These are bizarre times for baseball. Can anything be more sad than the recent revelation that Alex Rodriguez took steroids during a three-year period while playing for the Texas Rangers?
If there was one player believed to be so naturally gifted, that he was above needing performance-enhancing drugs, it was A-Rod – a three-time Most Valuable Player.
The news that Rodriguez used steroids was reported in SI.com, and he later admitted as much to ESPN’s Peter Gammons. This was very troubling.
After signing a record 10-year, $252-million deal after the 2000 season, A-Rod said he felt the need to be great, and not merely good.
If someone like Rodriguez – the New York Yankees’ third baseman was tempted to take steroids – then everyone should be suspected.
In the five years A-Rod has spent in pinstripes, he has slugged 208 homers, driven in 616 runs, and scored 596 runs, but the club has failed to advance to the World Series, even with the fattest payroll.
At the plate, A-Rod’s playoff run with the Yankees has been shoddy, having hit .258 in 2004 against Boston in the American League Championship Series, followed by .133 in 2005 against the Angels in the AL Divisional Series, .071 in 2006 against Detroit in the ALDS, and .267 in 2007 against Cleveland in the ALDS.
Over that span, A-Rod has three homers, six RBIs, with 21 strikeouts, 12 walks, and the Yanks are 7-13.
In essence, Rodriguez has been what Joe Torre – his former manager and current Dodgers’ skipper – has said, “He’s a lightning rod.”
So far, this has been true, whether it’s failing in the playoffs, his failed marriage, or his time dating singer Madonna.
Then again, he’s playing for the circus known as the Yankees in the largest city, where everything is documented and dissected. From the six major dailies, talk radio and the Internet, A-Rod is the perfect fodder.
It wasn’t this way when Rodriguez was the first overall pick in the 1993 amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners.
His seven-year stay, beginning in 1994 was idyllic, where he seemed at peace, was regarded as the best shortstop in baseball, and in time would be called the best overall player in the game.
In Seattle, A-Rod drove in 100 or more runs four times, and on three occasions crushed 40 or more homers. The numbers were eye-popping, but the club was only average.
When A-Rod inked the deal with the Rangers, some questioned his motivation. Was it money and statistics-driven, or the need to win a championship ring?
Like the incomparable Red Sox slugger decades before, word spread that A-Rod merely cared about himself, and wasn’t interested in the team.
In Rodriguez’s third season in Texas, he earned his first MVP after clouting 47 homers, driving in 118 runs, scoring 124 runs, and batting .298.
But then he wanted to be traded, and eventually was shipped to New York for second baseman Alfonso Soriano.
Maybe there are days when A-Rod wishes he could go back in time when matters were simpler, and he didn’t have the weight of the world on his wide shoulders.
Should we feel sorry for A-Rod? No, but despite the money and fame, it can’t be easy being him.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.