Alex Rodriguez: The most disappointing great Yankee ever

12 08 2016

Alex Rodriguez plays his last game as a Yankee today.

I can think of few Yankees who have played so long so well that I cared so little about. Yes, he was a great player for the Yankees, but he was a colossal post-season disappointment (despite finally contributing to a championship in 2009). I wasn’t pleased when they acquired him. I wasn’t very often pleased with his play, and I don’t care that his run is finished. It’s probably appropriate that he didn’t walk away after last year’s pretty good season, but stuck around to disappoint once again this year.

Yes, he was a cheat, but baseball has had so many cheats that I don’t have great outrage over them. I don’t respect them, and I think they deserve whatever scorn is heaped upon them. I just don’t care enough any more to join often in the heaping.

I suspect at some point he and other cheats with worthy accomplishments will be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But I don’t care much about that. Don’t care much if they keep the cheats out and don’t care much if they let them in. From my standpoint, the shame of the cheaters is that they diminished how much we cared about baseball records and baseball greatness.

If I cared more about A-Rod’s two MVP’s as a Yankee or the times he led the league in homers, RBI, slugging and OPS, I’d have to care more about how much he cheated.

Beyond his cheating, his post-season chokes and all those stats he compiled, A-Rod is probably best remembered as a Yankee for two moments against the Red Sox: when Jason Varitek attacked him and when he slapped the ball away from Bronson Arroyo.

The Varitek incident illustrated both the media’s (and baseball’s) hatred of Rodriguez, even before we knew he cheated. Watch the video above. A-Rod was hit, clearly deliberately, by Arroyo, and wasn’t charging the mound. Some glaring and shouting there is a pretty mild response. And Varitek, without even taking off his mask, started the fight. That might be the single most cowardly act in the history of baseball fighting, for a catcher to start a fight with a batter who’s not charging the mound, without first tossing his mask aside (catchers know how to take off the mask quickly, you might have noticed). Yet because it was the Red Sox vs. the Yankees and because A-Rod was the guy Varitek punched, it was depicted as some sort of gritty act of leadership by Varitek.

The Arroyo incident was a silly illustration of baseball rules and culture. In more than a half-century of watching baseball on TV, that’s the only time I’ve seen that call. Kick a ball out of a fielder’s glove and you’re safe. Plow into the fielder and knock the ball loose and you’re safe. (That’s what A-Rod should have done.) But slap the ball out of the glove and you get called out. It made no sense, but it was A-Rod and I guess the rules say that you can’t do that.

Of course, if A-Rod had driven home a run or two in the last half of the 2004 American League Championship Series, no one remembers any of that. So I don’t care that people remember A-Rod for either of those plays.

I don’t have anything further to say about the end of his career (if this really is the end; I won’t be surprised if he resurfaces somewhere, trying to reach 700 homers). I’ll end by reviewing what I’ve said along the way:

Alex Rodriguez’s disappointing decade as a Yankee

Ibañez hitting for A-Rod: Strategy you never see in the National League

Pete Rose and A-Rod check in to the Fox Sports Image Rehab Clinic

Scoundrels Committee: A way to recognize shamed players in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Do we have a Yankees team with no future Hall of Famers?

Alex Rodriguez closing in on Gehrig’s grand-slam record

Because I didn’t take performance-enhancing drugs into account in ranking the best Yankees at various positions, I reluctantly ranked A-Rod above Graig Nettles as the best Yankee at third base. I also ranked him fourth at designated hitter.