Time Heals All: An Alex Rodriguez (Yankee) Career Reflection 1 Year After His Retirement

As Drake once said in Fancy, “time heals all, and heels hurt to walk in.”

Well, I don’t know how much “heels hurt to walk in”, but I do know that time does heal.

This is not true in every Situation, as he still seems to hate Angelina (Jersey Shore reference), OBVIOUSLY, and 5 Summers later KG and Paul Pierce are still talking shit about ole pal Ray Allen (side note: I know these 2 personal rivalries have nothing to do with each other, but the Celtics one came to mind 1st, and the Situation pun was a must).

It does reign true in a lot of circumstances, though. Yogi Berra hated George Steinbrenner after “The Boss” assured Yogi he’d manage the full 1985 season, and then was subsequently handed his pink slip after 2 weeks of ball games; 15 years later, George hosted Yogi Berra day at the Old Yankee Stadium, and Yogi became the most recognizable old timer for the slew of 2000s Yankee kids, seeming to show up more during the Playoffs than ARod.

Which actually transitions me to my point…

ARod is currently the most popular baseball analyst in America. He’s working for Fox Sports in the studio, while also broadcasting select games throughout the season from the booth. He’s a Yankees Special Adviser now, also, which doesn’t really mean much except for the fact that he wears a Yankee uniform to Spring Training and mingles with the young guys while they pick his brain and hit BP.

Flashback to 3 years ago, ARod was the most hated man in New York sports as he was serving a year-long suspension for steroids. There’s been plenty of hated sportsmen from the Big Apple in my time growing up in the area, but ARod definetly took the top spot in 2014, overtaking perennial villains (idiots?) James Dolan and the Wilpon brothers.

ARod wasn’t hated for just being bad and not living up to his record breaking contract, either. He was hated for being a fucking asshole, and rightfully so.

And it’s not like you can’t be an asshole and play in New York, especially for the Yankees. We’ve had a history of douchebags and we’ve retired their numbers and enshrined them in Monument Park. Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson brawled in the dugout, Roger Clemens threw a fucking bat at Mike Piazza, and George Steinbrenner could probably have his picture next to the word “douchebag” in the dictionary.

But I digress, I digress.

ARod was always an asshole. From the moment he came to the Yankees, there were talks on whether or not he and Jeter would get along, and it always seemed that it was ARod who cultivated the bad blood, not the Captain. Legend Joe Torre said that ARod “monopolized” all of the attention in his book.

In the infamous Bloody Sock series, ARod literally slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand, to compensate for the fact that he couldn’t hit Playoff pitching (except for 2009, GOD BLESS), literally doing whatever he could to get on base. The Yankees choked worse than the Warriors would 12 years later, and let their archrival come back from the biggest postseason deficit in MLB history, at the height of the greatest North American sports rivalry, and ARod was missing.

Image result for a rod hits ball out of glove

But then he was found, kind of.

He went on to win MVP in 2005, but regular season’s in the Bronx don’t matter, especially when you’re getting paid to win MVP’s. The Yankees exited in the ALDS, after a loss to the Angels in game 5. ARod had 2 fucking hits. So much for the MVP season, right? Because once again, no one fucking cares about the regular season from the Bronx.

Next season comes around and it’s the same old scenario. ARod crushes regular season pitching (.914 OPS, 35 homers, 121 RBIS, .290 AVG), makes the All Star team, we make the playoffs, yada yada yada. ALDS vs Detroit. We lose in 4. Don’t even put up a goddamn fight. Guess who sucked that series? Do I even need to say it? My guy had 1 hit. 1 hit. 1 HIT. Joe Torre dropped him to 8th in the lineup for Game 4.

2007 rolls around, and this fucking guy is up to the same shit. Wins the MVP award, again, with a ridiculous 1.067 OPS, 54 homers, 156 RBIs, .314 AVG, and he even stole 24 bases. Where do we end up, though? With another fucking ALDS exit. ARod hits .267 and has an .820 OPS. Solid statistics, albeit in a pathetic series, as we go down in 4 games to Cleveland, who go on to lose to the fucking Red Sox, who go on to win the World Series, again. This was also the end of the Joe Torre era in the Bronx, as he got canned after another early playoff exit, and I’m sure ARod didn’t give 2 shits, maybe 1, but definitely not 2, as it seemed as he and Joe Torre butt heads ever since ARod came over, as Joe didn’t stand for bullshit, and ARod brought a lot of it. Torre was more like Jeter, and it was almost like Torre and Jeter had the relationship of grandfather to grandson, and ARod did his own thing, which included yelling at a Blue Jays infielder while rounding the bases, purposely distracting him while the ball was in the air, probably cementing his status at the biggest asshole in the MLB, which he would only stand to prove in the eyes of most.

