Why You Should Root for Alex Rodriguez


Alex Rodriguez has been with the New York Yankees organization since 2004, a marriage now entering it’s eleventh season, that looking back was doomed from the beginning.  Rodriguez entered the spotlight of the Big Apple as the game’s highest-paid player, only three years into his, at the time, record ten-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers.  This contract was what initially turned the world against Rodriguez, calling him overpaid, and selfish. 

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While his fear of failure was unknown at the time, it has since been well documented, and playing in a town like New York, coming off four titles, and six World Series appearances in eight seasons, with a demanding media was probably not the best for Rodriguez.  Especially on a team where he would always play second fiddle to Derek Jeter, whose presence caused Rodriguez to switch positions.  Rodriguez has been constantly reminded that he is no Jeter, who already had four rings when the Yankees acquired Rodriguez, and always managed to keep from shining a negative light on the organization.

Although Rodriguez has generally struggled to fit in, whether it was postseason struggles (of which he has been benched and batted 8th, “something that never would happen with Jeter”), earning the nickname “A-Fraud”, or his battles with steroids, his time in New York hasn’t always been marked by struggles and controversy.  In 2005, Rodriguez became the first Yankee since Don Mattingly in 1985 to win the MVP, and repeated that feat two years later.  Without his dominance and clutch performance in the 2009 playoffs, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Yankees win number 27, and he earned the Babe Ruth Postseason MVP award for that performance.

When one thinks of Rodriguez’s time in New York, however, they focus on the steroids, controversy, tabloids about his affairs with strippers, or his unsportsmanlike play.  While this may be unfair for Rodriguez, his own actions have called for the way he is treated, although maybe at first they did not.  If not for his fear of failure, Rodriguez was a sure-fire Hall of Fame player, and potentially had a chance to break the home run record, something that makes his case far more sad.

While many may disagree, I am a firm believer that the players of the steroid era should be allowed into the Hall of Fame, as everyone from Bud Selig to the owners, fans, and writers ignored what was obvious, and allowed the game to be corrupted.  Players from previous generations cheated too, and is it really cheating if it isn’t against the rules? (PEDs weren’t banned in baseball until 2004).  People discuss a level playing field, but when pitchers and batters are both juicing, the playing field is quite level.  Also, as evident with Rodriguez, players bodies break down when they are no longer taking PEDs.  This is an argument for another day, however.

With all this said, why should somebody possibly root for an arrogant, narcissist like A-Rod, who sued his own team, the MLBPA, the MLB, and the Yankees’ doctor? Hell, the man had a picture of himself as a centaur over his bed, kissed himself through a mirror for a magazine shoot, and even urinated on his cousin’s property to show dominance.  What a jerk, right?  Maybe, but professional athletes are not supposed to be modern day saints, they are human beings, and make mistakes, some more than others.  I understand that they are expected to set a good example for children, but truth be told, by teaching hatred among entertainers, we are not setting a worse example than Rodriguez does by harming his own body.

Simply put, the MLB needs Alex Rodriguez, the same way that the NFL needs players like Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, who are controversial enough that everyone either hates or loves what they stand for.  Every time that Sherman speaks, or Lynch refuses to, everybody is listening, and Rodriguez will be no different.  If you think that the super villain Rodriguez will not be the biggest story once Spring Training, and even Opening Day, rolls around, then you are fooling yourself only.  Fans and writers are both awaiting what Rodriguez has to say in regards to Biogenesis, and how well he can perform on the field.  The way that Rodriguez has been vilified it is impossible for me not to root for the guy, although I must admit I always have rooted for him.  Having your own organization attempt to push you out of the game, and refuse to stand by you is something unheard of in professional sports.

Rodriguez is must see television (something that baseball is currently lacking), someone who was once supposed to be the face of the sport who set the home run record cleanly for the good guys, a legend in the making since his teen years, who was corrupted by all of the wrongdoings in baseball during the 1990s and early 2000s.  (Remember, Rodriguez was the Mike Trout of his generation, a five-tool player with all the talent in the world.)  In 2013, the day he was suspended for the rest of the season, and the entire 2014 season, Rodriguez one-upped baseball, and returned from injury to make his season debut in a fashion that brought a media circus, something very few players could do.  If the baseball world can forgive Ryan Braun, who lied, cost an innocent man his job, lied more, gave a very insincere apology, and lied some more, then why can’t they do the same for A-Rod?

Rodriguez was able to provide more must-see TV on August 18, 2013, when the Yankees were visiting the rival Boston Red Sox on ESPN’s nationally broadcasted Sunday Night Baseball.  Then-Red Sox pitcher, Ryan Dempster, decided it was his duty to plunk A-Rod in his first at-bat (something that it somehow took him four pitches to do), and Rodriguez responded with a monster sixth inning home run and a 3-for-4 night to spark a Yankees’ comeback.  Rodriguez’s manager, Joe Girardi, and several teammates, most notably Brett Gardner, quickly came to his defense, showing that he still has supporters in the game.  Rodriguez actually had a decent season, until a late-season slump, that included a game-winning Grand Slam to break a tie with Yankees’ legend Lou Gehrig atop the all-time leaderboard.

Yankees fans cheered for him then, and should hope he gives them more to cheer about this season.  The Yankees’ offense had serious struggles last season, preventing the team from reaching the postseason, and will need Rodriguez to contribute.  There was no bat in the lineup that caused fear in opposing pitchers, something Rodriguez will be able to do off of name alone, as he did in 2013.  Rodriguez has two milestones coming up, 660 and 3000, fourth place on the all-time home run list to pass Willie Mays, and joining the rare 3000-hit club.  While the Yankees do not want to pay Rodriguez his bonus for passing Mays as they say fans will not cheer, the fans should cheer, as Rodriguez performing well bodes well for the club.

If Rodriguez goes out and puts up numbers like .300/25/80 (something that is rather unlikely) helping the Yankees back to the postseason after a two-year hiatus, will you still root against him?  Or is it only because everybody is expecting and predicting failure, that fans are hoping the man fails?  Joe Paterno once said, “it’s the name on the front of the jersey that matters most, not the one on the back”.  Obviously, the Yankees don’t have names on their jerseys, but this means that the team is more important than the player.  Playing for the Yankees should trump Rodriguez’s shortcomings as a man.  When A-Rod first admitted steroid usage in 2009, fans supported him, and his performance led the team to a title that year.  Knowing how much he fears failure, we must forgive him, and cheer for his success, as for better or worse, Alex Rodriguez is a New York Yankee.

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