It’s Hall of Fame season folks! It’s a weird time of year. This time around, almost every single legitimate candidate has some sort of controversy attached to their name, dooming us to unprecedented levels of discourse for the next few months. On top of that, we’re getting closer and closer to a work stoppage. We might have nothing to talk about during the winter months other than the Hall of Fame.
One of those topics bound for many kinds of takes surrounds former Yankees great, Alex Rodriguez. He finds himself on the ballot for the first time, five years after his retirement from the game. He is undoubtedly one of the best players of all time, and perhaps the greatest at shortstop, but his legacy is plagued by his use of performance-enhancing drugs. On one hand, you could argue that A-Rod was an all-time great before he seemed to begin taking steroids (he admitted to using steroids as a Texas Ranger from 2001 to 2003). On the other, he was the poster boy for PED suspensions, and was forced once to sit out an entire year in 2013.
Whatever it is you think about the situation is right to you, and that’s fine; there’s no obvious answer for what to do with a player like Rodriguez. It’s also not exactly clear where he will end up after the votes are tallied. One could try to link A-Rod to the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but I’m not sure there will be a one to one relationship between Rodriguez voters and Bonds/Clemens voters. The latter two put together their incredible on-field careers almost entirely before drug tests were brought to MLB, and they are on the ballot for the final time.
If we’re considering all of the context, it makes more sense for us to zoom in on Rodriguez’s former rival, Manny Ramirez. Like A-Rod, Manny is one of the greatest hitters to ever play the sport. For well over a decade, he was one of the league’s most feared right-handed sluggers. There is no denying his playing resumé. However, like Rodriguez, actual PED suspensions plague his legacy. He and Rodriguez played in the same era and faced similar consequences for their involvement with performance enhancers.
Ramirez hasn’t had much success in his first five appearances on the ballot. He’s been at 28.2 percent in consecutive years. The section of voters who draw the line at players who were suspended for cheating is certainly loud, and it does not bode well for A-Rod on his entry to the ballot. In this light, A-Rod should set his expectations extremely low for his first few appearances, barring any drastic changes. Rodriguez certainly has a better overall record than Ramirez, and thus could do better than Ramirez’s 23 percent on his first try, but it’s hard to envision a particularly strong number for A-Rod.
Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean he and Ramirez will exactly the same experiences with the electorate. No matter what you think about Rodriguez’s broadcasting abilities, he is around the game as much as any other retired player. He appears on national games on FOX and ESPN consistently. On TV, he appears happy and excited to have the platform that he does, excusing the occasional rant about how bad “launch angle” is and how Blake Snell shouldn’t have been pulled in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series. Perhaps A-Rod’s best hope for a better Hall of Fame fate than Ramirez is the fact that the game of baseball has embraced him, at least to some extent, after his playing days were over.
On the whole, in this current climate, we can’t expect him to fare well. Time will tell us if the Hall of Fame will ever be ready for former superstars Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. Don’t expect a rousing welcome for A-Rod during his first go on the ballot, but he will have 10 years to hope that the electorate eventually warms to him.