A-Rod loses it all on second scandal

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) was supposed to be the one. As a phenomenal shortstop with the Seattle Mariners, he had it all: power, average, speed, and defense. Even when playing with former professional Ken Griffey Jr., A-Rod was above and beyond. Griffey’s career was sidelined by injuries, but A-Rod was above it all.

Rodriguez signed the most expensive contract in baseball history — twice. He won three MVP awards, including one with the last-place Texas Rangers. A-Rod was the youngest member of the 500 and 600 home run club. He was going to break every record and become the new face of baseball, putting the sport past the steroid scandal that marred the record-setting Barry Bonds and his contemporaries.

The first confirmation that Rodriguez wasn’t the choir boy he was made out to be came in February 2009, when A-Rod publicly admitted to steroid usage for the first time. Before this, Rodriguez had publicly denied all use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), including in an interview with Katie Couric on 60 Minutes. For the 2009 confession, A-Rod admitted to using PEDs during his time with the Rangers from 2001 to 2003, claiming that he was under “an enormous amount of pressure” to live up to the expectations of his record contract.

It seemed that A-Rod’s PEDs usage was all behind him. After watching steroid-tainted retired slugger Rafael Palmeiro wag his finger at Congress, swearing up and down that he did not take steroids, only to have him fail a drug test the following season, it was refreshing to see an athlete tell the truth.

There were a few rumors, but — just like with former Yankees slugger Jason Giambi­ — after an admission of guilt, most were more than content to put the tainted past behind them. The more recent discussions about A-Rod were about his inability to live up to his new record-setting contract. A rash of injuries and terrible postseason play led to a chorus of angry boos led by the ruthless New York Press.

But everything changed with the introduction of the Biogenesis scandal. The Tony Bosch-owned clinic was accused of dispensing PEDs to several Major League Baseball players, including A-Rod. Twelve of the players accepted their suspensions with no appeal, hoping to quickly and quietly move on from the scandal. Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun was the only other player with previous and unrelated steroid accusations. He tested positive for PEDs following his 2011 MVP season, but got the positive test thrown out due to a technicality with the sample collection protocol. He quickly reached a deal with the commissioner and, in exchange, admitted fault for the previous test and accepted a suspension for the remainder of the season.

This left only A-Rod as the face of the Biogenesis scandal. Given A-Rod’s previous transgressions and his unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation, Major League Baseball brought down the hammer on A-Rod, leveraging a record-setting 211-game ban.

Rodriguez refused to back down from the fight. He appealed his case and tried to fight it in the court of public appeal. But the same public that had been so willing to accept his apology and admission nearly five years ago was turning quickly. A-Rod had gone from being a baseball wonder to an overpriced player who couldn’t hit in the clutch.
Suddenly, the dreams of A-Rod redefining baseball in the post-steroid era transformed into him becoming the poster child for modern PED usage. Rodriguez may have won his appeal, although all it really accomplished was to allow A-Rod to play out the end of this season.

Rodriguez had the chance to make a deal and flip on the Biogenesis clinic in exchange for a standard 50-game suspension, but the savior complex — his desire to become the best — drove him to hubris. The man who had a shot to break the 800-home-run mark has lost everything. Given the way Hall of Fame voters have been treating formerly surefire Hall of Famers who were associated with steroids, there is a legitimate chance that A-Rod — the once-in-a-lifetime talent who seemed invincible — won’t even be let into Cooperstown.