A new survey conducted by ESPN has revealed that, according to fans, Alex Rodriguez is the face of Major League Baseball. Perhaps five years ago, that statement would have made much more sense. However, today it’s just kind of sad. Once upon a time, A-Rod seemed to be everything that was good about the game. He was a pure, young kid playing for the Seattle Mariners who hit homer after homer. He was part of a trio of superior young shortstops that seemed destined to take over the game. Then came the money and the excessive fame. Rodriguez was on top; the most coveted man in baseball. It was only fitting that in 2004 he signed with the New York Yankees. The quickest player to both 500 and 600 home runs, A-Rod was supposed to be the man to vanquish the evil Barry Bonds’ new record of 762 homers. Then, things began to go very, very wrong.
One can take almost any aspect of Rodriguez’s life over recent years and find some aspect of embarrassment and/or corruption. The downward slope began (albeit slowly taking all things into consideration) with criticism of A-Rod’s postseason production. The man who effortlessly swung the bat during the regular season was simply not clutch. Then there were Rodriguez’s interesting encounters with illustrious women. In 2007, Rodriguez was seen with a stripper. In 2008, he separated from his wife of six years. Then, there were rumors about an affair with Madonna. After divorcing his wife, rumors surfaced about Rodriguez and multiple prostitutes and strippers having affairs while on the road. But enough about private life. Rodriguez’s career was still flourishing. After winning the MVP award in 2007 with 54 home runs and 156 RBI’s, A-Rod had a few “down” years where he hit merely 30 dingers. But in 2009, everything changed.
The late 1990s and early 2000s are now seen almost universally as the modern dark era of Major League Baseball, for these years played host to the steroid era. Performance-enhancing drugs had seemingly tarnished the game’s integrity and reputation, producing jaw-dropping number. It’s sad to say that many of America’s national pastime’s most sacred records have been demolished by cheaters. While Babe Ruth “did it on hot dogs and beer,” Barry did it with a syringe and a grin. Everything and everyone playing in the majors at that time could very well be unfair. But Alex Rodriguez was not part of that discussion. Sure there was skepticism, but most believed that the great shortstop was their clean idol. A man who achieved greatness the old fashioned way. A-Rod told us so himself. He looked Katie Couric in the eye in 2007 and said “no.” I mean, he had to be telling the truth. No one has ever denied using steroids, right?
In 2009, Rodriguez finally dropped the bomb that seemed destined to come out eventually. From 2001-2003, Alex Rodriguez used steroids while playing with the Texas Rangers due to “an enormous amount of pressure” to perform. Suddenly, Alex was just another one of the guys. After 2010, injuries arose and A-Rod hasn’t had a healthy season since. But of course, things just kept getting worse.
So what does all of this mean for the game? Shouldn’t the steroid era be over by now? Surely, there are still players out there using some sorts of banned substances. Can any players be 100% trusted by fans as pure role models and positive contributors to the history of the game? Perhaps the fans feel this way and their skepticism has evolved to the point of distrust and disgust. After all, the man they picked to represent this fine sport has become synonymous with adultery, deceit and cheating. In a day and age where the current home run king is happy to get his most recent stint under house arrest over with, is there still hope left for the sport? Alex Rodriguez will never hit 800 home runs, and if he cannot pull a miracle and somehow rid himself of this suspension, he will be hard pressed to reach 700. Some say it is better to burn out than fade away. A-Rod seems to be doing both at the same time.