Six years ago, Alex Rodriguez was one of the most respected and admired players in Major League Baseball. Everybody loved him almost as much as he loved himself. After all, the year was 2007, and A-Rod hit for a 54/156/.314 slash line, won the Silver Slugger at third base, and secured his third MVP in five years. He was supposed to hit 800 home runs, 2500 RBI, and everybody expected Alex to reach these goals.
Of course, (multiple) steroid scandals and injuries impeded his career, casting an 800 homer career in doubt. However, when number 13 stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh on September 20th against the San Francisco Giants, some people may have forgotten that this at-bat would become historic, as the 2-1 pitch from George Kontos ascended over the right field wall.
That grand slam was the 24th of Alex Rodriguez’s career, vaulting him above Lou Gehrig for the most slams in history. And even though half of those slams occurred when he was juiced, it’s still an amazing accomplishment. Consider that he had to bat with people on base in front of him at least 24 times. Having a good team around him certainly helps, and playing a majority of his career in hitter-friendly parks doesn’t hurt either, but every bases-loaded situation is a pressure-packed moment. Of course, baseball players live for that moment, but some players inexplicably seem to choke.
After all, some of the great players in baseball have surprisingly small grand slam totals. Barry Larkin, Mickey Cochrane, Ted Kluszewski, Moises Alou, Frank Thomas, Graig Nettles, and Al Kaline don’t have as many as A-Rod… combined! Even Don Mattingly only has six. Like it or not, A-Rod has the “clutch” factor that every batter wants when the bases are loaded. Part of the reason Alex is so great in that moment is he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He remains calm and never seems too stressed, unlike other players who think too hard and strike out.
Basically, Alex Rodriguez is the luckiest man in the world. He was fortunate enough to be born with a remarkable talent for baseball. If he had instead exceptional lacrosse talent, he probably would have enrolled in college (which he never did since he was drafted first overall in the 1994 draft out of high school), earned a degree, and worked in a much less lucrative profession. And he was lucky to be signed by good teams with hitters who would reach third base and decide not to run home when A-Rod was the next batter. There are so many variables involved in creating the perfect grand slam scenario; steroids only play a small part in the process. Forget the law suit. Let A-Rod have his due. Crown him as the king of the bases-loaded blast. Besides, he can be blasted for so much else.