Stay Rod: How Alex Rodriguez Finally Became Us
Jeter gets feted for a year, A-Rod doesn't even get a two-week notice.
I find myself late in life rooting for Alex Rodriguez. That's how awful the Yankees are; that's how much they suck. They make A-Rod sympathetic.
I still don't get his quick, easy dismissal from the Yankees and possibly from Major League Baseball. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz, all of these guys go on season-long farewell tours; they're feted and gifted in opposition ballparks. We're forced to listen to encomium after encomium. A-Rod, four homers shy of 700, gets a Sunday presser in which the Yankees announce with as little fanfare as possible that his last game is Friday. See ya, don't wanna be ya. They're on a youth movement, sure, but even Mark Teixeira gets to last the year. So what happened behind the scenes? I'm not the only one wondering this.
It makes you feel a little sorry for the guy. It shouldn't have been like this.
I remember when teenaged girls screamed for him—the summer of '96. They brought placards to the Kingdome that read “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel.” Sometimes when he came to bat it was like Sinatra in '43, the Beatles in '64.
Here's the profile I wrote about him back for the April 1999 issue of The Grand Salami, the Mariners alternative fan magazine. I've highlighted a few things that feel a little ironic and sad now:
Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez (3)
Nickname: A-Rod; Young Buck
Born: 7-27-75 in New York, NY
Family: Don’t worry, he’s still single
Signed thru: 2000 season
Agent: Scott Boras
Acquired: M's first pick (first pick overall) of 1993 draft
Major League Debut: July 8, 1994
Quote: “I think that character is what proves out over a long season.”
He’s Kid Dynamite, Superman, the Flash. He goes 40-40 from the middle infield and lunges sinking stuff over the opposite field wall. Wherever he travels opposition managers scowl, pitchers worry, and teenage girls squeal. He’s one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World and the most protected great hitter in the game. He was so good, so young, that it seems he’s even managed to stay younger longer than the rest of us. And he’s all ours for another two years. Then? That’s been the great guessing game in the sports press lately. Seattle can’t afford both Griffey and A-Rod, the reasoning goes, and Griffey seems a likelier candidate to stick around. So whither A-Rod? Cubbies? Dodger Blue? The latest rumor swirls around the Mets—so he and Jeter can pal around New York together. Think they’ll get any dates?
Yeah yeah, I had a bad encounter with him. Yeah yeah, the way he left us for all that dough, then whined about being on a losing team, then finagled a trade to the team that kept winning, the Yankees, then didn't win with them for a number of years. I guess that was just desserts. His first year with them was the year they did what no team had never done: lose a 7-game series after being up 3 games to none. A-Rod contributed with the slap heard 'round the world. He hit 2 HRs in that series, with an .895 OPS, after crushing the Twins with a 1.213 OPS in the ALDS, but Yankee fans are spoiled shits, and he got a rep for choking. He didn't for the Ms in the postseason but he subsequently did for the Yankees. He sucked in the ALDSes in 2005 and '06 and was only so-so in 2007. Quick exits, all. Good times. Then the revelations of PEDs. The banishment. The boos. They didn't like him much in the Bronx. They cheered him a bit in 2009, sure, when they helped them win the World Series again, but that was an anomaly. He kept trying to win their hearts but their hearts were with Jeter, the man who wouldn't move over for the better shortstop. That was Yankee fans' ”team player.“ Is it A-Rod's lot in life to leave where he's beloved and stay where he's booed? There's tragedy there; he feels Shakespearean.
If you go by Baseball Reference's WAR, Alex Rodriguez is the 12th-greatest position player to ever play the game, sandwiched between Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. He should be a legend, but he's leaving as a footnote. Jeter left as a spoiled child, with parties everywhere, with his childish antics about getting a game-winning hit in his last, meaningless game in the Bronx. Alex just feels like he's been downsized. They didn't even have the courtesy to give him a two-week notice. He's the company man the company doesn't give a shit about. He's finally us.
Here's what I wrote about him in August 2000:
Is there a publication that isn't writing about Alex? Even the Wall Street Journal (August 11th) got into the act. Freelancer Allen Barra gushed, ”Simply put, he is the most irreplaceable player in the major leagues. He is a more effective hitter than Mr. Griffey and a much better fielder and base-runner than Mr. Piazza. He hits with more power than Mr. Jeter...“ Love all that ”Mr." talk. One thing that the fact-checking Journal got wrong, though, was its assertion that Mr. Rodriguez might stay in Seattle because Safeco Field is a hitter's park. Um, no. But winning's #1 with Mr. Rodriguez and the Mariners are winning. And Mr. Gillick's smart enough to keep signing the players that can keep us winning, and Mr. Rodriguez is smart enough to know that. And who knows? Maybe M's owners (Messrs. all) are smart enough to move in the fences a little if it means keeping our Mr. Rodriguez. I.e., Stay Rod.
Not to be. Godspeed, Alex.