In Defense of A-Rod(Sept. 16)

I am here to defend A-Rod. There are more popular things to do than to present a spirited defense of a man who makes $250 million. I could go the easy route and come to the aid of the flavor of the week underdog in the sports world. But screw it. I’m putting my eggs in this basket. The Alex Rodriguez basket-of eggs. Moving on. 

A-Rod is a polarizing figure, that much is obvious. Those who loathe him as well as those enamored with his top notch musculature and piercing green eyes use two different means to measure him. The two measuring sticks are on the field performance and his perceived personality faults. Those who back A-Rod, lets call them A-Backers, point to his off the charts regular season performance. Consider that Alex Rodriguez is the youngest player in history to reach 500 home runs. He currently sits at 516 for his career and has 52 home runs and 141 rbis this season. He will certainly be the MVP of the American League and should be the unanimous choice.  Undoubtedly a couple A-Haters will be voting and this won’t occur, but the fact remains. 

On the flip side those who don’t like A-Rod cite his tendency to put his foot in his mouth and to worry about what people’s opinions are of him. In the April 2001 issue of Esquire magazine he said “You go into New York, you wanna stop Bernie and O’Neill,” speaking of Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill. “You never say don’t let Derek beat you. He’s never your concern.” His concern with people’s perception of him was evident during spring training of this year when he said that he and Jeter are no longer best friends. He even went as far as to confirm to the shock of the country, what we had all feared. The famed Jeter and A-Rod sleepovers were over, a relic of a time long since past. Once I regained consciousness and got over the sucker punch that was this news I thought about something that occurred to seemingly no one in the media(I will exclude myself until after the publication of this sure-fire Pulitzer contender). My thought was “So what? What’s the big deal?” 

A-Rod was skewered in the media for this and more. But A-Rod is someone we can look to much more positively than some of our other sports heroes. According to Ric Bucher who covers the NBA for ESPN, the  American sports icon of our time Michael Jordan, routinely treated teammates badly. He had a “zealotry for winning” that made him “cutthroat and brazen”. The reason many people love him and don’t know about that side of him is because he had a “polish and personal veneer” that helped him hide it. Kobe Bryant the heir to MJ’s throne put himself in a terrible situation and was tried for sexual assault. And Ray Lewis one of the most dominant players in football was tried for murder. Barry Bonds, the all-time home run champion has a head the size of a baby elephant. Fourteen years into his career when most players should be on the down swing Barry Bonds went from 49 to 73 home runs in a season, and subsequently has been accused of steroid allegations from many different angles.   A-Rod has his issues but so do a lot of people. He is the man who, like it or not, baseball is hoping will become the new all-time home run king. He is 32 years old and his averaged 43 home runs a year in his full seasons in the majors. At this pace and barring injury(he has stayed relatively injury free his entire career) he would break whatever Bonds record ends up being sometime in 2013 or 2014 at age 38 or 39. He would most likely still be putting up great numbers, albeit on the downside of his own career. 

A-Haters think that in this day and age A-Rod could be a steroid user as well. I guess you got me there. A-Rod has gone from 190 pounds his rookie year to 210 pounds this year. The problem is that he has gained 20 pounds in 14 years of prime weight gaining territory. Be sure to query any of your esteemed professors as to their weight in their first year of college compared to their early 30’s. Changes occur, natural and gradual ones, but changes nonetheless. Compare that to Barry Bonds. The authors of Game of Shadows, the book that shed light on Barry Bonds steroids use said that “Most attributed the changes in Bonds body to a heavy workout regimen, as though a 34-year-old man could gain 15 pounds of muscle in 100 days without drugs.” 

More fodder for A-Haters is that in the postseason he has not produced. I present Exhibit A: Peyton Manning. For years he was bashed because he couldn’t lead his team to a Super Bowl win. Like A-Rod, Manning had good postseason games and bad ones, but people focused on the negative. Now Manning for all intents and purposes is a big performer in the clutch. Now he is validated.  This season Rodriguez has performed like someone ready to take his regular season game to the penthouse that is postseason baseball. A-Rod has come to the plate 68 times in the 7th inning or later when the Yankees are within one run of their opponent. In those plate appearances, Rodriguez is hitting .328, has a .412 on base percentage, and has 6 home runs and 19 RBI. In 46 ninth inning at bats, Rodriguez is batting .447 with 8 home runs and 20 rbi’s. He also has four game-winning walkoff hits, two of them home runs.Anything to say A-Haters? That’s what I thought.

Last time I checked this was America. We like entertainment, we like talent, and we like winners. We don’t continuously kill a guy because he cares what people think or say about him. Sure he makes $250 million but he’s human. Even if you were rich it would probably irk you to open up the paper and read my scathing take on your subpar performance at work yesterday. So here’s the thing. A-Rod will shatter Barry Bonds tainted record whether we nestle him to our collective bosom or not. I just think we might as well root for him. It’s the American Way. And in this world climate, that’s just as unpopular as defending him anyway. 


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