A-Rod: The greatest Yankee

Major League Baseball committed a grave miscarriage of justice against the greatest player in the history of the New York Yankees over the weekend. Alex Rodriguez was denied his appeal of a season-long suspension due to his alleged involvement in a performance enhancing drug (PED) regimen. Millions of fervent baseball fans are in mourning.

After all, there’s always been someone to despise on the Yankees; before Rodriguez, there was Roger Clemens, and before him Ricky Henderson, Reggie Jackson, and so on. However, those of us who grew up loathing the Yankees hit a rough patch upon Clemens’s retirement in 2003. How could we hate a team loaded with classy players such as Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter? Luckily, fate stepped in and A-Rod was traded to the Evil Empire in 2004. Since then, he has been the single greatest gift for Yankee haters since the advent of the Red Sox.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig threatens to rob us of the opportunity to see this paragon of egotism in the autumn of his career, those glorious seasons in which his eroding skills and paranoia combine to bring about the inevitable demise of his baseball team.

He’s the reason I root for the Yankees to make the playoffs as he continues to solidify his place as the greatest choke artist in the team’s storied playoff history. In the 2011 playoffs, he hit .111 while going 0-for-4 in the deciding game, striking out with the bases loaded in his last at-bat. In 2012, Rodriguez was named the most overrated position player in baseball and the phoniest player in the entire league in two Sports Illustrated polls of his fellow players. In the playoffs, his manager pulled him three times for pinch hitters in the AL Championship Series before benching him in the final two games. Rodriguez hit .111 for the series.

His injury-plagued 2013 campaign created a media circus that made a playoff run impossible. Highlights included his second hip surgery, a record 211-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, a scorched-earth appeal that ostracized his GM, and a paltry .244 batting average.

A-Rod made $88 million for those three years and is still owed $86 million for the next four (not counting an additional $30 million in possible performance bonuses). He’ll be 41 in the final year of his current deal, ancient for any position player but even more so for someone who finds himself having to, say … stop cheating. When I turned 41, I pulled a hamstring walking my dog in the cold, and my hip was just fine.

For Yankee un-enthusiasts, the heartbroken tears of their fans as Rodriguez consistently disappoints are the nectar of the gods. Is there anything better than hometown boos in the Chapel That Ruth (Kinda) Built? A-Rod is old, injury-prone, and expensive. He’s a horrible influence on younger players, a pain in the butt for his manager, an albatross for his owners, and a lightning rod for controversy. What’s not to love?

Rodriguez is so much more than the greatest crippler of a team’s payroll flexibility in modern history. He’s also the greatest romantic train wreck ever to wear pinstripes. Yankee players have always had their pick of the world’s most desirable women; Jeter usually has a Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel on his arm, while Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe, for cryin’ out loud. A-Rod, on the other hand, made headlines with a series of strippers and exotic dancers while still married. His legal response to his wife’s claims of repeated infidelity in her petition for divorce was to label them “immaterial and impertinent.” Classic A-Rod. He didn’t deny it so much as express his disappointment that she brought it up at all.

He’s the Yankee’s greatest user of irony (doubting his close friend Jeter’s “ability to lead” in an Esquire article), greatest backstabber (supposedly leaking the name of a teammate during the MLB steroid investigation), and greatest hypocrite (walking out of his own hearing when Commissioner Bud Selig wouldn’t testify, yet never testifying himself).

There is no greater gall than his answer when asked about possible PED abuse by his peers in a 2007 interview on 60 Minutes: “If anything comes of this, I will be extremely disappointed. And it will be a huge black eye on the game of baseball.” This despite knowing he’d tested positive four years earlier but assumed the results would never be made public.

MLB is trying to rob us of those uncomfortable moments we got to experience last season, such as Rodriguez passing Yankee legend Lou Gehrig on the career grand slam list in a meaningless September game. The Yankee brass looked as if someone had kicked a puppy.

A-Rod won’t go down as the greatest cheater in Yankee history only because he’s done such a horrible job of that. Instead, those of us who detest the Yankees will forever remember him as the perpetrator of the greatest act of self-sabotage in league history. He gained talent, fame, and riches by swinging a bat, yet he struck out in life itself. He’s the greatest fraud in Bronx Bomber history, and that isn’t easily replaced.

We can only hope Carlos Beltran can be half the black eye that A-Rod was.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.