There was a time, not all that long ago, when A-Rod was just a great hitter who doubled as a clown. He hit 50 home runs a year, swatted at Bronson Arroyo, had purple lips and made $25 million a year. Everyone knew he was great but nobody liked him – that was the agreement.
We couldn’t question his abilities, only his overall douchbaggery. He had two paintings of himself as a Centaur in his home, but he also was the youngest person to win the batting title. That was the spectrum.
Then it all went tumbling down hill when Joe Torre dropped him to eighth in the batting order in the 2006 ALDS. Keep in mind that A-Rod had 35 home runs and 121 RBI that year, but was so bad when it counted that he couldn’t hit anywhere in the lineup but one spot ahead of the light-hitting, soon-to-be steroid-abusing Melky Cabrera.
And speaking of steroids, the mystery that is A-Rod spiraled further downhill when he admitted to using steroids three years later. Of course, the purple-lipped monster wanted us to believe that he used for ”just a few years,” and we were supposed to accept that everything else he did was legitimate. Meanwhile, all his teammates pretended to be caring friends by going to his press conference when they were really all high-fiving behind his back and snickering like kids in elementary school class when someone gets called out by the teacher.
But last night had to be the worst. In the ninth inning of a huge playoff game against a division rival at home facing a one-run deficit, Alex Rodriguez was pinch hit for…in the No. 3 hole…by Raul Ibanez. Ibanez hit a home run and then hit another one in the 12th, and the Centaur was forced to watch from the dugout and later exhibit the sort of faux-excitement that’s usually shown towards him.
So I ask you…can one of the best hitters ever really have batted eighth in a playoff game during the unquestioned prime of his career, admitted to abusing steroids and then been pinch-hit for by RAUL IBANEZ in the ninth inning of another playoff game?
What a twisted, unmatched legacy A-Rod is going to leave behind when he eventually decides to walk away from the game. There is nobody like him. Other people have admitted to steroids, and other people have taken steroids and put up great numbers. But none of those people have admitted to doing so over just a small period of time, been universally disliked by teammates and fans and been so bad in the playoffs that he was pinch hit for out of the No. 3 hole by a fringe fourth outfielder.
Throw in the yelling at opponents while he rounds the bases as they try to catch pop-ups, swatting a ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand the aforementioned pink lips, his stepping on the mound after an inning, his Centaur painting(s), his $250 million contract, Jason Varitek kicking his ass, his moving to third base willingly, his dating of Madonna, his entire tenure in Texas…there’s just a lot there.
Let’s also not forget that he’s going to retire as the all-time home run leader. We can all agree that he’s a complicated cat. If he ever writes a “Tao of A-Rod” book, I’m going to buy it and do the complete opposite of everything in it.
Whenever he leaves baseball and pursues a career writing for Vogue or back-up dancing for Katy Perry, we’re going to look back on these last 20 years and just say, “What the HECK was that?”