and he felt pressure from that contract he signed with the Texas Rangers (10-years, $252 million dollars) to live up to the contract. It was during that interview and subsequently the coverage of that breaking news story that all respect for Rodriguez and what he has accomplished has now been destroyed and lost.
There is also something extremely important that must be pointed out. The New York Yankees do not win the 2009 World Series without the historic October performance that Rodriguez has. Rodriguez single handedly was a major reason why the Yankees got to the World Series and his contributions in that World Series helped the Yankees win their 27th World Championship.
Even with what Rodriguez accomplished in October of 2009 and moving forward, it became very difficult to look at what he did with the same respect and reverence that once was. From his milestone homeruns to his 3,000th hit, Rodriguez will now and forever have an asterisk next to all of what he accomplished. It really is a shame because once upon a time, there was an immense amount of respect for Rodriguez and all that he has accomplish on the baseball diamond.
So on a day that Rodriguez announces that this is the very end of his baseball journey, there is no doubt that Rodriguez leaves behind quite a legacy. The legacy that he leaves behind however is one that will forever have doubt, asterisks, and even eyes of disdain for the simple fact he cheated the very game that he claimed to “love so much”.
The question that will forever always remain is this: With all of the talent that Rodriguez have, why did he need to take PEDs, tarnish his reputation, and destroy any credibility and legitimacy of his numbers and accomplishments throughout his career?
None of us will ever truly know.
The legacy that Rodriguez leaves behind is in fact historic. Historic and controversial for all the wrong reasons.