Baseball’s bad guy back to bashing

By Evan Glantz

It wasn’t that long ago that Alex Rodriguez was considered one of the best ever to play the game of baseball. Some predicted he might go down as the best to ever play once his career came to a close.

But like his sleepovers with Derek Jeter, those days are long gone.

Since joining the New York Yankees in 2004, his career has been one misstep after another. He struggled mightily in the postseason. He was caught on camera being fed popcorn by Cameron Diaz. He dated Madonna (cue Drake-like reaction). Basically, he was the anti-Jeter.

Oh, and he happened to be caught taking performance-enhancing drugs. Twice. Not only did Rodriguez cheat the integrity of the game – by far the biggest sin in baseball – but he lied about it in the process.

He lied to Katie Couric in 2007 when he said he had never used PEDs.

He lied to Peter Gammons in 2009 when he said “all his years in New York (with the Yankees) had been clean.”

He lied to the fans.

He lied to baseball.

Rodriguez didn’t just burn bridges. He torched them. For his role in the Biogenesis scandal, the Yankees third baseman/designated hitter/first baseman/constant headache was originally suspended for 211 games. But after an appeal, the suspension was dropped by MLB to 162 games, or the entire 2014 season.

All offseason, media, fans, and maybe even some within the game of baseball waited with bated breath to see how the A-Rod circus would play out. Would he continue to publicly feud with Yankees management? What sort of production could the team expect from a 39-year old coming off a yearlong suspension? What position would he play? How would he interact with teammates?

Through three weeks of the regular season, Rodriguez has passed all the tests – much to the chagrin of the media, I might add. He is second on the Yankees in homeruns and runs batted in, and is tied for the team lead for runs scored. It’s as if he hasn’t missed a beat – even with a year off.

What’s been more impressive than his on-field stats, however, has been his ability to tune out the inevitable off-field distractions. Here’s a guy who is universally “disliked” by his peers, seen as a financial burden (and rightfully so) by his own team, and has lost all credibility among the fans. Yet in the early going, all he has done is produce.

I have a hard time believing Rodriguez acquired a sense of humility during his time away from baseball. Anyone who supposedly has a painted portrait of himself as a centaur hanging in his house will probably always have an over-inflated ego.

However, I do admire his ability to consistently rise above the negativity. He’s been showered in boos by Yankee fans, and team management has tried (unsuccessfully) to find a way out of his contract. But Rodriguez stubbornly keeps coming back, seemingly oblivious to the extreme ire directed toward him.

A-Rod’s numbers have always placed him in a league of his own. But now he truly stands alone. And so far, in the latest chapter of his strange career, it doesn’t seem to bother Rodriguez a bit.