2007 was when ARod’s off the field actions began to reflect him as much as his work on the field did. Tabloid-esque news seemed to be as frequent as his home runs—pretty damn frequent.

He was photographed entering a hotel with a random blonde…while he was married…to a dime. Obviously, the New York papers are gonna jump on that story. ARod needs a better logistics coordinator and risk manager in his posse, cause clearly that plan was destined to fail.

In line for a huge payday after winning 3 MVPs, he rightfully opted out of his contract…in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series, putting all of the attention on himself once again, while taking it away from where every baseball fan’s attention should have been. It was the Red Sox (fuck ’em), and the Rockies (irrelevant, still can’t believe they’ve been to the same amount of World Series as the Yankees in the last 10 years), so I understand his thought process. He goes on to sign the largest contract ever for a North American athlete at the time, 10 years $275 million, as he was probably the best player on the planet (maybe Albert Pujols was better, maybe). A week later he goes on 60 Minutes and denies ever using steroids; more on that later.

Image result for a rod 60 minutes

Remember when I said that he was caught going into that hotel with that blonde girl, well, he must have been scheming for a while, because his wife left him in the middle of the 2008 season, for his alleged (proven) affair with Madonna (whom is most definitely less attractive than his ex wife). This did not affect his play, though, as he still led the league in slugging, and had 30+ homers, hit over .300, and won the Silver Slugger.

2009 was a whirlwind of a year for ARod.

Sports Illustrated released a report in February, saying that ARod did in fact take steroids, which he previously denied, denied, and denied some more. He obviously admits he took illegal substances, saying he took them during a 3 year period when he played with the Texas Rangers, and put up video game numbers, highlighted by his 1st MVP season in 2003, which actually was his worse statistical season of the 3. He hit about 150 homers in those 3 years while still hitting for average, running like a racehorse, and having footwork at short like a goddamn ballerina. So, it really shouldn’t have shocked people that ARod, who could already have been described as a self-centered attention seeking douchebag, could then be referred to as a liar, and cheater.

He became the most polarizing figure in Major League Baseball, just as the Yankees were becoming World Series favorites for the upcoming season, as they broke their check books out and signed Teixeira, CC, and AJ Burnett, putting finances aside and going after their 27th World Series.

Of course, he begins the year on the DL after hip surgery, which would plague him in later years, but in true ARod fashion, just as he’s becoming the ultimate New York villain, after admitting to steroid use, signing a large contract, and getting hurt, he crushes a homer in his 1st at bat back. He finishes the season with great statistics (30 homers, 100 RBIs, .933 OPS), but hits under .300, which he will not hit over for the rest of his career.

Once again, though, no fan of the New York Yankees cares about the regular season, especially with the World Series or bust mindset the organization established after the offseason.

Image result for arod 2009 world series

And, finally, Yankee fans rejoiced. ARod came through. After giving the team as much value as you and I gave them over his previous postseasons, he fucking killed it. A year after getting shut out of the playoffs in their last season at Yankee Stadium, the Yanks cruised to the World Series, and ARod played a HUGE role. He hit 2 homers including a game-tying shot in the bottom of the 9th in Game 2 while hitting .455 against the Twins in the ALDS, a 3 game sweep. It was not a fluke, as his clutch gene was still there, at least for this series, he hit .429, with 3 homers, including a game tying homer in the 11th inning of game 2, allowing the team to win in the 13th, crucial in a series that lasted 6 games. The Phillies dominant rotation would hold him in check for the most part, but he still hit a homer in the World Series and had 6 RBIs. Finally, my guy could rejoice and rock the ring on his right hand, taking home his 1st and only Championship, which in true ARod fashion would come the same calendar year as his steroid admission.

The honeymoon didn’t last forever for Alex.

There was no calm before the storm. Nope. The monsoon came without warning and ARod couldn’t find cover.

