It’s been a rough go around for Alex Rodriguez, to say the least. Perhaps there has never been a bigger roller coaster through a single career than the one he’s rode over the last 19 years. It’s seen him go from one of the greatest prodigies in the game’s history, to its best (and most hated) superstar and now to a pariah that’s on the verge of being swept from the game completely.
With his second substance abuse scandal looming, the Yankees are actually looking for legal ways to cut ties with the man. This sets a new low for what is quickly becoming the most scandalous career in baseball history. And in reality, A-Rod has asked for everything that’s finding him.
The path of A-Rod’s fall from grace has been severe. Ever since being implicated in the Mitchell Report, and later admitting his involvement directly, he’s been, at best, on the skeptical list of performers. The tactics he employed at the top of the game have ushered him quickly towards the bottom. The two contracts worth more than a half-billion dollars put him on a pedestal above all others, and it’s easy to take shots at someone so wide open. The point of it all: In today’s game, if you receive high value, you deliver at a high level, without relent. And nobody has succeeded, and failed, at the extremes of principle of this rule more often than A-Rod has.
It would be alright if he did this the way that Albert Pujols did, for example. Pujols hit the open market as the best player in the world, looking to be paid accordingly. Most importantly, he reach that point and made those demands clean, without the tarnish of a reputation that was aided and abetted by steroid usage. So when he struggled last season individually and ultimately didn’t lead the Angels back to the playoffs, while the team he left behind finished one game from returning to the World Series, there was no massive backlash at him for “stealing money.” He’s got another chance and a good name still.
There will be no such penance for A-Rod. He made the largest demand, under the brightest lights in baseball, and failed to live up to them. Even at the height of his powers in New York, when he won two MVPs in three years, there was always a shadow lurking that was bigger than the man that made it. When you’re a Yankee, every game is truly a big game, but it just makes the biggest stages than much wider — and the stage lights like the sun. Under the brightest lights of the fall, he has failed to live up to the expectations he demanded. The .111 batting average over the last two postseasons, the career .250 average in World Series play make all of those things are voided, just via on-field merits alone. I mean come on, you’re playing next to Derek Jeter for Christ’s sake.
But history has shown, it’s possible to come back from that. If he had another 2009, where he hit over .360 in October and led the Yankees to their only World Series during his tenure (another major point of contention), he could have resurrected himself. Reggie Jackson (a man that was driven away from the Yankees for calling out A-Rod just last spring) has proven that an effective but unapologetic run in New York won’t shun you from the ranks of pinstripe legend.
But Rodriguez has pushed the envelope too far. Being unapologetic in your play is one thing, but false generosity is the lowest road you can go, especially when you initiate it. After the original reports of his substance abuse came out in 2009, he apologized in what was seen as a sincere manner. He moved on, played ball and even gained some potential sentiment of forgiveness for coming forward.
But with the new findings of his association with the Florida PED clinic, it’s the last nail in his coffin. It’s the most blatant slap in the face of them all, because the timeline of the events says that he never truly stopped using. He ended the 2009 season and went right back to the drugs the next winter. There is no safe haven from that type of self-righteous disregard.
The cry for morality in baseball right now is overstated, but calls for self-accountability are never out of place. Outside of just the crunch of public opinion, which forms so much of what legend really is, he’s become a burden of association. A baseball poltergeist … and this is the most public, but necessary, exorcism of all-time that has to take place.
It’s time for baseball to let a radical point be made. Issuing the standard 50-game suspension won’t do anything here; he’ll most likely not be healthy to play 50 games in 2013 anyway. However, he will be healthy enough to collect those healthy checks. Hopefully the Yankees will find a way to get out from underneath the over $100 million they still owe him. Knock baseball’s archangel from grace, and make an absolute statement that nobody will ever be bigger than the game, or his word.