This is a piece I expect to recycle many times over the next few months (maybe even the next few years?) because, inevitably, Alex Rodriguez will be mentioned again in the future. And each time he is, every little story will be blown out of proportion and someone will have something negative to say. Because that’s how it works – the media so much as mentions Alex Rodriguez, in any way, and people have something negative to say.
Let’s start with stating the obvious – he’s polarizing, and he has been for years. He’s been tied to PEDs multiple times – and even in the absence of a single positive test, he has been suspected over many seasons (maybe his entire career, and maybe even before he was drafted) and was suspended the entire 2014 season. I’m not disputing these points, and I can completely understand why people hate him.
During the suspension, he was relatively quiet. Take a moment and remember that. After the shitstorm that was the suspension appeal, we didn’t hear from him. You could almost forget he even existed during the 2014 season. At the end of the season and when the suspension was officially over, we still heard nothing. No celebration. No declaration of redemption. Quiet.
Sometime over the winter, he posted photos working on the field and in the batting cages – and the comments of how delusional he was followed. Even prior to the Yankees signing Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez is still a professional baseball player and is still on the Yankees roster. It is his job – even if people are pissed about the $20+ million he stands to make this year – to train for the upcoming season and do everything in his ability to earn that money.
Of all the things ever said about Alex Rodriguez, I cannot recall a single time anyone has ever called him lazy. I’ve always heard he works incredibly hard and puts forth his absolute best effort. Be honest – and remember he’s still on the roster whether you like it or not – wouldn’t you rather he have that work ethic? Two things I’m certain of about his performance this season – he will not show up looking like Bartolo Colon, and he will put forth more effort on the field than Manny Ramirez.
As if the reaction to the photos aren’t enough, we hear from “Source” that Alex Rodriguez believes the 3B job is his to lose in spring training – even after the Yankees signed Chase Headley and announced Rodriguez would be primarily used as a DH. “Source” has such fascinating information he/she can’t be mentioned. (Also, pretty sure “Source” works for “Mystery Team”.) Why does this report even cause a reaction? Because it can.
“Source” could be anyone, making up any crap they feel like. Remember, there’s no report of Rodriguez himself (or anyone willing to be named) actually saying he believes the job is his to lose. (He has been quoted saying he’s been working hard and excited to join his team for spring training.) Even if he truly believes he is first in line for 3B – who cares? I doubt many athletes ever made it to the professional level by thinking “I want to be mediocre.” They (or at least most) all set their goals and work their asses off to reach those goals. And then when they do, they set the bar even higher and work some more! Let’s say Rodriguez completely accepts he will be only a DH next season. An injury will happen, and Joe Girardi will get creative moving players around to fill in for the injury. There is a good chance Rodriguez plays in the field somewhere next season. Again, he is a professional and this is his job – it would be foolish to prepare for anything less.
But wait – there’s more! Alex Rodriguez has been working with Barry Bonds! He’s also worked with Edgar Martinez, but that’s not mentioned as much because he’s much less controversial. Rodriguez and Bonds together – two of baseball’s greatest hitters – must have some hidden agenda given their respective PED pasts. They must be kicking puppies and stealing candy from babies between swings! Give me a break!!
Forget the 5,874 hits or 1,416 homeruns between the two of them. They used steroids so they must be evil!
I’ve said before that I do not believe PEDs equals hits. It may turn hits into homeruns, but your average player isn’t going to load up on PEDs and suddenly turn into a superstar. Even if you ignore the homeruns, Rodriguez and Bonds combined have 1,618 more than baseball’s all time hit leader (Pete Rose at 4,256). They are still 33 (Bonds) and 32 (and counting? for Rodriguez) all time. Rodriguez is already a proven hitter, even if his career ended the day he began his suspension. Maybe – just maybe – he’s focusing on hitting a little more with the expectation he may see more time as DH than anything else this season.
The bottom line is no matter what is said about Alex Rodriguez in the weeks leading up to spring training, and then when he arrives in Tampa, someone will have something negative to say. Fans react like every single story is A-Rod making a spectacle of himself again.
Could he have chosen a less controversial player to work with? Sure. He could have sought out help from another great hitter he’s known his entire career – somone like Edgar Martinez. Oh wait…
Aside from that, these are actually positive stories for Yankee fans. Whether you like it or not, Alex Rodriguez is still on the roster for 2015. He is working – as hard as ever, I assume – to be a productive player offensively and defensively. With that, he’s as ready as he can be for anything this season might bring him.
He will never be the player he once was (chemically induced or not) but he’s still part of the team and appears ready to contribute. Even if he plays a limited role on the field, he is still a veteran presence with 20+ years of experience who can lead younger players. (Gold Glovers/All Stars Manny Machado and Robinson Cano have both said they’ve learned from him.) Without a doubt he has made his fair share of mistakes, but he has served his suspension and technically begins this season with a clean slate. It’s time to stop making a mountain out of a molehill, and appreciate the fact that he’s focused on returning and contributing to the team. We cannot erase the past, but, in his own words, we can judge him on this day forward.