The New York Yankees would've won more rings had Derek Jeter let Alex Rodriguez play shortstop.
Leadership qualities aside, Alex has always been a better player than the Yankee captain. He had more range, was more graceful, and had just as good an arm at shortstop. In his prime with the Mariners and Rangers, Alex was better than virtually every baseball player walking this earth. One of the stipulations the Yankees had when they traded for the then-highest paid player in baseball was that he had to move to third base. Usually known for being narcissistic, A-Rod did what guys trying to win do: He sacrificed personal gain in hopes that the baseball gods would work in his favor.
They did not.
In 2004, his first season in the Bronx, the Boston Red Sox got over their 86-year World Series drought in historic fashion, becoming the first Major League Baseball team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit while facing the Yankees in the ALCS. The Yanks would go on to win a championship in 2009, but that didn't stop A-Rod from being marred in controversy and litigation since he first moved to the Big Apple. The biggest of those controversies? The now-infamous year-long suspension last season for his participation in a performance-enhancing drug scandal.
It wasn't supposed to go down this way.
Whether in his prime or not, from a baseball perspective, A-Rod's presence was and still is a welcome addition to the Yankee lineup. Even at 39, pitchers have to respect his bat. That means whoever bats in front or behind Alex Rodriguez is going to benefit by seeing better pitches. Nobody is going to pitch around someone to get to A-Rod. It doesn't matter that he hasn't batted over .300 since 2008 or that he hasn't hit more than 30 home runs since 2010, he's still Alex Rodriguez—one of the greatest baseball players to ever live. And this year the old geezer is making that known to everyone with an eye on baseball's winningest and most famous club; he's already hit seven home runs and is a big reason the Yankees are in first place in their division.
I knew the jig was up when Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in 1996. I was 13 years old and knew these guys were shooting up.
You want to condemn him for using performance-enhancing drugs during a period when baseball essentially turned a blind eye and didn't test players for steroids? You're an idiot and a hypocrite. Bud Selig and the rest of the suits at Major League Baseball are all hypocrites, too. Was it morally wrong for these guys to turn to PEDs at some point in their careers? Yes. Was it against MLB rules? Sort of. The sport banned steroids in 1991, yet somehow failed to test for them until 2003.
While the baseball powers that be willfully ignored a problem they knew was growing, they simultaneously raked in millions upon millions of dollars during Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds' respective home run chases. Then, once the BALCO shit hit the fan and the public demanded answers, they turned around and condemned the same players they pimped for a payday. Not only that, but they actively worked (and continue to work) against letting any of those guys into the Hall of Fame.
It's an obvious injustice that Major League Baseball has done little to resolve. If they don't get into the Hall of Fame, nobody from that era should. Not Bud Selig, not Tommy La Russa, not Joe Torre. Nobody. La Russa, especially. Are you kidding me? He didn't know Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were shooting 'roids into each other's ass? Please.
Personally, I knew the jig was up when Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in 1996. I was 13 years old and knew these guys were shooting up. That motherfucker never hit more than 24 homers in his entire life. The season before he went yard 50 times, Brady hit 16 home runs. The jig was more than up, it was in goddamn orbit floating high above us all.
It is an absolute travesty that those guys will probably never get into Cooperstown. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and a slew of others are there even though they never played against black ball players. Babe Ruth never went up against a young Satchel Paige, yet he's still propped up for eternity as the face of baseball. Cy Young never pitched to a black batter when it counted, yet he's widely heralded as the pitcher of all pitchers. Roger Clemens, meanwhile, has more Cy Young awards than anybody, yet he won't get into the Hall because of some fugazy witch hunt that everybody ate up.
Today, May 8, 2015, Alex Rodriguez is in sole possession of the fourth spot on the all-time home run list ahead of Willie Mays and behind Babe Ruth. The year off helped his hips heal (he's had two surgeries on them) and gave him some time to focus on his game under the tutelage of Barry Bonds, of all people. Regardless if he or any of the other players are banned from the Hall of Fame forever, they'll still be considered some of the best to ever do it. The writers who vote people into Cooperstown and Major League Baseball need to come to grips with this. Baseball has much bigger fish to fry—like making the game less boring to Millennials so it doesn't die out with the Baby Boomers.
Of course, they could always just bring PEDs back. At least there was some excitement back then.
Angel Diaz is a staff writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.