"The crowd at Yankee Stadium roared and his teammates implored him to acknowledge them , but Alex Rodriguez was still hesitant.
He's been one of the most hated professional athletes in the world since he was suspended for the entire 2014 season due to his use of performance-enhancing drugs, and the cheers clearly still make him feel uncomfortable. But after hitting his 661st career home run to pass the legendary Willie Mays for sole possession of fourth place on Major League Baseball's all-time list in Thursday's 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, it was as if the fans forgave him for his past transgressions."
That was the lead to the usatoday.com piece about Alex Rodriguez padding his Hall of Shame stats. I wasn’t one of those millions of fans who supposedly hated A-Rod, so I’m not part of the dwindling number of fans who still do. I’m also not a flip-flopper like some fans. The ones who have sung his praises all season, but wanted no parts of him when he was considered a washed up, broken down (immortal) juicer past his prime.
In fact, I personally don't know anyone who hates the guy outside of some curmudgeonous, played out reporters who want to pick and choose who to exclude from the record books and it’s usually a Black or Latino.
The "everybody hates A-Rod" philosophy is a media-created, Yankees management---fueled hate parade and it's always been. The only radio head with any credibility to me is WFAN sports legend Mike Francesca, who said from the beginning that A-Rod was getting railroaded and you can't condemn one man for something that hundreds of ballplayers were doing. He always maintained that if you were going to put the stakes through A-Rod and damage his legacy forever, then baseball should release the other 100 names or so that were on that original list of juicing players that MLB supposedly confidentially tested. It just looks like MLB slams “certain” players and protects others. It’s wack.
Some media dudes twist the narrative to create things that really aren't there. A-Rod is not hated. Not any more than any Yankee player has been hated by opposing teams and fans. He's no more hated than Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson or Derek Jeter when he steps to the plate in pinstripes in a playoff game, to obliterate an opposing pitcher. Sounds crazy, but Jeter was hated too. Don’t believe the hype. He was just easier to like because his media coverage was always favorable. None of them were any better a teammate, leader or legend than A-Rod. With off the field stuff, staying clean is about who keeps his junk on the low and rocks his public persona the best.
I think it’s kind of comical how hard the government (with the urging of MLB who helped facilitate and spread the PED epidemic) and certain ball clubs went to annihilate guys who have served their franchises honorably and with star power, flooding the gates with revenue. The same owners and MLB hierarchy who once encouraged PED use turned around and played stupid after reaping ten times the profit any of the players who actually juiced.
But that’s another sad and long-winded clubhouse story for a day when rain spits on a doubleheader. For now, at least one journalist will acknowledge the magnificence and magnitude of A-Rod’s accomplishments.
At the end of the day, the fans know the difference and they roll with the bottom line. All of the distractions injected by social media and TV and print journalism and MLB execs with ulterior motives, don’t change the fact that with every “clean" hit A-Rod gets this year, he is giving the proverbial middle finger to all of the folks who tried to run him from the game. He doesn’t have much time left as a baller. Therefore, every game-winning bomb is vindication and an egg on the face of the Yankees who went FBI hard to smear A-Rod's name and convince people that he shouldn’t be paid for any of the "PED - enhanced" milestones he will accumulate in the future.
At least he’s performing better than 2011 MVP Ryan Braun did after his PED fiasco. Talk about sh*tting on people. No one did it better than Braun, who got a sample collector fired in his desperation to beat the system and appear innocent. His career has nose-dived since he was outed. He’ll never know how it feels to be a baseball god ; Acknowledged as “the living standard of omnipotence” by peers, fans and MLB movers and shakers alike.
A-Rod has every right to tell the Yankees to kiss his ass. Whatever happens in this A-Rod-Yankees financial tango that is adverse to the Yankees business interests... I say that’s good for them. I hope he keeps hitting home runs and keeps making them eat their words. The Yankees and A-Rod spit irreconcilable flames at each other. The beef ended with Rodriguez accepting the longest PED ban in MLB history.
They tried to dog him out and force him out of the game. Baseball piled on and made him public enemy No. 1. Did they hate him because he did PEDs like Andy Pettitte. Or were they jealous of the Dominican Don who kept a beautiful wife at home while he fraternized with the likes of Madonna and Carmen Diaz and mashed 50-homer seasons.
Or was it simply because Jeter went cold on him?
I guess cats forgot who this guy was. He's an MLB titan who ruled baseball as its Golden King for many years, entering MLB at age 18 and transforming the shortstop position and boosting its appeal for future generations.
His career numbers are gaudy and far exceed those of any infielder of the modern era. His name is plastered all over the all-time lists; fourth in home runs and third in RBI's behind Hank Aaron and Lou "Iron man" Gehrig. He's third all-time in runs behind Stan "The Man" Musial and the legendary Rickey Henderson and his 2,962 hits puts him 38 shy of the coveted 3,000-hit milestone.
Should this all be ignored? Only if it beneficial to your cause.
The Yankees, for instance, never expected A-Rod to deliver the goods as a "clean" player. We can't blame them for feeding into hyperbole concerning the effects of PEDs. They aren't doctors, just baseball guys. Baseball guys with feelings and a high business acumen.
They assumed that at some point he would concede defeat. The A-Rod ship had seemed to sail. He helped bring the Yanks their only championship in the past 15 years in '09 and he won two of his three MVPS with them. Then the high-profile embarrassment of the BALCO situation and A-Rod's diminished play turned his Yankees career into a nightmare.
The best thing about A-Rod actually being on the field is that he has the ability to change that nightmare into a dream season. He doesn't hit for average anymore (.245) but his power numbers are looking quite formidable. Rodriguez, considered a part-time player at best entering the season, is now snuggled into the third spot in the first place Yankees’ (18-11) batting order.
"Who woulda thunk it", as my grandpa used to say. It's some poetic justice for a guy who was the victim of a MLB witch hunt and for some reason made to suffer and be humiliated more harshly than other players with the same indiscretions. Players whose steroid and PED use couldn’t help them become a fraction of the player A-Rod was and still is.
To tell you the truth, that backlash mostly comes from older heads. The age 50-and-up guys who still want us to believe that Bob Feller was better than Felix Hernandez.
They would attempt to erase another one of our heroes from existence as if we didn’t witness all 661 of his homers. As if where and when and why he hit those homers over and over again for a span of almost two decades doesn’t matter. They want us to believe that the players from "their" era were so much more honorable and drug free and respected the game more. People are people no matter what generation you are riding with. Players enhanced their games illegally in the 60s, 70s and 80s as well. Gaining an edge in baseball didn’t begin with A Rod or Barry Bonds or any other MLB legend we try to now retroactively render as obsolete. It's a joke. Just ask Tom Brady.