New York Yankees: The chronicles of Alex Rodriguez, a career unjustly ruined by steroid usage

Nick Nielsen
New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez
NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 15: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees in action against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium on August 15, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Angels defeated the Yankees 8-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

For as long as I can remember, there is a massive amount of ill feelings toward one Alex Rodriguez, as many people feel he cheated the game of baseball and should therefore be ousted from all conversations of a good baseball player, and thus a good man. With that, using “he used steroids” as a lead argument for him being a bad person, and a player who isn’t deserving of recognition and accolades is ignorant to the highest degree.

For starters, let’s look at the idea that steroids “made” Alex Rodriguez a fantastic baseball player, thus taking away all the accomplishments he had collected and achieved throughout his career.

To sit back and diss Alex Rodriguez is the easiest thing to do, as he was one of the main players of that notorious steroid ring consisting of he and Ryan Braun, and Biogenesis of America, amongst others. The main issue everyone seems to have is that ARod never openly admitted to using steroids until he got caught, and then went public about it in 2014 — following a lengthy investigation and plea of innocence. However, the problem I have is that everyone and their cousin then dissed Rodriguez and essentially ostracized him from the sport of baseball, all because of his PED usage. What I fail to understand still, is how one can make the argument that ARod should be discredited for his steroid usage, and then turn around and give credit to say Ivan Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Manny Ramirez, and numerous other players that also used.

The usage of steroids does not make one a super-human, nor does it make them a better player. It simply makes them a “better” athlete, in that they are able to workout longer and harder, and push themselves to limits that those who don’t use are unable to. Alex Rodriguez was still one of the best baseball players the sport has ever seen, and that is not attributed to his steroid usage. To use steroids as a reason a player should be discredited, and ultimately miss out on the HoF — as seen with Barry Bonds — should be done away with.

First, let’s take a look at Alex’s MLB career, and take out the years he admitted to having used steroids — 2010 to 2012.

PRE 2010: (1996-2009 *for the sake of this, I figured I’d remove his 94-95 seasons as they were both short stints). For 14 seasons, ARod never posted a wRC+ under 119 (1997), clobbered 578 homeruns, never bat under .285, and accumulated 101.1 fWAR. Add to that, he earned 12 All-Star selections, 3 MVP awards, 10 Silver Sluggers and 2 Gold Gloves. Simply put, prior to him using steroids, he was already one of the — if not the — best player in the sport of baseball. Now, take that and look at the years he was reported to have been juicing, 2010-2012.

In the three seasons he was found guilty of juicing (’10-’12), ARod hit a total of 64 HR’s, posted averages around the .274 mark, and posted the lowest wRC+’s of his career, since the ’97 season (125 in ’10, 125 in ’11 & 113 in ’12). The reason for ARod using roids appears to be that he was seeing that his prime was running out, and therefore decided to juice in order to stay at the top of his game — though we may never know the true reason.

Even POST steroid usage, and following the year long suspension in 2014, Rodriguez came back out in the 2015 season and hit 33 HR’s, OPS’d .842, and posted a wRC+ of 129. There is no feasible way to deny that ARod was one of the best players to ever grace the field, even with the steroid usage.

Now I am aware that there are going to be a vast amount of people that read this article and pose the counter argument of “ARod was likely juicing well before then, took a break, and then went back to doing so” but that was during the pre-testing era of MLB baseball, where there were no punishments handed out for testing positive for PED’s. During that era, a mass amount of players used steroids, and hundreds of players have since spoken about it. Rodriguez was found to have been using testosterone pills in the 2003 season.

Let’s just say he used during the 2001-2003 seasons, as that is when a lot of people will say he used from. Taking out those three seasons, his fWAR accumulated from ’96-’09 (not counting his stint with the Rangers) is still 73.8, and his HR total is still an astounding 422 across that span. Even if one were to take out the 6 seasons he could have used steroids, his career is still undoubtedly HoF worthy, and he was still one of the most talented and hardest working players to play the game.

It would appear as if Alex Rodriguez is the main scapegoat for a massive problem that has plagued the MLB for decades, which is that those that use steroids and don’t fess up to doing so are shunned and hated by all. With that, players like Yasmani Grandal, Francisco Cervelli, Dee Gordon, and dozens of other players seemingly get far less criticism and are almost excused from having used.

