Last year’s Major League Baseball season was Alex Rodriguez-less. And, boy, it was great.
Instead, Rodriguez sat, and stewed, for all 162 of the Yankees regular season games as he was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 MLB season due to his use of steroids.
Sadly, 2015 has not been Alex Rodriguez-less.
The Yankees front office tried to separate itself from the tainted slugger as much as possible, attempting to figuratively erase part of his contract which stated that Rodriguez be paid top-dollar bonuses for individual milestone accomplishments during the year. Accomplishments such as home run number 661 (whoops) and hit No. 3000 (darn it) being the two biggest ones.
Over the last two months, Rodriguez has hit both numbers, ironically in the same fashion that has made him both loved and hated around the MLB – with the long ball.
Rodriguez hit HR No. 661, passing the great Willie Mays for 4th on the all-time home run list, on May 7 with a blast to center field, and joined the 3000 hit club Friday against the Tigers with a home run to right field.
For probably any other player, these milestones are reached without hesitation of respectful acknowledgement.
In A-Rod’s case, though, I will hesitate – hesitate to a complete stop, and question everything.
Why do we applaud Rodriguez? Why were Yankee fans this year so quick to forgive the guy most couldn’t stand and were happy to forget last year?
Who cares, and why should we care, about Rodriguez’s milestone?
Remember how great baseball was last year without him?
The answer to the second question is actually quite simple.
Rodriguez got the Yankees on track to start the year. He was producing when no one else, other than Mark Teixeira, on the team was. Yankee fans had to cheer for someone, right?
And baseball was great without him last year.
Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout have clearly separated themselves as the best hitters in the game, we saw one of the best pitching performances in post-season history from Madison Bumgarner, and most importantly, there was one less villain in New York wearing the Yankee pinstripes.
The answers to the other questions aren’t so simple, though, considering the reactions that two players of recent baseball past got for their use of steroids.
Bonds and McGwire each were part of two of the greatest home run seasons of all time.
McGwire defeated Sammy Sosa in the 1998 home run record chase, finishing the season with 70 home runs, nine more than Roger Maris’ record of 61. Three years later, Bonds broke McGwire’s record as he blasted 73 home runs.
In both instances, it is at least speculated, and in McGwire’s case proven, that the use of steroids aided the sluggers’ performances.
McGwire admitted to his use of steroids in 2010, and it is widely speculated that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs during part or most of his stint with the Giants.
After McGwire’s admittance, and certainly after Bonds’ retirement, both have been somewhat of afterthoughts around MLB’s upper echelon of power hitters due to their use of steroids.
Baseball fans have stopped acknowledging their performances to a point, due to their use of performance enhancers.
We’re not here to talk about the past, though, right, Palmiero?
So that brings us back to A-Rod; back to the present.
He is not the friendly guy that McGwire is, but he is also not the jerk that Bonds is. Rodriguez sits somewhere in the middle, but probably a little more on Bonds’ side of the personality meter.
Rodriguez isn’t the most likeable guy in the world is what I’m trying to say.
He is also a cheater.
America likes to give people second chances, but Rodriguez is on his third chance.
That brings us back to the questions of why should we care about Rodriguez’s milestones and why do we continue to applaud him?
Maybe Rodriguez is more applaud-worthy than Bonds is since he’s admitted and “forgiven” for his use of steroids. But shouldn’t the fact that he’s had to apologize twice mean’s he’s cheated twice?
Maybe a better question is, instead of why should we care about his milestones, why don’t we all acknowledge everything he’s done, everything he does, and anything he will do is tainted? It’s all tainted.
Home run No. 661 and beyond, hit No. 3000 and beyond, and a lot of the numbers before, they’re all numbers gained by performance enhancers.
Alex Rodriguez may have Hall of Fame numbers, including 3000 hits, but may he forever be known as Mr. 3***.