Alex Rodriguez will retire following the 2017 season. Or maybe he won’t. We’ll see, I guess. Regardless, we’ve long since passed the time when A-Rod‘s past days in pinstripes severely outweigh his future days in pinstripes. Two full seasons is a long time to start waxing about most players’ careers, but few players in baseball have been as meaningful to the game–positively and negatively–as Alex has during his time in the Majors. His tenure with the team has been at times tantalizing, tumultuous, tedious…it’s safe to say we’ll likely never have an experience with a player quite like we have with A-Rod.
To kick off my part in his two-year “retirement” tour, as Mike put it in his post, I’m going to turn to an assignment I’ve given out to multiple classes. In the assignment, the students had to make an album for our curriculum, selecting songs that they felt spoke to the characters and/or themes of the texts we’d been studying. For the purposes of this assignment, the “text” is Alex Rodriguez’s Yankee career.
1. Okay, I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t–Brand New: “I am heaven sent/Don’t you dare forget/I am all you’ve ever wanted/What all the other boys all promise…”
Ignoring any sort of nuance to the words or song, let’s take them at face value for a moment. I remember exactly where I was during the press conference that introduce A-Rod to the Yankees–I was getting a haircut–and while I didn’t think of this song at the time, looking back, it makes perfect sense. When the Yankees acquired A-Rod, he was the best player on earth, hands down, bar none. He was heaven sent. He was all anyone would ever want or could ever want out of a baseball player. And, likely, deep down, Alex knew that and comported himself as such. Was he cocky at times, even arrogant? Sure he was. But when you’re a player like that, you’ve earned it.
2. One-Eighty by Summer–Taking Back Sunday “Go on, just say it/You need me like a bad habit…”
Are there any words that could more aptly sum up the media’s obsession with Rodriguez over the last 12 years? No matter what he did, no matter what he said, it was all taken in by a hungry media, digested, and spit back out as a hot take of some sort. This has cooled since season, but there has always been an undercurrent of tension with Rodriguez and the media, and for certain outlets, he’s a habit they just can’t break.
3. The Mountain Range In My Living Room–The Early November “It’s never been harder to fall/There’s nothing to grab and that’s/All I want to hold on to/Just another sweep and it’ll be fine/But this carpet’s got hills/And I can’t see this helping at all.”
Alex has had troubles in his times with the Yankees, and there’s no denying that. Sometimes, he’s wanted them swept under the rug, and we have too, thinking some things were non-stories or not important. But the fact remains that he’s brought a lot of things upon himself through both words and actions. He’s most definitely been held accountable for them and he’s most definitely changed, but we can’t ignore his issues, be the hills in the carpet or mountain ranges.
4. Sympathy for the Martyr–Straylight Run “A laundry list of problems doesn’t make you interesting/Never getting help doesn’t make you brave/Not listening to reason doesn’t mean that you have faith/You’re just cutting off your nose to spite your face…”
After Alex danced around steroid suspicions and admissions in the offseason between 2008 and 2009, we were all glad to be rid of that distraction, especially when he dominated the 2009 playoffs like he did. Things came up again in 2013 and 2014 and most of us still defended Rodriguez from our fan’s perspective. It’s hard, though, to ignore the feeling that at that point, continuing to do PEDs was probably the dumbest thing Rodriguez could’ve done and his reaction to his mistakes wasn’t exactly professional. All of that led to his 2014 suspension, and certainly a change of heart.
5. I Don’t Like Who I Was Then–The Wonder Years “I put my past self in the ground/I’ve been dancing on his grave/I’m not the person that I was then/I’m sending him away/I was bitter/I was careless…”
This song is Alex’s 2015 (and so far 2016) in a nutshell. He recognized who he was and changed it after his 2014 suspension. Yes, he’s still goofy and awkward now, but he’s embraced it. He had a season no on expected. He endeared himself to fans and media alike. He went onto Fox’s World Series coverage, something that seemed beyond inconceivable in 2014. The person that Alex was before 2015 is long gone.
6. My Hero–The Foo Fighters “There goes my hero/He’s ordinary…”
Alex Rodriguez is not a hero. He’s also not a villain. He is, by all accounts, ordinary. He has an extraordinary talent and is an extraordinary baseball player, but as a human being, he is as ordinary as you are and I am. He has strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and charms. He is a real person, and over the course of his time in the Bronx, we have seen the full picture of him as a person more than we have just about any other player. I’m thankful for his time in pinstripes and will remember it fondly.