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.
From there on, it came down to whether you liked Alex Rodriguez, the player, or you didn't like him at all. No one admired or could ignore the person he was off-the-field. He was the guy that was easily persuaded by greed. People fully acknowledged that he went out of his way to become the highest-paid player in the MLB and then couldn't neglect that in October 2007, A-Rod opted out to get an even bigger deal of 10 years, $275 million. He was the guy that reeked of arrogance. He was infatuated with his vanity. The list goes on and on.
Of course, like the many guilty parties before him, Rodriguez offered up an apology for his steroid use. Since there were no repercussions for his actions, we could've moved on. However, steroids were involved and those same grey clouds remained situated over Major League Baseball and now A-Rod, whether there was a suspension or not. Since 2010, Rodriguez has truly never been the same. During that time span, he's posted a .272 batting average while averaging 21 homers and 81 RBIs per season. A far cry from his 19-year career averages.
So, what was behind A-Rod's decline? Age? PEDs? One can only wonder, but one thing was for sure, he was becoming your run-of-the-mill player who put up decent numbers and not those "A-Rod in his prime" stats. And in a city like New York, which expects solid production from a guy making $20+ million per year, Rodriguez was quickly losing the Yankees' followers and every fanbase he ever had. As a result, people started to care less and less about him.
As if Rodriguez didn't hit rock bottom already, the Biogenesis scandal surfaced in 2013. In April, news reports said that Rodriguez may have paid off a Biogenesis employee to prevent the release of certain documents. It just kept getting worse and worse for him and his legacy. Who could root for a guy who cheated once, admitted to it, may have cheated again and now tried to hide his tracks? It just became all too much for any fan to handle. Numerous times, we played the "one step forward, two steps back" game with Rodriguez, so going forward, how could we honestly care what the hell happens to A-Rod? George W. Bush may have famously summed it up best.