Winter 2010. ARod is linked to Canadian Doctor Anthony Galea, whom was accused of providing steroids to many MLB players through a trafficking system. ARod denies this accusation to MLB officials. He goes on to hit his 600th home run in August, while putting together another All Star season (30 homers, 125 RBIs, .847 OPS). The Yankees made the Playoffs, dispatching the Twins in 3 games, before falling to the Rangers in 6 in the ALCS. ARod was nowhere to be found, hitting a paltry .190 in that series, proving that 2009’s postseason heroics were a 1 time thing.

2011 was a pretty nondescript year for ARod. He made his last All Star team, but only played in 99 games, finishing with solid stats for his shortened season (16 homers and an .823 OPS). The Yanks made the postseason again after winning the division, but lost in a hard fought series to Detroit in 5 games. ARod hit .111. Go figure.

2012 was when fans, teammates, coaches, executives, and the MLB really lost their patience with ARod; he was not producing to what his contract suggested (.783 OPS, 16 homers, .272 AVG, 122 games). But again, if he comes up clutch in October, all is forgiven and his contract is worth it. But, of course, he doesn’t. He finishes 3 for 27 in 7 games between the ALDS against Baltimore, and the ALCS against Detroit, except the Yankees played 8 games that postseason. He was benched completely for Game 3 against Detroit, and was consistently pinch hit for throughout both series. It was the tip of the iceberg for ARod, who was getting paid $29 million that year. He handled the situation gracefully, but fans don’t give a shit about grace, especially when there were rumors, and pictures that he gave some girls his number during BP of Game 1 against Detroit at the Stadium, which you can do if you’re Derek Jeter (who would never do that) and hitting .330 in the Playoffs and have 5 rings to your credit already.

New Yorkers wanted this guy out; no one wants that much baggage from a guy with a busted hip who’s playing half a season and sitting on his ass in the postseason, which is exactly what happened next season, when he had hip surgery, and was out until August, playing in 44 games for a bad Yankees team that missed the playoffs.

His season was more TMZ than ESPN (well, at least what ESPN used to be). He tweeted that he was ready to play again in June, which prompted GM Brian Cashman to say “You know what? When the Yankees want to announce something, [we will]. Alex should just shut the f— up.” Now, Cashman has always seemed like a pretty level headed guy to me, calm, cool, and collected, steering the Death Star that is the Yankees with a reserved presence a la Darth Vader, knowing he has the tools to be competitive every year, but not wanting to act outlandishly, precisely calculating his moves to ensure continued success. For him to come out and tell ARod to fuck off, reflects the feelings of the entire organization, from the executives all the way down to the fans, as ARod was also making some serious accusations against the franchise; he and his team of lawyers said that team doctors withheld information regarding his hip injury from him, and had him play while he was hurt the previous season in hopes that he’d get more injured and therefore be forced out.

Image result for brian cashman

This was not just a situation where a player didn’t get along with management; this was unprecedented. ARod was accusing his franchise, his owners, his general manager, his trainers, that they had the intention of getting him seriously hurt. This was really the final straw for the team, even though he spent about 2 more seasons with us. He was alienating himself from everyone involved in the organization; fans and the media were calling for his release, saying screw the money get this headache out of our city, especially since this was at the height of the Biogenesis scandal, which is what will ultimately define ARod’s career.

Biogenesis of America was an anti-aging clinic that was investigated, and subsequently found guilty, of providing steroids and HGH to many MLB players, of which ARod was the poster boy. 13 players were suspended, but none of the suspensions were as earth shattering as ARod’s; he was originally suspended for 211 games! The longest PED suspension in the sport’s history. He appealed and played in 2013, but was suspended for all of 2014, spending the entire season away from the sport and the Yankees. In what was one of the more bizarre sporting “events” I’ve personally watched, ARod stormed out of his PED hearing with the MLB, and it seemed staged. As he and his team of lawyers had no intention of being there, using the excuse that if Commissioner Bud Selig wasn’t there, the hearing was invalid. Maybe ARod was desperate at the time, doing whatever he could to try and get out of his suspension, but he was more than likely viewing himself superior to whomever conducted the hearing, and telling MLB “fuck you I’m fucking ARod”. Minutes later, I watched as he entered WFAN studios to have a sit down with legendary New York Radio Host Mike Francesca about why he left and claiming his innocence; which was clearly scheduled, alluding that leaving the hearing was always on the agenda.

