In case you missed it last Thursday, former player turned baseball analyst Alex Rodriguez appeared on Evan and Tiki, a New York-based radio show. While subtle, an interesting topic on the show was if Rodriguez wanted his number retired in Monument Park, and he said he does. Looking at his resume, it makes sense; he won two American League MVP awards and hit 351 home runs in the Bronx. The former Yankees slugger was also a vital member of the 2009 Yankees team, hitting an absurd .365 in the postseason when they won their record 27th World Series title.
While impressive, his stats and recent radio interview fail to mention his well-documented usage of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), the numerous lies he told about his usage and the toxic teammate he was. For all the reasons above, Rodriguez does not deserve to be honored in any capacity of the game, including enshrinement in Monument Park.
Despite his success in the Bronx, Rodriguez was a poor teammate to many, including Derek Jeter, yet it wasn’t always this way. Breaking into the league, the two athletes were good friends on different teams, staying at each other’s houses, eating out together and relishing in the success of being two of the most renowned shortstops at the time. Of course, it’s hard not to mention the 1997 Sports Illustrated magazine that featured the two on the cover and the “shirtless shortstops” photo that featured Jeter, Rodriguez, Álex González, Édgar Rentería and Rey Ordóñez. However, everything changed in 2000. In the 2000 ALCS, the two friends faced each other, and both played like the best shortstops in baseball, with Rodriguez hitting over .400 and Jeter nearly scoring .320. New York won the World Series that year. Afterward, Rodriguez hit the free agency market, signing the richest contract in sports history, a 10-year $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers.
At the same time, Jeter was negotiating a long-term extension with the Yankees. Rodriguez let it known that his old friend Jeter wasn’t in the same class as him, saying, “A guy like Derek, it’s going to be hard for him to match that,” adding “He doesn’t do the power numbers, and defensively, he doesn’t do all those things. So he might not break the 252 [million dollars]. He might get 180 [million dollars]? I don’t know what he’s going to get. 150 [million dollars]? I’m not sure.”
“I’m not trying to beat Alex’s record anyway,” Jeter responded. “The only record I’m concerned with is Yogi [Berra]’s record, and that’s the (10) championships.”
Jeter signed the second richest contract in sports history, a 10-year $189 million contract. Instead of congratulating his friend, Rodriguez kept running his mouth, this time in a 2001 Esquire profile titled “Alex Rodriguez is underpaid.”
“Jeter’s been blessed with great talent around him, he’s never had to lead,” said Rodriguez. “He can just go and play and have fun… you never say, Don’t let Derek beat you. He’s never your concern.”
What was Rodriguez’s legacy as a Yankee? Sure, he had numerous individual awards for his regular-season performance. Yet, in the biggest of moments, Rodriguez was nowhere to be found. The Brooklyn native was the face of the Yankees’ historic 2004 ALCS collapse when the third baseman went 2-17 in games four through seven and infamously slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in game six. In the 2006 playoffs, Rodriguez hit so poorly that Joe Torre slid him to eighth in the lineup, where they lost in the Divisional Round to the Detroit Tigers. Despite New York winning its 27th ring in 2009, the headlines surrounding Rodriguez weren’t for his great performance.
Rodriguez came under the spotlight in 2009 when he tested positive for two anabolic steroids in 2003, which he admitted to. His usage was from 2001-2003. He was never disciplined for this incident, as it was supposed to be anonymous, and during an era in which most of the players were doping; however, the drama was far from over.
In 2013, the infamous “Biogenesis scandal” rocked MLB, suspending 14 players, including Rodriguez. The third baseman got the longest suspension, as he missed the entirety of the 2014 season. He used PEDs from 2010-2012 while on the Yankees and even got a fake doctor, Anthony Bosch of Biogenesis Labs, to help him pass the MLB-mandated drug tests. After receiving his season-long suspension, he denied his PED usage, saying, “I have been clear that I did not use performance-enhancing substances,” adding “And in order to prove it, I will take this fight to federal court.”
Less than a month later, Rodriguez met with federal prosecutors behind closed doors, who were investigating Bosch and Biogenesis Labs. The former MVP admitted to everything: his usage, how he “beat” the tests and how he got the drugs. The public only found out about this after the Miami Herald obtained Rodriguez’s testimony and published an exposé on Bosch’s clientele. MLB had already suspended the slugger for an entire season. After Bosch rolled over on Rodriguez, there was no denying the truth: The two-time MVP and World Series champion was doping, and it called everything he had done in his career up to that point into question.
There is still a chance that the Yankees retire Rodriguez’s number. After all, Andy Pettitte’s number is retired despite using PEDs. Unlike Rodriguez, Pettitte came clean about using and did not abuse steroids to the extent Rodriguez did. Despite his five rings, Pettitte does not deserve that honor because everyone else in Monument Park did it clean, and taking PEDs is a violation of MLB’s Drug Policy. It also makes you wonder if these reports were never brought to light, would these two athletes or anyone else who was doping admit to that fact years later? Probably not, because they thought they could get away with it.
Why do all baseball fans universally like Jeter? While his play on the field was nothing short of spectacular, so was his character. Unlike Rodriguez, Jeter was not attention-hungry for the camera. He was humble in triumph and in defeat and never started fights with Jason Varitek. Jeter and so many other athletes serve as role models for the next generation of fans, and to put a cheater, whose entire career is tainted with his use of PEDs, on the same level as Yankee legends like Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Babe Ruth, would be baseball’s greatest tragedy.