Barring a cataclysmic collapse, the New York Yankees will advance to the postseason for the first time since 2012. Embattled slugger Alex Rodriguez has been a major contributor to the Yankees’ success. While A-Rod’s batting average is sub-par, his 32 home runs rank 10th best in the American League in 2015. Rodriguez provides power for a Yankees offense that only has two other true sluggers in catcher Brian McCann and now-injured first baseman Mark Teixeira. Despite his great performance this year, most baseball fans harbor a great deal of animosity toward the former MVP.
Back in 2003, Alex Rodriguez was the top commodity in the baseball world. His abilities extended far past his sweet swing that made hitting 400-foot bombs look simple, including his Gold Glove defense and above-average speed. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees haggled with the Texas Rangers in an effort to acquire this premier player in a trade. He ultimately ended up with the Yankees due to the financial constraints the Red Sox would have been burdened with had they taken on Rodriguez’s salary.
New York’s constant scrutiny of its athletes possibly resulted in the deterioration of Rodriguez’s career. Surrounded by a lineup of great hitters, fans expected him to thrive. At the beginning of Rodriguez’s tenure with the Yankees, the former Ranger shifted to third base to allow the Yankee captain and one of his good friends, Derek Jeter, to remain at shortstop. The honeymoon period only lasted a few months as Rodriguez struggled to hit in the playoffs and the team had a historic collapse against the Boston Red Sox.
As time passed, Rodriguez and Jeter’s friendship fell apart. Rumors about Alex Rodriguez’s steroid use caused the third baseman to become more abrasive toward the media, and he infamously denied the use of any drugs in an interview with Katie Couric. On top of all this, Rodriguez’s playoff woes continued, drawing the ire of the New York media. Prior to the start of the 2009 season, a steroid test which was supposed to be sealed by the government was somehow leaked, and Rodriguez’s positive test results were revealed. At this point, Rodriguez came clean, admitting to steroid use between 2001 and 2003. Not even the 2009 World Series title alleviated the constant criticism Rodriguez received. Rodriguez began to shrink away from the public, becoming a more polarizing figure.
When the Biogenesis scandal broke in 2013, Rodriguez’s name was linked to steroid use once again. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun tested positive once, blamed the handling of his test as the reason for his result, and was then linked to the scandal. Despite all this Braun only received a 65-game suspension. Former Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig brought the hammer down on Alex Rodriguez. Although he never tested positive for an MLB test, Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games. The suspension was reduced to 162 games on appeal. Selig’s rationale for the harsh punishment was that Rodriguez tried to conspire with the other culpable players to attempt to conceal their guilt, further damaging his reputation.
That brings us to today. Alex Rodriguez is one of the most despised players in his sport yet he remains one of the better players in baseball. Every game, he hears the boos and the chants from the fans, but he keeps chugging along, producing home runs at least once every five games. Rodriguez’s career in the Big Apple has had a sad trajectory, as he has endured a meteoric fall from grace. As much as one might disagree with Rodriguez’s action, it is hard not to wonder what psychological toll the past six years has had on Rodriguez. The nature of how he approaches the game has become almost robotic.
If the Yankees make the playoffs, all eyes will be on A-Rod with Jeter no longer in the picture. The acrimonious atmosphere that envelopes Rodriguez’s life will once again be in the limelight, whether he wants it or not.
Nick Barton is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. More Than a Game appears every other Tuesday.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.