I’ve always had trouble sympathizing with cheaters. If someone broke the rules, it only seemed right that instant karma would catch up with them and they’d have to pay the price.
Alex Rodriguez has paid his price and is having an impressive first week back.
The guy who lost his few remaining fans in 2013 after being caught in violation of baseball’s performance enhancing drugs policy (and then went way too far to cover his tracks and avoid suspension), is back after his year-long banishment and is quietly shocking the baseball world. The former three-time MVP is currently leading the Yankees in hitting with a .300 average and is number one in RBIs with six, while sporting a .417 on-base percentage and .550 slugging percentage through the team’s first six games.
Not too bad for an old guy who hadn’t played in the majors in more than a year.
In fact, the soon-to-be 40-year-old is the lone bright spot in an otherwise struggling Yankees lineup.
Sure, he’s not playing the field regularly anymore (a wise move by the Yanks), but given how much Beltran (.167 average), Teixeira (.222), Headley (.222), Drew (.150), and Gregorius (.158) have struggled at the plate, he’s been a star. Even his off-the-field behavior has been controversy-free—so far.
Admittedly, six games is barely a slice of the 162-game season, but after a good showing in spring training, his performance so far can’t be ignored either.
Did I see this coming? No, few did though.
After A-Rod passed on winter ball, I figured he would show up in February ill-prepared for major league pitching, which he hadn’t faced in a year and a half, and the Yankees would then be forced to release him and eat the remaining $60 million on his deal in a move that would be impossible to spin as a positive for the most revered franchise in American sports.
Instead, the year off from baseball may have given him time to fully heal from recent hip and knee surgeries that had prematurely ended his last couple of seasons. In fact, he hasn’t played a full year since 2007—his final MVP season that ended with him famously opting out of his original ridiculous deal, during the World Series, only to come back to New York with an even more insane contract.
Meanwhile he came back, mentally, in unfamiliar territory—as an underdog—and he’s thriving on it.
When A-Rod first arrived in New York 11 years ago to much fanfare, he was the puzzle piece that was going to distance the Yankees from the up-and-coming Red Sox. And since then the expectations were annually high—until this season as Joe Girardi has batted him in the unfamiliar sixth and seventh spots, where he’s been effective.
So while few are rooting for him, A-Rod has paid his dues, and his production can’t be ignored—no matter what you think of him and his past antics.