During the tough times—the divorces, the celebrity courtships, the opt-out, the playoff droughts, the Jeterian obsession—the one thing A-Rod could always fall back on was his skill set and his work ethic. He is a living legend that is unmatched on the field and in the batter’s box. Early in his career, he seemed destined to be a HOF player—the quintessential HOF player, actually.
That’s why fans liked or at least tolerated Alex Rodriguez.
He’s good. Wait—no—he’s very good. The best, in fact. That skill, that drive to be the best was always predicated upon innate and inherent ability. Skill was Alex’s bulletproof vest. Yes, he’s seen his fair share of media gun fights, but his image as a great player—the greatest player—had always remained no matter how greedy, narcissistic or insecure he reportedly seemed. A-Rod was the greatest because he was born the greatest. That’s it.
Of course, that all changed today.
A-Rod jumped onto the steroid marching line due to a 6-year old test from 2003. Without warning, what was once natural and pure was suddenly an artificial and tainted creation. Suddenly, Alex Rodriguez’s bulletproof vest is no more. Sure, stubborn folks can argue that it’s just one old test and Alex has the ability to win the MVP without using PED’s—see 2007—but, this is Alex Rodriguez we’re talking about—the Alex Rodriguez. He’s supposed to be go down as the greatest player of all time, not the greatest marriage of science and nature. This is the problem for Yankee fans.
For the most part, we have always defended A-Rod during his many struggles, whether they were real or unreal, media-driven or Boras-driven. Sure, at times we railed against him and the boos rang loudly, but that was only because we thought he had the most talent on the field. Strangely, we booed because he was the best. At the end of the day, if a Red Sox fan had something negative to say about Alex Rodriguez, Yankee fans definitely defended their guy and made sure to tell them that A-Rod was the greatest player in the game and probably of all time. But, again, that’s all changed now. What’s left to defend?
What can we say, really?
Alex Rodriguez has lost valuable capital with his fans. He was a HOF lock, so no matter what anyone said about him, he could hang his dark blue hat on that. Now, however, with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens serving as PED exemplars and excommunicated HOF locks, you never know. Furthermore, A-Rod can no longer be seen as the most gifted and natural player in the game. As of now, no matter how unfair it may seem to some, that mantle is officially gone. It currently resides with Albert Pujols. He’ll be the guy to carry that mantle from hereon in. After A-Rod breaks Bonds’ record to a chorus of awkward claps and high fives, people will talk about waiting for Albert to break A-Rod’s “tainted” record. It’s bound to happen.
But, Albert is in St. Louis and that’s years away. That’s not in New York—he’s not a Yankee—so what happens with the Yankees and the fans? Where will we direct our cheers and know that they’re true and heartfelt? It’s true that we cheer for the uniform more than anything, but no one ever wants to cheer for an empty suit. What’s under the pinstripes—that actually matters to us. With that said, where do fans go from here?
Luckily, the team has a new first baseman—Mark Teixeira—that could be our “savior” (excuse the religious reference). I can guarantee you that fans will absolutely flock to Mark Teixeira now that the luster from our third baseman has faded into oblivion. I don’t think Alex will be openly booed or hounded for what he has reportedly done. Instead, I think fans will simply shun him with indifference. You won’t hear the raucous applause we heard in 2008. You won’t hear the boos we heard in 2006. You’ll hear silence—deafening silence that will speak volumes.
But, for Mark Teixeira—the new and “true” bopper—the applause will be loud, it will be strong and it will be legitimate. If the Yankees gained anything from this experience, that would be it.
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