An inning-ending double play. All it took was one at-bat in the 2016 season to make clear what should have already been absurdly obvious—it’s time for Alex Rodriguez to retire.
That’s not all, though. Reggie Jackson wouldn’t even accept Rodriguez into the Yankees, um, slaughterhouse: “I think there's always going to be some doubt until he does something [special] to be accepted at the pinstriped gates and into the pinstriped corral,” Jackson told Sports Illustrated back in 2005. Uh, yeah. Good point, Reggie. Since then, all Rodriguez did as a Yankee was win two MVPs and a World Series title. Try harder, maybe.
Then the whole steroid thing happened, and oh man, what a mess. The guy Cal Ripken—CAL RIPKEN—once praised as someone who had “a really good chance to be the best shortstop ever” and Ken Griffey Jr. said “the sky’s the limit” was dissed by three-time All-Star and noted non Hall of Famer Roy Oswalt. “A-Rod's numbers shouldn't count for anything,” Oswalt told MLB.com in 2009. “I feel like he cheated me out of the game.” Oswalt retired four years later after going 0-6 with an 8.13 ERA in his final season.
But ol’ Roy has a point. Why should A-Rod stretch this out? Sure, there’s the $42 million he’s still owed for this season and the next, which amounts to nearly half of what Oswalt made in his career. And there’s the pursuit of Babe Ruth’s 714 career homers, said total which he should surpass by the end of the season, and Hank Aaron’s 755, which he could conceivably reach next season, not to mention the chance at retiring with a .300 lifetime average. Again, though, why? It’s not gonna matter either way. Those who will think he’s an all-time great already think so, those who think he’s a no-good cheater will never be swayed. And his numbers shouldn’t count for anything. Right?
Nah. What sticks in the craw of guys like Oswalt is, well, they actually do. And after enough time has passed—maybe even by the time Rodriguez is eligible—the whole steroid era may be viewed differently by Hall of Fame voters, what with the news that teams like the ‘86 Mets were shotgunning beers and popping amphetamines on their way to a World Series title. It's happening already. Because at some point you either have to disallow virtually everything that’s ever happened in baseball history or open the doors wide and give guys like Rodriguez, Bonds, and Clemens their due. Put an asterisk on the damn plaque if it makes everyone feel better.
In the meantime, the media—hello!—will continue making silly pronouncements, and Rodriguez will keep heading out there in his No. 13 Yankee jersey. We get to “protect the sanctity of the game” while he gets to play it. One of us is wrong, and it’s not him.