The Legacy of Alex Rodriguez: A Reputation in Shatters

In 2009, Alex Rodriguez admitted in an interview with Peter Gammons of ESPN that he took performance enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003. After that news broke, I wrote a post in which I tried to argue that despite the allegations, he should at least be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame. The post never made it to publication, perhaps because I had my own doubts about making a plausible argument.

Four years later, in the aftermath of the Biogenesis scandal, there is no longer any doubt about whether Alex Rodriguez should even be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame.

In a way, this is unfair. Andy Pettitte, after the release of the now-infamous Mitchell report, conceded that he twice used human growth hormones to recover from an injury, and I’m not alone in believing that his apology was sincere. It is commonly accepted that Roger Clemens used steroids during his career, yet there are sports writers with Hall of Fame ballots who are open about voting him into Cooperstown because he would have been one of the greatest ever with or without the drugs–and I’m inclined to agree.

But the problem with Alex Rodriguez is that people always had doubts about his sincerity and his priorities, which ultimately led to questions about his authentic skills. This is a man who signed a quarter of a billion dollar contract over a ten year period, did nothing to turn the perennial loser into a contender, then used the Red Sox to leverage a trade to the Yankees. Once there, he opted out of the ten year contract, announced the news as the Red Sox was winning the second World Series in three years, then had the audacity to claim that he wanted to be a Yankee for life. I’m the last person who would feel sorry for the Red Sox, but there is something that goes to the inherent character of a man who is willing to overshadow the greatest triumph in the sport by making an announcement of what is ultimately a personal matter.

The cliché goes that action speak louder than words, and Rodriguez’ career is littered with suggestions that he is only interested in personal pursuits. He wants to become the greatest, whether measured in terms of the number of home runs or the amount of money he earns. He cares not, it seems, how his teammates fare along the way. This, and not some statement Rodriguez made to a magazine years ago, is what really separates Derek Jeter and Rodriguez. Jeter wants to win; Rodriguez wants personal attention.

Whatever personal accolades Rodriguez sought, history won’t be too kind in rewarding him. Decades from now, he will be looked upon, not as a teenage phenom who became one of the greatest player ever, but as a guy who lied and cheated his way into a half a billion dollars while returning only one world championship for a team that was already loaded with talent.

Reputation matters, no matter what kind of livelihood we lead. It matters whether employers and clients view you as diligent or whether colleagues see you as reliable. For professional athletes, who is constantly in the public limelight, the value of the opinion of others is one of the most important asset they have. After all, a ballot by observers determines whether they are immortalized in the Hall of Fame.

For Alex Rodriguez, the only thing that is left is a reputation in shatters. He can’t fix this. There were those who were skeptical (including myself), but were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He blew that chance when he continued to cheat in an era when it was no longer okay to cheat. Now the lingering question will always be: was he a cheater from the very beginning?

Nor will he find redemption on the field. Sports fans (and writers) are a forgiving bunch who are willing to overlook a serious character flaw if only the player produces home runs, wins and championships. But at age 38, Rodriguez’ skills have only one way to go. He won’t be able to point to his past accomplishments either, not with his most notable moments coming in October when he consistently failed to come through when fans and his teammates most needed him to perform.

Alex Rodriguez is a cautionary tale of how legacy–that amorphous concept of how others in the future judge those in the past–is not something that is out of the hands of those in the present. Legacy is built upon the capital of good reputation that accumulates over a course of years, decades, and ultimately a lifetime. That is Rodriguez’ legacy, that he seriously misjudged the answer to perhaps the most important question a man can ask to live a meaningful life: what is your reputation worth?


2 Responses to “The Legacy of Alex Rodriguez: A Reputation in Shatters”

  1. 1 jon porus August 13, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I agree, A-Rod is a scumbag, and even giving him the benefit of the doubt before this incident was very lenient. Everything he does is simply low-class.

    You had one sentence that needs to be fixed btw: “After all, a ballot of observes determines whether they are immortalized in the Hall of Fame.”

    Also, when are you going to be back in New Jersey?

    • 2 joesas August 13, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Hola, Jon. “Low class” is indeed the phrase that best suits him.

      And thanks for forever immortalizing the typo. I fixed it, but now people will know forever that the original post had a typo!

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