By Richard Cuicchi | July 28, 2013 at 09:03 PM EDT | 1 comment
Once at the height of Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez has fallen to the depths of “we can’t get him out of baseball fast enough.” What a shame! How could he let this happen? Was he naïve? Was he stupid? Did his ego get the best of him? Did he get bad advice? Was he seeking perfection? All of these questions come to mind as we await the impending disclosure of his involvement in the Miami Biogenesis Clinic case and how Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees will correspondingly react.
I guess I’m mostly disappointed in Rodriguez--disappointed that he did not use better judgment. He had the talent to play in the majors at age 19. Not many players accomplished that. He was personable, and good-looking. He was on the wall poster of a lot of kids’ rooms. He was on the cover of all the major baseball magazines and appeared on countless baseball cards. He had star appeal from the outset of his career. He was going to be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He was “A-Rod.” How could he throw that all away by getting involved with performance enhancing drugs? It makes you wonder if it ever crossed his mind that he would be risking his fabulous career.
In Selena Robert’s 2009 biography of Rodriguez, A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, it was conveyed that A-Rod was very driven by the image he wanted to project to the media and fans. He was especially cognizant of how he compared to Yankee teammate Derek Jeter. After all, A-Rod had to change to the third base position for the Yankees in deference to shortstop Jeter. Jeter was the face of the Yankees franchise, and ARod coveted that role. Furthermore, A-Rod wanted to be an icon like the legendary Joe DiMaggio.
In many respects, his pursuit of advancing his image may have accounted for his involvement with PEDs. He wanted to be the best. It is likely that, had he not used PEDs, his offensive numbers would not have been as high, but they still would have put him in the company of the all-time best players of MLB. Even when it appeared A-Rod’s skills might be declining in 2009-2010, as compared to the standards he set early in his career, he was still one of the most productive hitters in the game. What is so bad about hitting 500 home runs versus 650 home runs?
A story broke in Sports Illustrated in February 2009 that A-Rod had used steroids in 2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers. Before the 2009 season he came clean on national TV by admitting to using steroids early in his career at Texas. His explanation was that he was “young and stupid.” His confession came at a time when public admission (specifically that of David Ortiz, Jason Giambi, and Andy Pettitte) was generally viewed as absolution for baseball’s mortal sin of using PEDs. A-Rod anticipated his image would inevitably be restored. However, he was being called “A-Roid” and “A-Fraud.” Were we somehow supposed to feel sorry for him? Even after this admission, he apparently continued to take PEDS that were more difficult to detect through normal drug testing.
Did his professional associates and medical advisors convince him he would never get caught? Was he so driven to be the best ever? Did he think he was above Major League Baseball? For most of us who have a love for, but never played, professional sports, we can't relate to this behavior or attitude. I think he suffered from an “illness” with symptoms of idiocy and gullibility.
A-Rod had a huge target on his back ever since he signed that first long-term contract with the Texas Rangers and later a colossal extension with the Yankees. His critics made the case that he was being over-valued in the long-term deals. However, I don't fault him for being able to get such lucrative contracts. His agent and marketing consultants apparently did a fabulous job. But I believe A-Rod’s financial success also contributed to his immense self-image and fed his growing ego. In retrospect though, his contracts later became examples for many clubs to shy away from those types of deals. (Except, I still can’t figure out why the Yankees agreed to the10-year extension after the 2007 season.) A-Rod is currently owed $86 million from 2014 to 2017, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
There has been much speculation about how Major League Baseball will deal with Rodriguez as a result of his involvement with Biogenesis. Following Ryan Braun’s suspension last week for the rest of the 2013 season for his involvement in the case (which we still don’t know what that was), some believe A-Rod’s punishment will be more severe, including possible suspension for life.
I heard a radio interview last week with former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent that he believes current Commissioner, Bud Selig, is considering a lifetime expulsion. Because of this threat, A-Rod is reportedly negotiating to preserve the amount of money owed under his current contract. A more likely scenario is that A-Rod will be suspended through the 2014 season. After that, who knows if he’ll be physically able to compete at the Major League level again? He’ll turn 40 in 2015. Perhaps Japan or Korea will be in his future.
It is apparent the Yankees don’t want A-Rod back on the field in pinstripes, regardless of how well he might play. And they could really use the help now with a struggling offense. The two parties have been sparring in the press. The Yankees have been mischievously manipulating Rodriguez about his medical condition and this past week successfully delayed his return from a rehab assignment in the minors until the first week of August. Unquestionably, they would like to get out from under A-Rod’s remaining contract years. I suspect that they feel like their Yankees’ brand and reputation have been tarnished enough, that it’s time to cut their losses. The situation is analogous to going through a divorce in the public media.
I, along with a lot of people, would like to see baseball’s PED issues finally put to rest. I’ve noticed an increase in the number of current players who are speaking out to express their disdain for the players continuing to use PEDs and to help ensure the game’s integrity is fully restored. The MLB Player’s Association has recently been uncharacteristically silent on the current state of things. Hopefully, Biogenesis is the trigger for starting to make PEDs a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, Rodriguez will fall into the same category as Clemens, Bonds, Palmeiro, and Ramirez--some of the greatest ballplayers of our generation and perhaps of all time, but whose careers will forever be tainted by PEDs. They are fallen heroes—baseball heroes gone bad.
Too bad, A-Rod.