Article Written by Daniel Maher
What makes one worthy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame? Is a player with almost 700 home runs and over 3,000 hits worthy? Or is a whole career overshadowed and tainted by the years he was caught using performing enhancing drugs? The New York Yankees in a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, August 12th took a moment to thank former third baseman and now designated hitter Alex Rodriguez for his productive if not dramatic tenure with the team. A-Rod went 1-4 with an RBI double and Joe Girardi made the classy move to play him at third base for an out in the ninth inning before taking him out to a grand standing ovation that was probably the most important moment at the new Yankee Stadium since Derek Jeter’s retirement. It was one of the more awkward retirements in sports, Rodriguez was released by the Yankees following Friday’s contest, leaving him as a free agent. After a renaissance during the 2015 season which included 33 HRs for A-Rod, 2016 was the opposite as he struggled to hit .200. With the Yankees in rebuilding mode, A-Rod doing nothing and September approaching, it was time for the young prospects to get their first smell of big league turf. With the Yankees solely looking toward the future and Alex’s contract up at the end of next year, he was shown the door in a rather quick and dirty fashion, with the announcement of his release and final game as a Yankee coming just the Sunday before. The 41-year-old will now be a Yankees special adviser and instructor up through the end of 2016. There are rumblings that the Miami Marlins, A-Rod’s hometown team, have had internal discussions of bringing the slugger to South Beach, but unless he finds the Fountain of Youth on his way down there the move will be more of a seat-seller for the Wild Card contenders who just lost Giancarlo Stanton to a season-ending injury. The conundrum that has been a topic of debate for a while is now likely upon us; should Alex Rodriguez be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
Throughout his career A-Rod put up some phenomenal numbers. The three-time MVP and 2009 World Series Champion has won two Gold Gloves, ten Silver Sluggers, and four Hank Aaron Awards. He accrued these accolades whilst finishing his career with a batting average of .295, 3,115 hits, 696 home runs, 2,021 runs, and 329 stolen bases. The numbers on paper make him a slam dunk candidate for the Hall of Fame. BUT, there is that famed asterisk that will always be attached to his name. Yes, he has used Performance Enhancing Drugs (multiple times), but you still need to have incredible skill and talent to play in the Major Leagues and get drafted First overall. Steroids don’t have the ability to make an average player one of the greatest players in MLB history. The last two seasons A-Rod has not been his best, at times barely reaching a .200 batting average and getting sent down to the minors for pockets of time. But, one cannot base an All-Star caliber career on the last two seasons where he is now 41 and clearly not the player he used to be. There was a reason the Seattle Mariners picked A-Rod as the number one pick, and there was a reason the Yankees wanted him; he is a generational talent. Questioning his integrity is more than fair but to judge his career as a player on mistakes he has made with PED’s is not. We have no way of knowing if the steroids allowed him to hit three more home runs a season or ten. He likely would’ve been a darn good player without them, too. He wasn’t roided up for much of his career and still produced good seasons. Just look at players such as Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, also some of the most famed PED users. Should they be locked out of Cooperstown, too? Looking back at A-Rod’s career statistics it doesn’t look like he became superhuman overnight. His progression as a player was steady and it was due to the talent he possessed from hard work and tools given to him from birth.
A-Rod accepts the fact that it is time to retire and will be working with the Yankees. I still believe that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and many people will disagree with me, but at the end of the day the numbers are there as is the support from future Hall of Famer and America’s Sweetheart, Derek Jeter. “I’ve spent 22 years playing against, playing with and watching Alex from afar. What people don’t realize is how much time, effort and work that Alex put in on a daily basis. He lives and breathes baseball. I know it will be difficult for him to not be on the field, but I’m sure he will continue to give back to the game,” said the now-retired Jeter. When the Yankees and Rodriguez held a press conference on Sunday the emotional slugger said, “Baseball has a funny way to tap you on the shoulder when you least expect it and tells you it’s the end. I’m at peace. I’m really excited. This is a happy day for me and for my family.” Love him or hate him, Alex Rodriguez has had a major impact on Major League Baseball. When it comes time to decide whether A-Rod deserves immortality in Upstate New York the baseball writers should think long and hard before they make their decision. A call should be made on PED users and HOF eligibility. Barry Bonds is on the ballot and if he is, A-Rod should be as well. If nothing else, be consistent.