Column: In “defense” of A-Rod

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Steroids have been a big problem in Major League Baseball for years, but officials are making Alex Rodriguez the face of the epidemic. Photo courtesy Metrocreative Connections

I’ll admit that I never expected—not in a million years—to write the following sentence. I feel bad for Alex Rodriguez.
Now, I’ll admit that, as a Red Sox fan, I have spent the last decade or so absolutely loathing the “suspended” Yankees slugger. The Arroyo ball-slap in the 2004 ALCS and his seeming inability to hit in the postseason, coupled with stories of his high-profile relationships, and his house being adorned with paintings of himself as a centaur, give many the impression—and perhaps not wrongly—that A-Rod is the embodiment of the rich, spoiled athlete that fans love to hate.

As it turned out, it wasn’t just the fans, it was baseball, too.

When the news of the Biogenesis scandale broke, and A-Rod was named as one of the players involved with Tony Bosch, it became clear just how much baseball wanted Rodriguez out. Of all the players named in Bosch’s ledgers, A-Rod was public enemy number one. While Ryan Braun copped a deal to receive a 65-game suspension and the rest of the players named were  shelved for 50 games, A-Rod was the exception, earning a whopping 211 games (although that ruling will be appealed) MLB sources had even gone as far as floating out ominous rumors like a potential lifetime ban for the famed Yankee slugger.

Partially, I understood their reasoning. Sources indicated that Rodriguez tried to purchase the telling documents from the Biogenesis club in an effort to obstruct MLB’s investigation, which is a more serious offense than simply using PEDs. But, if the obstruction was what was going to garner A-Rod a lifetime ban, where was this outrage when Melky Cabrera—or someone in his camp—created a phony website to somehow legitimize whatever he was busted for taking in 2012? Melky, who was named in this latest report, will not be suspended by Major League Baseball because he tested positive last year and has already served his suspension.

In my mind, it simply seemed that baseball has had enough of the A-Rod circus and would like to be rid of him sooner rather than later. Even his own team hasn’t taken up his cause, instead doing their darndest to keep the third-baseman—a player they need as they gear up for a pennant race–off the field as well (A-Rod returned to action on Aug. 5 against the White Sox).

But for me, the saddest part of the A-Rod saga is there has been virtually no groundswell among Yankees fans to defend the guy. In fact,  no fans anywhere seem to want this guy back on the field. Barry Bonds, though vilified in other markets, is still beloved in San Francisco. Cincinnati fans are still vocal supporters of Pete Rose, who broke, until that point, anyway, baseball’s cardinal sin.

I’m sure once Braun comes back next year, the Brewers faithful will still wear his jersey. But A-Rod–and this is his own fault–has engendered no love in any city in which he’s played. Fans in Seattle, Texas and New York all seem to treat him as persona non grata; at worst, a villain, and at best, a grade-A pain in the butt.

Which leaves A-Rod, alone, doing anything his camp suggests he do in order to make sure he takes the field at least one more time. He’s a man—who doesn’t need the money the Yankees can recoup—grasping at straws in an attempt to once again take the field and do the one thing he has worked towards his whole life, playing Major League Baseball.

No matter how this plays out, it’s certainly been a sad affair to watch.

That said, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.