Few characters in sports evoke stronger emotions than Alex Rodriguez, that rare breed of athlete that is either loved or loathed, praised or reviled. Just as with other controversial superstars, guys like Mike Tyson, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, or Barbaro, one cannot help but have an opinion of the man that rests on one extreme or the other.
He is a hero or he is a villain, a godsend or a terror; there is no middle ground, no room for nuanced thought or equivocation. Any who profess otherwise are either ignorant of the game of baseball or are to be dismissed out of hand as a lunatic. Or both.
While readers of this site certainly need no further example or explanation of this love-hate dichotomy, one could find it on full display in a recent yahoo article in which Rodriguez revealed an interest in playing for the Boston Red Sox in 2008. While the article itself isn't especially noteworthy, the comments from the Red Sox faithful perfectly illustrate the emotional divide among baseball fans when it comes to pondering A-Rod.
What was particularly interesting was that the vast majority of Red Sox fans held Rodriguez in contempt, and considered signing him an enormous mistake. Feel free to take a look at them, you'll see what I mean.
While there were myriad arguments and personal attacks made against Alex, they all had one thing in common: they were all correct. Alex Rodriguez is a terrible baseball player, and an even worse human being, sure to bring misfortune to any team that has the audacity to sign him.
a colossal failure by any metric
Let's look at the evidence.
A-ROD RUINED THE YANKEES
Heading into 2004, the year Alex Rodriguez first rode his stallion of failure into Yankee Stadium, the Yankees were coming off a historic period of success. From 1995-2003, the Yankees had nine straight years of playoff appearances, including four World Championships. During that stretch, the Yankees averaged an astounding 96 wins per year, easily the best in all of the majors, and perhaps one of the best runs of any team in ML history.
It was then that the Yankees let the success get to its collective heads, and in an astounding display of pinstripe-y arrogance, they traded for a four-time MVP winner, naively believing he might help their team in some fashion.
The results were predictably disastrous. After bringing the cancerous shortstop on board, the Yankees only went to the playoffs four out of the four years that he played there, winning only a paltry 96.75 games per season, barely more than any other team in the Majors.
The nadir of A-Rod's career with the Yankees came this year, when New York only managed 94 wins, finishing 2 games behind division leading Boston, and settling for an embarrassing Wild Card berth. All this despite the Yankees owning a team ERA of 4.49, which ranked just behind our own beloved Kansas City Royals (4.48), which just proves that with a competent offense, the Yankees could have tasted a modicum of success.
A-ROD IS SELFISH
What was the first thing Alex Rodriguez did when he came to the Yankees, and they asked him to shift from shortstop to third baseman, because they already had an inferior defensive player manning that position in Derek Jeter? He complied with the request. Ergo ipso facto, he's an A-Hole. (By the way, how come nobody ever thought of calling him by that name before? Even better: Nim-Rod. Get it? Somebody should write in to suggest these to Peter Gammons.)
Obviously, there's more of a case to be made for A-Rod's selfishness than just a willingness to shift positions to help a team. But perhaps in order to understand selfish play, one must first define un-selfish play. And everyone knows that the only way to be an unselfish baseball player is to do the little things right that help win ballgames - you know, stuff like sacrificing over the base runner, or bunting when the situation calls for it.
I'm sure some of the more skeptical readers might say, well, he led the league in homeruns, why would you ask him to bunt?
In response, let me ask you this: how many times did Buddy Bell ask his cleanup hitter to bunt over the baserunner? A lot. So why didn't A-Rod do it for NY? Probably because he's a dick.
Oh, and just how many times did "Me First" Rodriguez bother to hit sacrifice flies?
The answer is 9, which means he almost finished outside of the top 10 in the major leagues in that category, and probably would have, if he had his way. But he didn't, most likely because:
A-ROD PLAYS ONLY FOR STATS
A lot of hullaballoo has been made about A-Rod's 57 homeruns this year. But what hasn't been really discussed is how little Alex did to actually help his team win. He greedily compiled 156 RBIs this season and 143 runs, for the sole reason of stat-padding. If this weren't the case, and he didn't play just for stats, then why didn't he work harder to strand a runner once in a while, or make more base-running errors?
