“Wrath” and “Man” are, respectively, the first two words of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” The former refers to the anger of Achilles, who stars in the first work, and the latter references the title character of the second epic poem. When it comes to the subject of Alex Rodriguez, especially in New York, the anger of the fans and the Steinbrenner ownership around the former superstar has been the story since the revelation of his PED use and subsequent suspension. However, with his year-long ban from the sport served, it’s time to put aside the anger and recognize the journey of the man.
Alex Rodriguez has had one of the greatest careers of any person to pick up a bat. Natural, enhanced, it doesn’t matter. PEDs alone don’t make a player as great as A-Rod. Just ask the myriad of minor leaguers suspended and forgotten. Even Yoda said “Wars not make one great.” Yet A-Rod is not the villain this year. He is the Yankees’ last, best, hope.
Entering play on April 18, A-Rod was leading all Yankees in home runs, hits, RBI, average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.
Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays A-Rod had two home runs—his first multi-homer game in nearly three years. And while he missed the 2014 season, that left months of baseball for him to do something he had done dozens of times before.
This is A-Rod’s 61st career multi-homer game, first since May 23, 2012 vs. KC.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 18, 2015
Sitting on 658 home runs, A-Rod is on the verge of history in several respects. First, beginning with homer 660—Willie Mays’ total—Rodriguez will be awarded the first of $30 million worth of bonuses included in his contract. He would receive $6 million each time he tied Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Bonds, and additional $6 million for setting the new all-time home run mark.
These payouts surely seemed like a win for MLB public relations back in 2007: a clean hero would be celebrated again and again as he erased the memory of Barry Bonds. All fans would unite around the new home run king. Of course none of this will happen now, except for the payouts, probably. The Yankees will challenge the commitment made to their third baseman-turned-DH. Can they win? It’s difficult to say, but the MLB Players Association, despite lukewarm defense of A-Rod in the past, is unlikely to go along with a team deciding to back off their contractual agreements. A-Rod will have earned each and every bonus, even if he may have been enhanced at some time.
One person rooting for Rodriguez? Barry Bonds.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) April 13, 2015
In addition to whatever personal relationship he shares with Rodriguez, Bonds is likely taking a personal interest in shedding his own plotline as baseball’s villain. With Pete Rose now an analyst with Fox Sports 1 and petitioning for reinstatement it is a period of forgiveness in baseball, Bonds might get a chance to have some redemption of his own.
Derek Jeter has retired. Didi Gregorious is a defensive whiz but he’s not a replacement for the iconic Yankee at the plate. A-Rod came to the Yankees before the 2004 season as the best shortstop in the game. He won two MVP awards in New York and a World Series. It’s time for the Yankees and their fans to support their star, warts and all.
Yankee Stadium's love affair with Alex Rodriguez is fascinating.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) April 13, 2015
Of course, some fan support for A-Rod is just to make sure the Steinbrenners pay that entire monstrous deal, but some will be genuine. Mark McGwire has returned to baseball as a coach, Jason Giambi has already been considered for managerial jobs and was a veteran leader until he retired. A-Rod will get his time, and on a weak Yankees team, that time may be 2015.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.