Rodriguez became a star almost instantly. In the 50 years leading up to 1996, only one 20-year-old shortstop — the Hall of Famer Robin Yount — had come to the plate 600 times in a season. It’s a rare thing to find a 20-year-old shortstop simply good enough to play every day in the big leagues. Yount, it should be said, was mostly overmatched – he hit .252 with two homers. Rodriguez at 20 hit .358 with 54 doubles and 36 homers and he finished second in the MVP balloting. There has never been a shortstop so good, so young.
He flashed all those tools and skills and traits that had amazed Allard Baird: Everyone talked about his joy for the game, his deference to teammates, his innocence. “On July 27,” Gerry Callahan wrote that year in a Sports Illustrated story called “The Fairest of Them All,” “Alex Rodriguez will turn 21, making him old enough to have a beer with his Seattle Mariners teammates. He says he’s not interested. ‘Can’t stand the taste,’ he says. Rodriguez has always felt more at home among milk drinkers.”
The story follows hits all the touchstones. Rodriguez was innocent. Rodriguez was humble. He loved playing in Seattle (“I can’t imagine playing anywhere else”). He was deferential to stars like Ken Griffey (“To me, Junior is just so special and so unique”). More than anything, he had his priorities straight (“My Mom always said, ‘I don’t care if you turn out to be a terrible ballplayer, I just want you to be a good person. … Like Cal (Ripken) or Dale Murphy. I want people to look at me and say, ‘He’s a good person.’”).
Reading the story now, you can’t help but wonder: Were there signs of the A-Rod who would emerge? The A-Rod who craved approval? The A-Rod who needed to be viewed as perfect? That’s amateur psychology drivel, of course, but it is worth mentioning that the one somewhat sour note of the story came in a quote from an unnamed teammate:
“Well, he’s definitely a good kid,” the teammate acknowledged. “But you know all that stuff like, ‘Oh gee, I’m just happy to be in the big leagues?’ Well, that’s an act. Don’t let him fool you. He knows how good he is. And he knows how good he’s going to be.”
Of now there is this part of A-Rod
In 2009, Sports Illustrated broke the story that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003. Rodriguez soon came out and, in a shaky voice, admitted to using steroids the three years he played for Texas. “Back then, it was a different culture,” he said. “It was very loose. I was young.”
And, like that, Alex Rodriguez was stripped bare of his baseball performance in the minds of so many. “I feel personally betrayed. I feel deceived by Alex,” Tom Hicks the Ranger owner who gave Rodriguez the big deal, told reporters. Well, everyone was piling on, even owners who drove their team into bankruptcy. There were those who, for a while, gave some credence to the idea that Rodriguez had only used PEDs in the early 2000s, before official testing.
Then, in the last few weeks, the Miami New Times wrote a story that Rodriguez’s name was all over the records of the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Miami, and that many of those records allegedly connect him to PEDs. Rodriguez has said that the records are “not legitimate.”
Shortly after the report, anonymous New York Yankees officials leaked to numerous reporters that the team would explore opportunities to void the contract of Alex Rodriguez or get some relief. Rodriguez, who renegotiated his deal in 2008, and still has five years and $114 million left on it.