Today is a bit of a bizarre day in Yankees history. One year ago today, months of investigation finally came to a head as Major League Baseball officially brought the hammer down on Alex Rodriguez and several other players. Most of those players agreed to 50-game suspensions in wake of the Biogenesis clinic scandal. That group consisted of Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, and Francisco Cervelli, just to name a few of them. Brewers slugger Ryan Braun also agreed to a 65-game suspension about a week or so beforehand, admitting he lied about protesting his innocence when he tested positive for PEDs following his National League MVP season of 2011 and setting the stage for these suspensions.
If the story had just involved those players, it would not have been ignored, but it certainly would not have become the baseball story of 2013. No, A-Rod's role blew the story up. MLB levied a mammoth 211-game suspension against A-Rod, more than triple what they gave everyone else in the scandal. The ban would cover the remainder of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 campaign. MLB felt it was in the right because it was revealed that A-Rod had been using PEDs over multiple years and that he had been actively trying to tamper with the investigation.
Yet to add to the surreal nature of the imposing suspension, A-Rod had the right to appeal it, and he was finally healthy after spending the first four months of the season rehabbing from his second hip surgery. The Yankees were desperately trying to stay in the pennant race as well. Thus, A-Rod exercised his right to appeal, and on the very same day that he was suspended 211 games, he made his 2013 season debut. It was a spectacle the likes of which we might never see again. The series of bizarre events that conspired from the beginnings of 2013 until a reduced 162-game suspension was upheld in January of 2014 has been written about countless times since then, most notably by Steve Fishman in New York magazine (twice) and 2013 Yankees beat writer Andy McCullough in the 2014 Baseball Prospectus annual.
Amid all the trips to Bizarro World with inappropriate e-mails from Randy Levine, gummy bears, "the man from Milwaukee," night club injections, robberies at a tanning salon, suitcases of MLB cash at a diner, convicted felons, "Fred," Mike Francesa, and of course, brunch, the story's still not over. The notoriously shady doctor Anthony Bosch was taken into custody today for distributing PEDs to high schoolers. MLB's investigation relied heavily on this corrupt figure, making it difficult for even the most ardent of A-Rod haters to say that Bud Selig was acting as an shining light of justice and purity throughout the ordeal. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether or not A-Rod will actually return to baseball next year or if the Yankees will simply release him with $61 million left on his contract to rid themselves of the headache.
So what can Yankees fans make of Alex Rodriguez at the moment? Many sympathize with the rest of baseball fans and detest him for his involvement with PEDs, his postseason struggles as a Yankee aside from the 2009 playoffs, and for his personality, which his critics have often labeled as phony. I am decidedly not in this crowd. I find it too convenient that people ignore his amazing run in the 2009 playoffs, as the Yankees would have faced some serious challenges to win that year if he did not step it up with multiple late game-tying homers throughout the postseason. That entire year is a cherished memory for me, as it was the first time I closely followed a World Series championship team from start to finish (as I believe I've mentioned before, my struggles in Little League led to me being disillusioned by baseball for years, so I didn't really get to enjoy the 1996-2000 teams during their times). I absolutely refuse to let people tarnish my memories of that glorious 2009 season by bringing A-Rod down. That will never leave me.
The quibbles with his personality have mostly just amused me. So he acts like he's phony sometimes. Big deal. Hundreds of athletes are the same way, and few people say much about them. Sure, there's a vast difference between most of those guys and one of the greatest players in the history of his sport in A-Rod, but I just don't care if he occasionally puts on an act.
I think it's off-putting that he's probably an adulterer, but there are many, many worse people in sports. Murderers. Dog killers. Drunk drivers. Drug addicts. Racists. Misogynists. The list goes on and on. When people say that A-Rod is their most hated athlete, they are not comprehending just how truly reprehensible most of these guys seem to be.
A-Rod just isn't nearly as awful a person as so many other athletes, so it's hard for me to be too bothered by him. That being said, he's nowhere close to perfect. I don't care much about PED suspensions, but it does annoy me that he admitted to using steroids and then continued to use them anyway, risking suspension and thus putting the Yankees' various season plans in jeopardy. Even the greatest of A-Rod fans who are also Yankees fans would have to be at least a little perturbed by that.
Nonetheless, I cannot bear that much ill will toward A-Rod for all he's done, especially given all the joy he brought in 2009.
Seriously, he's ridiculous in a way that just amuses me. It will be some time before I truly know what I think of A-Rod, but I know I don't hate him. After all, it's just a game.