By Joe Commesso
Over the past three years, there has not been a more controversial player in the MLB than Alex Rodriguez. The 39-year-old Dominican native made headlines everywhere with his involvement in the 2013 biogenesis baseball scandal. He was suspended 211 games, although it was reduced to 162 after an arbitration hearing. Throughout the entire ordeal, A-Rod claimed that he didn’t “knowingly” take any performance enhancing drugs when in reality, it was clear he did. Not only did Alex have a long, messy altercation with Major League Baseball, but he also feuded severely with the front office of his own club. As of late, Rodriguez has halted his efforts to obtain his milestone bonuses and has just focused on playing the game and helping the team win. Even after all the lawsuits and “bad-blood” between A-Rod and the Yankees, it seems that the team has finally forgiven him. Does that mean that we should do the same?
Prior to the steroid predicament, it wasn’t like Alex Rodriguez was a model major league player. Let’s start in 2004, game six of the ALCS. A-Rod hits a slow roller back to the pitcher (Bronson Arroyo) and slaps the ball out of his glove when Arroyo tagged him. Rodriguez was called out for interference. Fast forward to 2007, where during a game against the Blue Jays, Alex also displayed some less than admirable behavior. On a pop-up to the shortstop, Rodriguez yelled “mine” as he was running to third, thus causing the ball to fall in the infield. This was the same night that the then-married A-Rod was caught with a stripper in Toronto. Despite all of the negative press and distractions, the Yankees slugger still managed to lead the league in home-runs, RBIs, runs, slugging percentage and OPS that year. Alex Rodriguez has cheated baseball, cheated his wife, and has in some cases made a mockery of America’s past-time. Should we forgive him? Absolutely.
Alex Rodriguez is not the same guy he has been in the past. It is clear that his suspension has changed him not only as a player, but as a person as well. It seems as if he has a new-found love for the game of baseball. If Alex was still knocking balls out of gloves and getting girls’ phone numbers during games, I wouldn’t have the slightest sympathy for him. However, that is not the case. He has put his legal battles for his milestone bonuses on hold, because all he cares about now is playing the game. He has issued a hand-written apology letter to the fans, and has finally admitted to his mistakes.
Throughout his career, A-Rod would mostly just show up to the field, play the game and leave. This season, before and after most games, Alex is signing autographs and talking to fans. Prior to this year, there were many reports of how detrimental Alex was in the club house; stating he was rude and didn’t talk to anybody much. In 2015, the “new” A-Rod is at the top of the dugout all game cheering his team on. Earlier this year, the young Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius was struggling defensively. Alex would meet him at the park early to personally work with him to fine tune his skills and give him confidence. Ever since the little mentoring sessions they had, Gregorius has been exceptional at shortstop for the Yanks. I had the honor of personally meeting A-Rod last month in Boston. I was at the game at Fenway on May 3, when the Yankees beat the Red Sox 8-5. I was standing outside the locker room, waiting for my friend who works at Fenway, when Alex came out. I walked up to greet him and he shook my hand and he was extremely polite and affable. Thinking back, he was probably just relieved to find the one Yankees fan at Fenway that night.
On June 18, 2015, A-Rod joined Commissioner Rob Manfred to launch “Play Ball,” a program encouraging the participation of all kinds of baseball activity among all age groups. Alex played catch with the kids while other MLB players participated as well. Manfred stated that “Alex has tried really hard to make a smooth and successful re-entry into the game.” Alex said he was “flattered” when asked to help out. In early May, Rodriguez trooped down to Harlem for a charity event where he pitched to children from The New York City Autism Charter School. With the change of attitude and charity work aside, A-Rod has also been a major producer for the Yankees this year, hitting .289 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs. His performance is attributed to all of the hard work he put in over the summer to get stronger and faster. Ever since his suspension, he has been hungry to get back on the field and succeed. He is doing just that, even with the tremendous pressure he constantly has on him.
In all of the interviews conducted, Alex never forgets to give thanks to his team and the fans accepting him back to baseball. He has stated that he “really flattered and humble” to be where he is today. Alex Rodriguez was guilty of using performance enhancing drugs, but he has served his time and he is a better person because of it. A-Rod has learned from his mistakes and now has a deeper appreciation and respect for the game. It is time that we, as baseball fans, realize he has paid his dues. It is time that we forgive.