2016 has seen its fair share of sports legends retire, and we can now add one more to the list. While referring to Alex Rodriguez as a “legend” is sure to inspire enough controversy on its own, you don’t need to view his career statistics to understand that the long-time shortstop and third baseman was one of the most talented to ever play the game. Maybe you don’t want to look at his stats because you don’t believe they’re legitimate, serving as an inflated marker of the heights that can be reached with needles and creams. Much like Rodriguez’s drama-filled, roller coaster of a career, his retirement leaves baseball fans with more questions than answers.
That A-Rod and the Yankees decided it was time for the $30 million dollar man to call it quits isn’t what’s confusing here. While Rodriguez has hit 15 home runs this season, his production had fallen so drastically that both parties knew something was necessary to end the third baseman’s tenure in the Bronx as gracefully as possible. What’s questionable is the legacy Rodriguez leaves behind. His retirement leaves baseball fans and sportswriters alike wondering whether the all-time great was more A-Rod or A-Fraud.
His sudden transition out of baseball is almost as drastic as his meteoric rise into it. Drafted first overall out of high school by the Mariners in 1993, Rodriguez made his debut at the ripe old age of 18. With Ken Griffey Jr. the young shortstop quickly put the Seattle Mariners on the map in the late 90s and became one of the most dominant players in the game. He signed the then-richest contract in the history of Major League Baseball with Texas in 2001 and soon after began his first steroid regimen in order to play up to the hype. Much like fellow tainted greats Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, Rodriguez was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career before he began fooling around with performance-enhancing drugs. This is what leaves fans and baseball writers – the voters for baseball’s Hall of Fame inductees – second-guessing themselves when considering how to remember one of the greatest players of this generation. His 696 career home runs speak for themselves. So do the steroids and suspensions.
With his career as tumultuous as its been, maybe its best that this is how we say goodbye to A-Rod’s playing days. Maybe for once we needed just a little less drama from him. Maybe it’ll help his legacy that he was proven so mortal on a ballfield this season, that he wasn’t the “golden boy” Rodriguez always wanted us to believe he was. While his career and his character haven’t always been perfect, A-Rod was perfectly memorable. At the end of the day, that’s what he always wanted.