He did it with a home run. How appropriate.
It’s his home runs — legitimate and illegitimate — that Alex Rodriguez will always be remembered for.
Those memories will always be tainted, and for that reason, the newest member of the 3,000-hit club will never join the greatest players of all time in Cooperstown in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
On Friday night in The Bronx, Rodriguez hit a home run off Justin Verlander for the 3,000th hit of his major league career.
But this wasn’t your typical 3,000th hit celebration. There’s nothing typical about ARod.
When Derek Jeter reached the 3,000-hit mark four years ago the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball had a celebration of epic proportions. But if you logged on to MLB.com this week you’d have been hard-pressed to find mention of ARod’s pursuit. Even Jeter’s retirement last season received more hype than Rodriguez’s chase of 3,000 hits.
That’s because ARod has been the most polarizing player of his generation, which is saying a lot considering… well…Barry Bonds. In 2009 ARod admitted to using steroids while he was with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003, which probably means he was using them before and after that. He only admitted his use after it was leaked that he’d failed a drug test while with the Rangers. “All my years with the Yankees have been clean,” ARod said.
In 2013 it became clear that ARod was back at it again – he was implicated as one of the players who received PEDs in 2010 and 2011. As a result, MLB suspended ARod for the remainder of 2013 and the entire 2014 season. Since he would turn 39 in the summer of 2014, it seemed like we might never see ARod again. Fans didn’t seem to care if ARod ever played again. The Yankees treated him like a drunk uncle they wished would just leave the party. They even tried to void his contract, and when it became apparent that ARod would come back this year, the Yanks attempted to wriggle their way out of the performance bonus clause that would reward Rodriguez if he reached milestones like passing Willie Mays on the all-time home run list and reaching 3,000 hits.
But in a bizarre twist that can only be expected from people who embraced formerly disgraced owner George Steinbrenner, many Yankee fans have welcomed ARod back. It makes it all very icky.
It’s interesting to note that Rodriguez collected his 3,000th hit off of Verlander, a once dominant pitcher who has struggled through injury and adversity the last two seasons after getting a huge contract. Verlander has battled his way back from injury without the use of illegal substances (unlike former Yankee hurlers named Clemens and Pettitte who used steroids as a crutch to extend their careers). Verlander could take the easy way out. He could take a shortcut in the name of feeling the pressure to perform under the weight of a huge contract. But JV didn’t do that. ARod did, and that’s why he’ll never be an all-time great. He cheated himself, his teammates, his opponents, and the game.
Rodriguez now has 3,000 hits and 667 home runs. He’s topped 2,000 runs batted in and he’s closing in on 2,000 runs scored. All of this seems to make Rodriguez very happy and proud. He was flashing that big smile in his post-game press conference last night as he discussed his 3,000th base hit.
“I didn’t know if this day would ever come. There were some dark days,” he spit into a microphone in front of a throng of reporters at Yankee Stadium.
That’s right, there were some dark days ARod. Dark days for the game of baseball. Your selfish and illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs has made a mockery of the baseball record book. How many hits, runs, RBI, and home runs would you have had without the use of steroids? We can’t know for certain, but it’s less than what your career ledger shows now. No way you’d have more home runs than Willie Mays. No way you’d have 3,000 hits either. You can take away a few of those MVP awards too. You probably wouldn’t even be earning a paycheck playing baseball anymore. But you don’t care about that right? You just want to celebrate another milestone.
Five full seasons after he mercifully retires and slinks away from baseball, Alex Rodriguez will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Here’s the Hall of Fame voting guidelines from the Baseball Writers Association of America website:
Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
I’ve bolded the three traits that are most damning for Rodriguez. The writers will never elect Alex into the Hall of Fame. In fact I wouldn’t be shocked if he disappears from the ballot within a few years.
ARod may have been greeted by his teammates at home plate after hitting that homer off Verlander. But the baseball writers won’t be as impressed when his name appears on their Hall of Fame ballot in a few years. The only celebrations Rodriguez is going to have for his career accomplishments are the hollow ones he’s having right now. He’ll have to live off those in his retirement.
“I want those guys in the clubhouse to respect me for what I’m doing for the team this year, not for what I did 10 years ago,” ARod said after the game on Friday.
Well, 10 years ago you were injecting steroids to “earn” a big contract.
This is what you don’t seem to understand, ARod: you don’t get respect from anyone. Not for what you did then or now.