I wrote this as a baseball fan, not as a Yankees fan

April 13, 2007 at 5:43 am | Posted in baseball, lee | 5 Comments

Baseball Needs A-Rod
How Alex Rodriguez can save baseball

You might hate Alex Rodriguez. You might want to rethink that hate, though, because he could be one of history’s most important baseball players.

I know, I know. He is so easy to hate and the reasons to do so are more than plenty.

There’s the record-setting, 10-year, $252 million dollar contract he signed in 2001 that will earn him $27 million this year alone (not to make you hate him more, but if he gets 572 at-bats like he did last year he will make $47,202.80 per at-bat).

Perhaps you hate that despite all that money and his numerous American League Most Valuable Player awards, he usually doesn’t perform well when it seems to matter the most: the playoffs.

It could be that he seems fake. He is too good of a person. Everything he does seems so scripted, his answers so rehearsed. It could be all three.

Or, maybe you just hate the Yankees.

Whatever your reason, you might want to start rooting for Rodriguez because he is important to the history of Major League Baseball (MLB). Why? Because he hits a lot of home runs and doesn’t do steroids. This combination could make him the one to help baseball move on from the “steroid era” that has dragged baseball’s good name through the mud for almost 30 years.

Homeruns are the most prominent of all baseball plays. They show the skill and power that a player possesses. They put a run – or runs – on the scoreboard with a single swing of the bat. The records for homeruns have always been considered sacred and important parts of baseball’s rich tradition.

For a few decades, Babe Ruth held the two biggest records for homeruns that exist: home runs in a single season (60) and homeruns over a career (714).

In 1961, Roger Maris broke the single-season record by hitting 61 homers. His record maintained the sacredness of Ruth’s. Maris held the record until the 1998 season, when Mark McGwire passed him by hitting 70 homeruns. Just three years later, Barry Bonds out-did McGwire by hitting 73 in 2001. Because both Bonds and McGwire have been all but convicted of steroid use, the singe-season homerun record has lost its prestige and had become almost laughable.

The career homerun record is considered by many to be the biggest record in all of sports. The Babe held onto the record until April 8, 1974, when Henry Aaron became the homerun king by hitting his 715th homer. Aaron finished his career in 1976 with 755 homeruns and more than 30 years later, the record has remained holy. It appears that it won’t last past this season, though, because Barry Bonds is at it again.

Going into the 2007 baseball season, the 42 year-old Bonds has dinged 734 homers, only 21 shy of Aaron’s record. That’s a small margin, considering that over his 21 year career, Bonds has only hit less than 21 homers in three seasons: 2005 when he only played in 14 games on account of injury and two others within his first four seasons in the Major Leagues. So, barring an (un)fortunate injury to Bonds or unforeseeable luck for baseball fans, the record will fall well before the season ends.

Alex Rodriguez, though, can make Bonds reign last less than a decade. In 11 seasons the 31 year-old A-Rod has already amassed 464 homeruns. That is an average of 42 homers per season. Let’s assume that Bonds will play one more season after 2007 and finish his career with 800 homeruns. If Rodriguez keeps with his pace of 42 homers, he will break the record in just eight seasons. This means, that in 2014, the all-important record book of baseball could start looking pure again.

Because Rodriguez is a human (despite your perception of his robotic personality), he will age and age will probably bring a lack in production. We’ll guess that his production won’t fall much farther than to an average of 32 four-baggers per year. This would make him baseball’s all-time homerun leader midway through the 2017 season. Far away as that may seem, Rodriguez will only be 41 (turning 42 in July of 2017) that season, which is not an uncommon age for baseball players to still be productive at.

Even though you hate Rodriguez (or, used to), you probably hate Bonds more, or at least can admit that having baseball’s biggest record held by someone clean would be better than someone who used steroids.

Baseball fans need A-Rod to maintain his physical abilities for another decade. For that to happen, we need to do our part to ensure that his mind doesn’t go before his body does because of all the stress caused by unfair criticisms and petty hatreds. Although not short on physical prowess, our new-found hero doesn’t always have a psyche of steel. He’s a pleaser and he wants to meet the expectations placed on him. He wants to be a part of another New York Yankees dynasty of championships. He wants these things so bad, that it can be to his detriment. Mistakes can haunt him and criticism can hurt his confidence. He starts over-thinking and routine things like swinging a bat can become so complex in his brain that it seems almost impossible to do.

Alex Rodriguez is the only one who can put the cheating of the steroid era behind us in the near future, so rather than pick apart every mistake he makes or every thing he says, he should be cut some slack and not held to standards he can never meet. He doesn’t need to be coddled, just treated fairly. Otherwise, the dark cloud of cheating will continue to hover over baseball.

Then again, maybe you are of the line of thinking that everyone was juiced on steroids so it wasn’t really cheating. If so, shame on you. Baseball’s better than that.

(I wrote this for my magazine writing class.)

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5 Comments »

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  1. Well, you’ve convinced me. I hope you got an A.

  2. I hate the Yankees. Bad. But I like Rodriguez. Maybe it’s because Yankee fans hate him, or maybe it’s because he seems nice. Who knows? It seems that history and stats (hey, stats is a palindrome!) are more important to anyone than the season–probably because the lack of a salary cap kills any sense of true competition well before the twice-as-long-as-it-should-be season begins. So, I hope you’re right.

  3. but can we like both bonds and a-rod?
    first off, bonds hasn’t technically been convicted of steriod use. maybe he used them. but i work from the assumption that probably everyone in the major leagues using some kind of performance enhancing drugs. this would include a-rod. you can’t tell who is using steriods just by their body types–look at lance armstrong.
    second, every era of baseball has been tainted. babe ruth broke all those records without ever having to compete against an african-american player. in the sixties and seventies, nearly every baseball player was on speed. in the eighties it was coke.
    in other words, it’s almost impossible to judge players from different eras against each other. so when bonds breaks the homerun record it proves that he hit more homeruns than anyone else. he may be the best homerun hitter of all time, but that depends on how you qualify the best homerun hitter of all time.
    finally, that game of shadows book was rejected for pulitizer consideration because the sourcing was so weak.
    but i kind of like a-rod.

  4. Funny you bring up Lance Armstrong. The more I read about some of the alleged charges against him about steroids, I wonder. Especially the last round. I don’t think its a vendetta or angry frenchmen jealous of an American.

    As for A-Rod–he’s a whiner, a crybaby, but as long as he keeps producing I don’t care about the rest.

  5. i also hate the yankees a lot. but i also kind of like a-rod against my will. plus, he has really really pretty eyes.


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