I do not usually quote very large blocks of texts, but I want to make an exception in this case. Joe Posnanski hits all the right notes, as usual:
In this, A-Rod may be singular in our sports scene. Everybody else has rabid defenders. If you take a moment to bash Bob Knight … or Tiger Woods … or Tony La Russa … or Derek Jeter … or Terrell Owens … or Kobe Bryant … or Ben Roethlisberger … or Michael Vick … … or Peyton Manning … or Tim Tebow … or Phil Mickelson … or Randy Moss … or Roger Clemens … or John Calipari … or Roy Williams … or Barry Bonds … or just about any other athlete or coach who might spark negative views (even if is is because they are so positively portrayed), there will likely be a swam or people who will tell you (with gusto) that you are wrong. There are a lot of people who believe John Rocker was misunderstood. But you more or less can bash A-Rod with impunity. Few will disagree. Not many believe him misunderstood…….
But, the funny thing is: To bash A-Rod properly is to concede the numbers. It is to admit — even relish — in the idea that he has been a player who had done extraordinary things. It is to grant him his natural talent, perhaps even to grant him his intense work ethic. To bash A-Rod is to outflank him. It is to say he has done those extraordinary things only for the glory of himself. It is to say that he wants constant praise for his hard work. It is to say that while the numbers look good, they do not reveal his inner weaknesses. It is to say that he cheated to compile those remarkable numbers — he could not have done it naturally. It is to say that he does not play the game right……
Still, it seems to me the key factory here is: It’s A-Rod. And all that entails. I mean, let’s face it … if that was Albert Pujols running across the mound, and that was a pitcher who has accomplished as much as Dallas Braden griping about it — say Anibal Sanchez or someone — it seems to be there would be a whole lot of “Shut your fat face, kid,” talk going on across the country.
But it’s not Pujols. It’s A-Rod. And because it’s A-Rod, there are suddenly a lot of people saying: “Yeah, you can’t just run across the mound — everybody knows that!” Because it’s A-Rod there are people admiring Dallas Braden for standing up to the big bully who dared stomp on his new carpet. Because it’s A-Rod, the story is lively and the coverage is intense and the opinion seems to be at least leaning Dallas Braden’s way. Hey look: Another reason to despise A-Rod! Dallas Braden got it right in this way. In this world of ours, you can’t go wrong standing against taxes, the declining levels of our schools and Alex Rodriguez.
Few may defend A-Rod, but I am certainly one of them, precisely for the reasons Joe highlights. No matter what Alex does, he will always be “outflanked.” Fans and players alike will always find a way to turn things that he has done into a major blight upon the face of the game, even in situations where the same actions done by a more respected player would be lauded as gritty, tough, and smart. When he plays well, people complain that he is too wrapped up in his statistics. When he helps the team to a title, his joy is explained away as being relief at having repaired his legacy. No matter what Alex does, he cannot win with an overwhelming majority of the MLB fan base.
The reason for this sort of hatred is simple: Alex is the symbol of athlete greed, receiving two contracts that greatly exceed any other contract in the history of the sport. Once people dislike a public figure, a form of confirmation bias sets in regarding any subsequent events, whereby they interpret each occurrence negatively to justify their dislike of the player. In this case, everything that happened subsequent to Alex signing that deal became justification for an irrational hatred of a player who simply had the nerve to earn a lot of money.
The facts are that Alex Rodriguez is likely to go down as one of the top 10 players of all-time, and he has gotten to that point by playing the right way. He never takes a game or even a play off, always hustles, and does whatever it takes to win. He understands his place in the Yankee tradition and the clubhouse hierarchy, deferring to Jeter by changing positions and then always deferring to him in the clubhouse. He has an intense desire to win, as nobody was more thrilled to have helped the Yankees to a championship in 2010 than Alex. Furthermore, Alex desperately wants to be liked. While that does make some of his mannerisms inauthentic at times, I simply cannot hate a player who so desperately cares about what the fanbase thinks about him. He does not dismiss the fans and just do what is best for Alex, but tries to say and do things that will make the fanbase happy. He may fail miserably at times, but I respect the fact that he is trying.
Has Alex made some poor decisions and mistakes? Sure. But when those mistakes are made by the Andy Pettitte’s of the world, everyone finds a way to move on. When Alex does it, millions of articles are written trying to dissect his explanation and question his motives. He is a human being, and is by nature flawed. That does not make him deserving of hate.
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