Unforgettable Game, Regrettable Fame 

Those self-righteous proponents of a PED-free baseball world, slung mud and stones and pointed fingers at Alex Rodriguez, contributing to a growing perception that he was MLB’s public enemy No.1.

Many folks actually bought into it, but if they were looking with their eyes and not through the skewed lenses of national media, then they would’ve noticed that when A-Rod strutted out with bat in hand for pre-game activities at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night, he was greeted like a beloved King, not a disgraced ex-nobleman.

Fans hovered around, leaning over the railing with pens, cameras and paper in hand, feinding for a moment with a guy that’s accused of being baseball’s biggest disgrace. It was immediately obvious that A-Rod still has the juice. As long as there’s baseballs to be launched, people still want to see the big-bopper do his thing. He hit a bloop single in his first at bat and made a couple of smooth plays at third to the chagrin of his grim reapers, whose eager anticipation of an A-Rod burial was left incomplete.

There’s a couple of tweets featured on “the Big Picture” page of The NY Daily News about A-Rod . One of them, from @EricStangel reads:

“Not sure when the A-Rod suspension will be announced, but if they could do it in a way where he’s led off the field in cuffs, that’ll be great.”

It’s a foul and disappointing perspective, but reveals the truth of how abruptly and arbitrarily one’s fate changes.

It’s all good for Mark McGwire to work as a MLB hitting instructor. At the age of 50, Roger Clemens is mentoring youth and still respectfully dabbling in MLB circles as a minor league pitcher. All of these cats juiced and misled the fans.

They also created a mountain of great moments and memories that are forever imprinted in the baseball souls of a generation of people. For that we are grateful and tend to cut them some slack.

Andy Pettitte juiced, but he’s still considered a solid human being because people accepted his reasoning that the desire to return from injury pushed him to PEDs.

A-Rod gets none of that, and now his haters finally get what they’ve been longing for.

MLB has effectively ended A-Rod’s pursuit of Barry Bonds’ PED-stained homerun record with a 211-game suspension that will run through the rest of this season and all of ‘14. He has about $100 million left to be paid and stands to lose about a third of that, which surely has Yankees GM Brian Cashman doing cartwheels.

At 38 years old and with injuries mounting over his polarizing 20-year career, there are already huge doubts concerning whether he can even cut the mustard upon his return at age 40, so the suspension may effectively end force A-Rod’s retirement.

Baseball Almanac says that A-Rod’s favorite movies are Goodfellas, Untouchables and No Way Out. They reflect the journey his star-studded, media-massacred career has taken. He was a handsome, 19-year-old phenom and one of the fresh faces of baseball when he made his debut for the Seattle Mariners in ‘94. A Goodfella in every respect, A-Rod blossomed into a celebrity All-Star, helping to drive the sport into the millennium.

The lanky kid born in Washington Heights, NY and raised in Miami used a five-tool repertoire, charisma and awesome hitting ability to become a baseball untouchable. Now, with proof of his recurring PED use exposed on Monday, A-Rod has run out of escape plans. He’s going to have to pay the Pied Piper.

Still, it’s bothersome seeing one guy always get piled on, especially when there is a mound of blame to toss around.

The PED situation has been sinking baseball’s credibility like the Titanic. Thing is, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, team owners and the less popular and hidden PED cheats have safety boats and life preservers for their legacies. A-Rod is the odd-man out. They want to leave him on the sinking ship, playing a final farewell tune as it goes under – but he just won’t drown. In fact, to the dismay of everyone but desperate Yankees fans, A-Rod can play until an arbitrator rules to uphold his suspension.

So, every time A-Rod cleats-up from this point forward, it’s a great accomplishment for him personally in his battle with MLB and Yankees management.

In the media, he’s been described a “narcissist,” “uneasy in his own skin” and “self-centered.” At one point, he had gained more support from fans, but whatever good grace he earned by winning two MVPs and leading the Yankees to an ‘09 World Series title, was lost with his PED fiasco.

Yankees Nation wanted A-Rod to be their “clean” Home Run King, and bring the title back to the Bronx where Babe Ruth’s legend was born. The Yankees were supposed to cash in on their $275 million investment by possessing ownership of baseball’s legit homer champ.

Then it all came crashing down with The Mitchell Report which initiated hunting season, and preceded Rodriguez’s eventual implications with performance enhancing drug use.

A-Rod being the “big brother” to most of today’s stars became an example of what happens when you gamble your legacy away on MLBs forbidden fruits. Even if A-Rod didn’t supply the PEDs, just remember that within pro baseball’s Hispanic-dominated talent pool, every player wants to be A-Rod, regardless of color. So his actions influenced other young players he mentored and led.

His baseball career was the blue print for aspiring ballers, just like Jay-Z’s rap come-up. In essence, A-Rod is being portrayed as the ringleader of this current crop of baseball cheats. He’s Jose Canseco II, minus the snitching. When it was sweet, he was getting all the props. Now many people feel it’s only right that A-Rod take the brunt of the blame—for everything.

A-Rod will be the first to tell you that those stories about the unforgiving NY sports culture is not hyperbole, and his move to go to NY, was a social blunder from the beginning.

His contract, and expectations that came with being the quarter-billion dollar man, were sources of agitation as soon as he arrived to the Yankees and agreed to move to third base. A-Rod was the best short stop in the game and, to play in NY, he had to second-rate himself from the jump. How can the best player on earth take a back seat to anybody? The chemistry was all screwed up from that point.

Fractured relations from A-Rod dissing Jeter in a ‘01 Esquire story didn’t help either. A-Rod lost the unconditional support of a good friend and huge admirer.

"I'm Alex's biggest fan,” Jeter said way back in ‘95, when both were just young pups with hopes of hanging on in The Bigs. “I brag on him so much that my teammates are sick and tired of me talking about him. Last year we talked all the time…”

How quickly things change. By the time A-Rod was rocking pinstripes, he and Jeter’s relationship had soured to the point where Jeter’s disposition almost forced fans to choose between the “villainous new guy” and the “true blue Yankee.” Emerging from this awkward dynamic was the internal A-Rod haters, consisting of Yankees fans who booed him relentlessly at home games. No matter what A-Rod did, as long as the word on the streets was that Jeter wasn’t feeling him, he was never going to be the toast of Yankeetown. A-Rod’s been ducking shots ever since, always judged against the incomparable Yankees captain.

According to Yankees manager Joe Torre's 2009 book, The Yankee Years, Rodriguez earned the nickname "A-Fraud" from teammates and clubhouse attendants who were said to resent his “Prima Donna” demands.

And then there was the opposition. It’s not like being the highest paid player in the game and being a Yankee was going to earn A-Rod a lot of friends beyond the Yankees clubhouse, but opposing players often had problem with him too. Like the time he had a beef about baseball etiquette with Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden.

Braden sarcastically said : "(Alex) should probably take a note from his captain over there and realize you don't cross the pitcher's mound in between an inning or during the game. I was just dumbfounded that he would let that slip his mind — being someone of such status."

Recently, Mark Feinsand and Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reported that one teammate spoke out anonymously against A-Rod, saying that the team is fed up with the drama-magnet.

"Guys are just tired of it," the player said. "The media circus that’s revolving around Alex is insane — and we haven’t even seen him. It just keeps going. It’s like a carousel that just keeps going around and around and around.

"At some point, it has to stop."

It does. How many legends will be buried? How many careers will be destroyed and memories ignored before the witch hunt ends. It’s going to get harder and harder to promote a product that eats its profit-makers and contributes to the character assassination of its all-time greatest assets.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.