If we had a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame, we’d use our 10-man ballot to select the 10 best players laid out in front of us, with a little back-of-the-ballot calculus in case somebody in their final year needs saving.
PEDs are not a problem here. PED suspensions? Worrisome. Not wonderful, but … we don’t want to tell the story of baseball without Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. It’s the baseball we grew up with, and it mattered.
Best 10 guys. No exceptions. Except Curt Schilling.
But we don’t have a vote for now, so we have to rely on the rare A-Rod backer in the media who’s willing to go public with his reasoning for giving the ex-Yankees star the green light into Cooperstown’s doors.
Now, this might be bias talking (it is — and I don’t even really like A-Rod that much!), but we haven’t gotten as much nuanced discussion about his case as I’d hoped we would. That’s probably because the stodgy writers are gearing up for another nine years of it, and are busy shooing away Bonds and Clemens takes while they usher Ortiz through the door.
NJ.com’s Steve Politi gave us the most thorough discussion yet this week of why it feels grimy to check Rodriguez’s box, acknowledging that the biggest story in New York sports, for better or worse, from 2004 to retirement merited induction on the basis of one of the most special individual careers we’ve ever seen.
Does Yankees star Alex Rodriguez merit Baseball Hall of Fame induction?
As Politi put it, summing up our stance in the process:
"I have taken an imperfect but consistent approach: I won’t vote for a player if I believe his accomplishments are completely a product of the juice.Can I say that about A-Rod?I can’t, not with his overwhelming body of work. His 696 career home runs rank fourth all-time, trailing three of the greatest hitters in the sport’s history in Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. He was a 14-time All-Star, three-time AL MVP and two-time Gold Glove winner. He was the catalyst for the Yankees during their 2009 World Series victory.It is impossible to write the history of baseball without him."
Again, the A-Rod Era was often uncomfortable. Defending him to rival fans, amid his ongoing legal trouble and endless infractions, was a chore. He provided the exact antithesis of the pride that Big Papi instilled in his fan base.
Boston had Ortiz, a lesser player who didn’t sniff the field, but was affable and provided the stuff of legend every time he stepped in the box in October. We had Rodriguez, one of the five most talented MLB players of all time who failed in four consecutive postseasons before finally putting together one for the ages in ’09. Before that moment, though, how could you possibly win a Rodriguez vs. Papi argument? Who cares about regular-season WAR and MVPs if 2007 ended just like 2004: with Boston on top? Rooting against someone else’s beloved, especially when the steroid argument didn’t take for him, felt fruitless … until 2009 changed everything, albeit not in retirement.
To me, both players are Hall of Famers. To others, Rodriguez’s lengthy fight with the league and heel turn turned the world off.
That’s fine. It’s understandable if you’re not an A-Rod backer. It feels nearly as uncomfortable as it did during his playing days.
Subjectivity pushes him out. Objectivity puts them both in. Hopefully, someday the Papi/Rodriguez fight is settled when Ortiz sails in first ballot and the best shortstop of the modern era joins him a bit late, just like ’09 eventually evened the postseason playing field.