Major League Baseball tried.
Make no mistake about it. MLB wanted to end the career of Alex Rodriguez.
Baseball couldn’t get Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens or even Barry Bonds.
But A-Rod was there for the taking. MLB did anything it could, even getting into bed with unsavory characters and using questionable tactics in order to get the dirt on Rodriguez and his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
It wasn’t enough to give A-Rod the same 50-game suspension 12 other players got in the massive PED bust by the game.
MLB wanted A-Rod’s head.
It was finally a chance to get a big fish. To make an example of him and make him pay for the Steroid Era in baseball.
Hence, it imposed an unprecedented 210-game suspension that was later reduced to a one-year ban for taking PEDs.
For sure, A-Rod wouldn’t be able to come back and be productive. After all, Rodriguez, who will turn 40 in July, was coming off two surgically-repaired hips, fighting the rust of father time and would be thrust into a hostile environment with many fans rooting against him.
Trust me. Many at MLB thought A-Rod would have been so bad, so lame that he would have been shamed out of the game by now because he simply wouldn’t be able to perform.
MLB’s hopes were that the New York Yankees would have cut bait, released the former All-Star and that would have been it. Baseball would have won and A-Rod would have lost.
Instead, A-Rod has flourished. He’s thrilled. He’s seized the moment.
Rodriguez did it again on Wednesday as his three-run home run against the Kansas City Royals gave him 1,995 RBI, passing Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on MLB’s all-time career RBI list.
That’s right. Only Hank Aaron and Bonds have more RBI than Rodriguez, now the American League RBI king.
“For me, in a weird way, the time off was a blessing in disguise,” said Rodriguez to the media in New York after the game. “I was able to get some rest, to change my workout regimen a little bit. I just feel like I’m in a better place and more explosive, I think.”
Best of all, these aren’t empty numbers or meaningless stats. Most would admit that the Yankees wouldn’t be in first place in the American League East without A-Rod’s bat.
Coming into Thursday’s game, Rodriguez is batting .276 with 11 homers and 26 RBI. Clearly, at this point, he’s the AL Comeback Player of the Year.
Rodriguez was cheered by the crowd at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday after the home run enabled him to move up in the RBI ranks and gave the Yankees the lead in the game.
There have been cheers the whole way through, in fact.
They started at spring training in Tampa when he took his first at-bat since August 2013.
They continued on Opening Day when he was announced to the home crowd. A-Rod got the loudest cheers and they’ve continued every time he’s delivered.
MLB had to be embarrassed to watch Yankee Stadium give Rodriguez a standing ovation when he passed Willie May’s mark of 660 career home runs. And, to add further insult to injury, A-Rod also received a curtain call by the fans.
“All of this is pretty crazy,” A-Rod said after the grand moment. “A year ago today, I never thought that I would ever get a curtain call or be hitting in the middle of the lineup for the New York Yankees, helping our team win.”
There have been many great comeback stories in sports, including George Foreman’s return to the ring at age 38 after a 10-year retirement, Michael Jordan’s three straight titles after taking a two-year layoff from the NBA at the height of his career and Mario Lemieux’s return to the NHL three years after Hodgkin’s lymphoma forced him to quit.
Still, this comeback was expected to be the most-documented and overanalyzed this country has seen. Without question, all eyes were on Rodriguez.
But most, especially MLB, was waiting for the epic fail and the hail of boos.
They never came and neither did that Bronx cheer.
It’s been good to hear fans supporting A-Rod because it’s the same reaction others, including Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz, received in their returns in the steroid scandal.
Next up is Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit. He’s 19 away.
Yes, MLB. A-Rod is alive and well.
And he’s hitting.