The answer is simple. He didn't, because he's all about the numbers, regardless of whatever deleterious effects this may have on the team's chances of winning.
How many rallies did Alex end when he cleared the bases with a 3-run homer, when he could have instead kept the rally going with a weak pop out to first? For Rodriguez, those three RBIs were always the most important thing. Winning took a distant second, if it got any consideration at all.
A-ROD ISN'T CLUTCH
You know, one of the reasons why A-Rod sucks so bad is because he isn't a clutch hitter. They've actually come up with a stat called LIPS that shows how well a player did with a runner on 2nd in a tight game in the later innings. A-Rod's performance was a paltry .345/.413/.608 over the course of the year.
Okay, admittedly, that looks sort of high. But I'm guessing he hit so well just to make all of his other teammates look bad.
Why then, you may ask, did he take 2nd on the team to Jason Giambi's .323/.400/.645? Clearly this was A-Rod's way of endorsing Giambi's steroid use.
A-ROD WILL RUIN THE RED SOX
If you read the article referenced at the top of this post, you'll notice that a lot of Red Sox fans were downright hostile to the idea of bringing Lame Rod (man, I should get paid for coming up with these) on board.
And who can blame them? The Red Sox are WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS! And they won so many games this year not on the strength of their league-leading pitching but because they had Julio Lugo and Mike Lowell. And guess who's first to go if you sign Alex Rodriguez? One of those guys, I guess.
Is Rodriguez's 1.067 OPS really an improvement over Lowell's .867? Of course not. Lowell's got a World Series ring. All Rodriguez has is 320 more career homeruns.
And how disastrous would it be to replace Julio Lugo and his .643 OPS with multiple gold-glove winning Alex Rodriguez?
For one thing, Alex Rodriguez is already a much older player than Lugo, by about 90 days. (Not to mention Lugo's originally from the Dominican Republic, so odds are he's actually even younger.) For another, Lugo has shown he Knows How to Win. Has Rodriguez? Well, he doesn't have a ring, now, does he.
Most importantly, though, and the reason sited most often (and correctly) by Red Sox fans, this would be a mistake because it would disrupt team chemistry. Lugo is a hero and you can't quantify those sort of things.
Julio Lugo, the Marie Curie of team chemistry
Just imagine: do you think Josh Beckett would be able to pitch as effectively if in the back of his mind he knew Alex Rodriguez, not Julio Lugo, was 15 feet behind him? How can the pitchers rely on A-Rod to get to ground balls when they know there's likely to be an enormous wallet in his pocket weighing him down? How much more often would David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez strike out with Team Chemistry Destroyer Alex Rodriguez hitting behind them? Would they even bother to show up to the games at all?
(Secretly, though, I hope the Red Sox fans don't get their wish and they end up signing him. I know that's a bit sadistic of me, but I just fear that otherwise he'll somehow end up on the Royals and he'll drag down the team to the tune of an additional 10-15 wins next year.)
A-ROD RUINED THE NATIONAL DISCOURSE
I've mentioned a lot of reasons why A-Rod is so terrible for the game, but there's one reason above all to hate the guy.
Somewhere along the line, some teammate or lazy sports journalist came up with the idea to shorten his name to A-Rod. Probably seemingly innocuous at the time, so Alex probably never sent in a letter to the editor to request a retraction.
What's happened as a result? Now every name in the world has to be shortened. Without A-Rod, there would be no I-Rod, or K-Rod, or F-Rod. There'd be no K-Fed, or J-Lo, or LiLo, or Bennifer or Brangelina or Bennifergelina floating around, just waiting to dumb down our national dialogue even further. Puff Daddy wouldn't have become P.Diddy. Prince wouldn't have changed his name to some sort of hybrid hieroglyphic cuneiform-type thingy.
Way to not see this becoming a trend and putting an end to it early, jackass.
Somehow this is all your fault, Alex