Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez pauses during a question-and-answer session at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla.
New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez pauses during a question-and-answer session at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
In the matter, fellow citizens, of American Disillusionment v. Alex Rodriguez, may I make a small suggestion? Do not allow yourself to be surprised that any hero who competed during the prime steroid years used performance-enhancing drugs. Really, acceptance of this fact will be so beneficial to your emotional health whenever the next big name surfaces ... guilty.
In the specific case of A-Rod, for goodness' sake, all the signs were there along with the manifold rumors. He is strictly a Type Me personality, just the sort to try anything to abet his own cause. We know all too well that he is insecure and susceptible to temptation.
But love is blind. The Yankees twice paid exorbitantly for Rodriguez's services — the second time after he publicly dissociated himself from the team in the rudest possible fashion.
The cuckolded Yankees remained enthralled by the fact that A-Rod might someday take the all-time home run record away from the unlovely, steroid-scented Barry Bonds, who by the way goes on trial for perjury in just two weeks.
The Yankees were buying, they convinced themselves, a knight in shining armor who would free the sainted record from sin and restore it to a man of grace — as mobs would descend upon ballparks to pay to cheer on A-Rod to succeed.
But past is prologue here. What we witnessed with Bonds was that everyone rooted against him, except for the hometown Giants fans, who clasped him to their bosom.
Now we'll see this phenomenon taken to a new power, for the Yankees have infinitely more admirers and, likewise, infinitely more despisers than the Giants or anyone else. Wherever the Yankees go, it will be rather like professional wrestling, with multitudes turning out to boo the villainous A-Rod. Except in the new Yankee Stadium, where indiscriminating New Yorkers will feel obliged to stand up for their man. It's the same old hometown business as with Bonds: He may be a creep, but he's our creep.
So, in a very real way, what has happened to Rodriguez isn't all that bad for baseball. Really. Nobody much liked him when he was supposed to be clean. He might as well be the new Bonds, an even more divisive figure in pinstripes.
Not only will throngs pay to root for him to hit or not to hit home runs, but all students of the game will spend the next decade or so doubling as baseball theologists, interminably debating whether A-Rod should ascend into the Hall of Fame.
The irony is that anybody with any sense of justice will know that none of this matters because Henry Aaron remains the one true holder of the home run record.
Commentator Frank Deford reports from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.