I think it’s best if I start this article by saying I’ve always been an Alex Rodriguez fan. Even before he joined the Yankees in 2004, he was one of my favorite players. A-Rod has swagger, style, and he was gifted with unparalleled talent. His ability to almost effortlessly drive balls 400+ feet mesmerized me from an early age. He possessed all five tools and was everything you could have wanted out of a star player.
I know I’ll receive a ton of criticism for praising a man who many have grown to hate over the years. Yes, A-Rod cheated. No, I do not condone his choice to use performance enhancing substances, nor was I okay with the manner in which he handled the situation. But are we seriously going to forget that David Ortiz used steroids? Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, Ortiz was a nobody when he was on the Twins and suddenly become a top player in the league out of nowhere. Yet, everyone seems to give Big Papi a free pass and forget anything happened. With or without steroids, A-Rod was and would have been a top player in the league every season. If you want to hate on A-Rod for using PED’s, be consistent (I’m looking at you, Red Sox fans). Again, while I emphasize I don’t support A-Rod’s decision to use steroids, you have to look at him as a product of a era.
Anyway, let’s get back on track. 22 years is a long time to do anything, let alone compete in a professional sports league. Father time has been knocking on A-Rod’s door for years and he finally let him in. His mobility has declined and he no longer has the bat speed to keep up with a mid-90 mph fastball. In 63 games this season, A-Rod is barely batting above the Mendoza line at .203. Playing for a Yankees team that is looking to get younger, A-Rod became the odd man out. Whether it was pressure from the front office, or his own decision, A-Rod announced in an emotional press conference last week that he would be stepping away from baseball.
In an era that has become infatuated with “farewell tours”, I’m baffled as to why A-Rod has spent a majority of games leading up to his retirement riding the pine. The man has done so much for not only the Yankees’ organization, but for baseball itself. Three MVP awards, 14 all-star selections, and 10 Silver Slugger awards don’t even begin to do justice as to how good A-Rod has been. Not only was he one of the best defensive shortstops in the league before he joined the Yankees, but he also embraced a position change to third base when the organization asked him to. Oh yeah, remember that 2009 World Series championship? That doesn’t happen if A-Rod doesn’t bat .365, drive in 18 RBI’s and hit 6 home runs throughout the playoffs. After all he has done for them, the Yankees owe it to A-Rod to give him a proper send off.
Sure A-Rod has struggled this year, but did Derek Jeter deserve to bat second during his final season? Did Kobe Bryant deserve to continue to chuck up shots during his final season? The answer is no to both. But the treatment that Jeter and Bryant received essentially was a “thank you” for all they have done for their respective sports and teams. A-Rod deserves the same. I get that the Yankees want to start ushering in a new era of home grown talent, but I doubt that Gary Sanchez’s career would be negatively impacted if he had A-Rod play ahead of him for just one measly week.
Probably the most frustrating part of it all has been Joe Girardi’s handling of the situation. The Yankees’ skipper said that Rodriguez would play in every game up until his retirement. Chalk that one up as a lie. And then he goes on to state that his job doesn’t involve orchestrating a farewell tour. Fair enough Joe, then how can you explain how you chose to play Derek Jeter during his final season? I don’t want to come off like I’m picking on Jeter because I’m absolutely not; I’m as big of a DJ fan as you’ll find. But Jeter had no business playing shortstop and batting second during his farewell tour.
I know people will disagree with me, but you have to look at things from my perspective–being a Yankee and Alex Rodriguez fan my whole life. I’m forced to watch everyone pay homage this season to David Ortiz, while A-Rod, arguably one of the best players to ever grace baseball, is getting swept into a closet. It’s frustrating. All I can hope for now is that another team gives Rodriguez a chance next season, and let him continue his quest for 700 home runs.