On February 9, 2009, we discovered that Alex Rodriguez did, in fact, take performance-enhancing drugs. That was probably the day everyone's opinion of Rodriguez entirely changed. Following the 2008 season, A-Rod, who had 553 homers at the time, seemed well on his way to breaking the all-time home run record of 762 set by Barry Bonds. But, more importantly, Rodriguez was expected to be the guy who was going to erase the grey clouds that surrounded the game of baseball.
Prior to Rodriguez's admission, Major League Baseball was immersed in a dark and gloomy time known as "the steroid era." Records became tarnished, every successful player was questioned and the league as a whole received a black eye. Then, in the midst of a steroid scandal that went all the way to a congressional hearing in 2005, A-Rod represented a ray of light of sorts. Before his first season in pinstripes that same year, Rodriguez was knocking the cover off the ball from 2001-03 with the Texas Rangers to the tune of 156 home runs. Was anyone making PED allegations at the time? Yes, but who was listening, or better yet, who wanted to listen?
As true baseball fans, we wanted to escape that tainted era so badly that we gave Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt. We screamed guilty until proven innocent, pointed out that he was in the prime of his career and in peak physical condition, and we didn't want these older, guilty players to have an effect on our perception of the young, up-and-comers in the league, like A-Rod. In the process, we also ignored all the egotistical and cocky talk because we genuinely wanted what was best for the sport. Oh, he chose to be greedy and join the Rangers in 2000 because he wanted to be the highest-paid player in the majors? Not a cool move, but hey, at least he isn't a cheater, right?
On February 15, 2004, Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees. Of course, moving to a franchise known as "the Evil Empire" caused a decrease in favorability. Statistically, though, A-Rod continued to do well, but the New York media didn't always paint the slugger in a positive light. His missteps were magnified and his off-the-field image left something to be desired. But again, he wasn't a cheater. Then, his 2009 interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons at Miami Beach happened. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Now, he was cocky. He was an asshole. And most importantly, he was a cheater.