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What should Alex Rodriguez’s legacy be?

Steroid history? Check. One of the greatest baseball players in history? Check. Hated by fans? Check. Loved by fans? Check. How should we remember Alex Rodriguez and the journey that was his career?

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
Sippin’ on that haterade
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

If anyone’s career could be compared to a roller coaster ride, Alex Rodriguez’s could be the most befitting of that comparison. The ups, the downs, the loops, the spins—it’s all-encompassing, and his career could have a claim to being the most exciting attraction at Six Flags. On Friday, everyone has to get off the ride. What though, will his legacy be?

A-Rod entered the 2015 season as a mystery. He was just coming off a yearlong suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis saga, and it had been a while since he was truly a threat. Before missing the 2014 season, Rodriguez had been suffering from injuries and ineffectiveness since 2011, when his streak of 13 straight seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI ended. Even the biggest optimists wouldn’t have predicted what came next.

After finishing 2015 with a .250/.356/.486 slash to go along with 33 home runs, Rodriguez stunned the baseball world. Perhaps more importantly than performing well, he was also doing a lot to repair his image. Back in November of last year, I wrote about his resurgence and journey back from being “baseball’s greatest villain.” And with yesterday’s announcement that, he takes another step in that journey.

This pretty much sums it up perfectly. Back in 2014, A-Rod was burning all his bridges when he was battling his suspension. He filed lawsuits against the Yankees, against the MLBPA, he probably even had a lawsuit against me waiting somewhere just in case. The Yankees were looking at ways to get rid of him. Fans stopped supporting him and either started hating him or just flat out stopped caring. The Yankees couldn’t find a way to get rid of him though, so they were forced to bring him back.

Fortunately, he kept quiet for his whole year away from the game and did some serious reflecting. He realized the game of baseball is what was most important to him, and he did everything in his power to rebuild those bridges. Now we have come to this week. If A-Rod had played as badly last year as he did this year, I have no doubt in my mind the Yankees would have been okay just granting him his outright release and wiping their hands of him. But last year, he hit, and he hit well.

Additionally, he didn’t cause any trouble for the team last year. When it came time for milestone bonuses that the Yankees didn’t want to pay, he worked out a deal for the money to be donated to charity. When Didi Gregorius was struggling, A-Rod took time to work with him and help his game (time well spent). Whenever he delivered a game-winning hit last year, it seemed liked he would rather just talk about the team and how he was just happy to help the team win instead of his own accomplishments. And he became hard to root against.

Unfortunately, 2015 led fans to be quite optimistic for 2016. He helped bring the Yankees back to the postseason (and yes, the one-game Wild Card is awful but it’s still the postseason, accept it) and hopes were that he would help the team go even further this year. Likely no one was more optimistic than PSA’s own Matt Ferenchick (I think he still has a chance at 74), but he gave the fans hope. Unfortunately, it seemed he gave it his all last year, and age caught up with him as he has been difficult to watch this year.

So that really does beg the question: What is Alex Rodriguez’s legacy? How should he be remembered in the history of baseball? He was asked that very question during yesterday’s press conference.

I mean that’s not for me to say. I do want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with the game of baseball, someone who loves it at every level, someone who loves to learn, teach it, watch it, play it, coach it. And also, I’m gonna be hopefully remembered (as) someone who tripped and fell a lot, but someone that kept getting up.

That sums it up perfectly. When someone plays in the majors for 22 years as A-Rod did, there are bound to be many different things worthy of remembrance. He could be considered one of baseball’s greatest players. He could also be thought of as a cheater and the worst thing to happen to the sport. His legacy could be that he’s just like one of the other all-time greats who played too long or that he’s only one of the greats because he had outside assistance in getting there.

To me, however, it’s simple. He’s a master of the game and he’s student of the game, but he’s also human. He has come a long way in his career, from prodigy to great, to New York sellout, to playoff goat, to cheater, to playoff hero, to pariah, and to #BAEROD. He’s Alex Rodriguez and how he wants to be remembered is how he should be remembered.

Ticket prices for his last game on Friday surged 355% after the official announcement. People want to go see him one last time and bid him farewell. And they should. Why? He made his amends and made himself likable. Tickets wouldn’t soar that high if he hadn’t done whatever he did to repair his reputation. Hal Steinbrenner would not have offered him a job where Rodriguez would directly report to him if that relationship wasn’t mended.

People will talk forever about what a great player he was on the field, they’ll endlessly bring up the performance-enhancing drugs, tirelessly run up the villain narrative, but in my mind what he should be remembered for is his lesson in humility. Almost everyone can take a page from Rodriguez’s book on how to own up to one’s flaws and repair relationships.

What do you think A-Rod’s legacy should or will be?

*Season statistics provided by Baseball Reference