So ARod was forced to sit out the 2014 MLB season and forfeit his salary. And as much as the Yankees wanted to get rid of him and all of his bullshit, there was no doubt that he’d be back when the suspension was up in 2015, as he was owed 22 million.

Expectations were lower than ever for him, as everyone was just waiting for his contract extension that he signed all the way back in 2007 to expire. Who knew how much he had left after sitting out the previous season and being as injury prone as anyone in the league? Turns out he wasn’t completely finished. As the off year must have been good for his health, and his ego. He played in 151 games strictly as a DH, posting his highest OPS since 2010, hitting 33 homers as  a bona fide power hitter for a team in need of it. He also said all of the right things, speaking highly of exeutives, ownership, and Joe Girardi, while serving as a mentor to his teammates, whom helped him make the Playoffs for the last time, albeit in a Wild Card game exit to the Astros. He also heavily involved himself off the field, contributing to various charities around the City.

2016 was set to be ARod’s 2nd to last year as a Yankee, and probably as a Major League Baseball player. He collected his 3000th hit the previous year, and was very well within reach of becoming the 4th player to reach the 700 home run club. But for all of the power and poise he showed at the plate in 2015, he showed nothing but ineptitude last season, as he slumped to a .200 batting average with only 9 home runs and played in only 65 games, as, of course, he retired with about 2 months remaining in the season, on a rainy Friday night in the Bronx, with a ceremony beforehand that was as emotional as it was spontaneous. He had an RBI double in the 1st inning, which was the last hit of his storied, historical, and controversial career. And just like that, ARod the Player was finished, going out on his own terms, not those of the MLB or the Yankees, at peace with everything that his career entailed; all the on field excitement and off field drama, from his 2009 World Series and 3 MVP awards, to his year long suspension and subsequent lawsuits and war of words, that night was the culmination of it all, and now ARod the Player is nothing but a memory, a source of highlights and a model of hitting and fielding fundamentals, but also a cautionary tale for today’s generation of players.

As I mentioned before, ARod has transitioned as smooth as ever into his role with Fox Sports, as he’s proved he’s a natural on camera, and has actually made some really great points, not just spewing bullshit. I also mentioned that he’s a Special Adviser to the Yankees, basically just serving as a mentor. ARod has also been very involved in the corporation that he started when he was 26 called A-ROD CORP, which invests in fitness centers, real estate, and the automotive industry. He has been heavily promoting it on his Instagram page, which he has been very active on in his post playing career, posting many pictures with girlfriend J Lo; my guy just can’t stay away from the limelight, but good for him.

Image result for a rod and jlo

So, ARod has fully made the transition into his post playing life, consisting of broadcasting, business, and family. Opinions on him vary; some applaud him for his growth and forgive him for his wrongdoing, others resent him and hate him for cheating the game and then trying to cover it up. No one knows exactly how much his PED use benefited his game, but his pure talent was undeniable, with or without the steroids.

I can’t speak for all Yankees fans, but as a 20 year old who’s been following the team for over a decade, I view ARod’s time in New York more positively than negatively. Admittedly, a lot of that is because of his 2009 postseason, as it is the only World Series I have seen the Yankees play in, and some of my fondest memories as a New York sports fan. I also grew up admiring him, and actually began following the team his 1st year in New York, so there’s that aspect of it, as well. And then, after his suspension, I really think that he tried, and succeeded, at becoming a role model, putting the team and his teammates before him, saying all the right things, with a genuine feel of regret for his wrongdoing, not wanting to be remembered solely for the negatives he brought upon himself, and wanting to make amends with all of the New Yorkers and MLB fans who felt cheated by him.

In a career that has seen ARod’s perception transform more times than that dude from “Split’s” personality, from pretty boy teenage phenom, to hot shot perennial MVP/All Star/surefire Hall of Famer, to steroid using cheater and liar, all the way to veteran role model, I can fully say, after a year of looking back and reflecting on his career, on all of his accomplishments and failures, that, as a Yankees fan, I view his career in a positive light. He committed some terrible acts, but served his time, and overall, over the last 20+ years, he was GREAT for the sport of baseball.

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