Several years ago, I was talking to an ardent Cubs fan acquaintance of mine about the impending contract situation of Carlos Zambrano.
“They’ll probably do something stupid,” she said, “like trade Z for A-Rod or something.”
This spurred an epic tirade from my mouth about the typical and obvious self-loathing in her line of thinking, how only a Cubs fan would be so jaded they would see landing one of the best baseball players of all time as a bad thing. Gold Gloves this, MVP that, 40/40, Derek Jeter isn’t even the best shortstop on his own team blah blah blah because as much of a weirdo and jerk he’s made out to be, I’ve generally stood up for Alex Rodriguez in baseball discussions based on his prodigious talent and the absolute weirdness of his career.
This is a guy who managed to personally destroy the self-confidence of the entire Red Sox fanbase on two separate occasions, first in 2003 when Rodriguez and his agent had all of Boston convinced he and Nomar Garciaparra were about to switch places and again in 2007 when he single-handedly upstaged the BoSox’ impending World Series win over the Colorado Rockies. A guy with one of the best decades of baseball to his name earning the highest salary on the biggest stage imaginable, yet still wasn’t convinced people really liked him. The most valuable player in the game yet the most reviled man on his team. In pure baseball terms he was a singular talent; in human terms he made for a fascinating case study in human frailty.
If the news is true (and the lame response by the accused does little to refute it) then every defender of Alex Rodriguez really has no ammunition left. Where there once stood a misunderstood master craftsman, we now have nine years of asterisks and those clever, clever masses in the stands chanting “A-Roid” to look forward to. Rodriguez was to reclaim some very cherished history from some of the questionable characters that came before him; now, well, a man in St. Louis can expect to gain a lot of new fans.
When he was racking up all that hardware and continually redefining the standard for the game, he was a great baseball player, the likes of which any fan of the sport was lucky to see in their lifetime. As it turns out, we had seen him before.
We just didn’t know it yet.