While there is no true number of players who have used steroids, former MLB player Jose Canseco — who also used steroids — stated that he believes that 85% of the MLB uses PED’s, while fellow former MLB player Ken Caminiti believed the percentage was closer to 50%. Either way, the idea that “a few players use” is one that is false and solely used to show favoritism toward other players and excuse obvious signs for the sake of diminishing those that have used and gotten caught — especially Alex Rodriguez.

Add to that, during the “Steroid Era”, where during the 90’s and early 2000’s — up until 2003 — the MLB didn’t test or issue suspensions for PED’s, numerous star sluggers excelled, along with Rodriguez. Amongst those names includes greats like Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Mark McGwire, and Jason Giambi. Yet, a mass amount of MLB fans dismiss a handful of names, with players like Ivan Rodriguez and others seemingly being given a “pass”. Rodriguez was recently elected into the HoF, despite having been found guilty of using PED’s in his MLB career.

The biggest gripe people seemingly have with Alex Rodriguez is that he continually denied using steroids and said he was the subject of a mass witch hunt set up by the MLB. Up until he was under oath and thus opened up and admitted to having used, ARod maintained the “I am innocent” stance. With that, a vast majority of players who test positive for PED’s or are accused of such, take their stance as innocent and not having taken part in such, until they are forced to admit otherwise. Players like Robinson Cano, Roger Clemens, and numerous members of the Yankees during the steroid era denied using. The expectation that “players will take the high road and admit to their wrongdoings” when it comes to something as serious as using PED’s is one that is nothing more than an unrealistic expectation. Thousands of MLB players have used steroids, and of those same players, hundreds never admitted and even more were never found to have been guilty.

Moving on to the idea that using steroids makes Alex Rodriguez a bad person, is an argument that will continually be talked about for, likely, the rest of my life. There is no denying that ARod’s ego and his “I’m the best” mindset may have portrayed him as a jerk on and off the field, but using his steroid usage and the whole situation as fuel to further reinstate the idea he’s a horrible person should be one that should be done away with. Everybody in life makes mistakes, and everybody will do whatever is in their best interest to keep a clean public image. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, his stance of remaining innocent and being the subject of a conspiracy and act of collusion against him will forever hurt him. Yet, to take that and throw slander at him and continually refer to him as a “terrible person” or someone who “ruined baseball” and one who will never garner, nor should be allowed to garner, any respect is childish.

Since admitting to cheating, Rodriguez has worked tirelessly to clear up his image, and earn the respect of fans once more. Having done countless acts of charity, working with the MLB as a stand-up commentator and analyst, and trying to offer words of advice and tips for current and future MLB players, there is no denying that he does indeed feel remorseful over the way he went about the whole situation.

He stated in an interview with the New York Times back in ’16 that the pathway to get back to where he is now was a long and tiring one. Saying “I paid a huge price, the longest suspension in MLB history. That just literally took me to my knees in tears and said ‘Oh God, I just completely f***ed my life up.’ And while I was away I took that year to reflect. I wanted to understand why I kept shooting myself in the foot.” He continued saying that ultimately the quickest way to recovery is to admit one has a problem, and he now looks back with utter shame and remorse about how he handled the situation. Rodriguez is very open about how tough life was as an MLB player with such a high ceiling and expectations around him, as he stated that him being so competitive led to him taking whatever measures necessary to fulfil said ceiling — ultimately going around the MLB and using steroids.

Rodriguez also stated that it was a long time before he could look himself in the mirror and be comfortable in his own skin, admitting to making numerous stupid decisions and “acting like an idiot”. He looks back at his time post suspension and refers to it as the darkest time of his life, as looking back made him realize all the terrible decisions he made and how it was bigger than him.

Alex has since earned back a tremendous amount of respect as an established and liked broadcaster, as his knowledge and love for the game transcend whatever opinions one may have about him as a player. Needless to say, he served his time and was punished brutally for what he did, missing out on millions of dollars and being dubbed the most hated man in sports. The road back to the top is one he will seemingly always be walking down, as regardless of what he does, there will always be people who dismiss his apology and work to get back to his current state.

Whether you like or don’t like Alex Rodriguez is ultimately one’s individual opinion, and everyone has a right to such. However, to hate on Alex Rodriguez and slander his name and his achievements simply because he used steroids is unjustified. Rodriguez, like so many others, made the mistake of taking PED’s — which he has paid dearly for. Yet, unlike so many others, his name is constantly being dragged through the mud & fans of past and current generations will seemingly never forgive or look past his mistake.