Alex Rodriguez's days with the Yankees may be numbered. Good riddance? Or will the league lack for entertainingly egocentric superstar antics once his reign is over?
Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic) discuss what may be the end of Alex Rodriguez's superstar status playing for the Yankees.
Of all the "superstar + city" arranged sports marriages, none was more likely to end badly than the one between Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez and the city of New York. In a town that likes its stars gritty, emotional and win-at-any-cost focused (that's why to most Yankee fans, Thurman Munson > Reggie Jackson), A-Rod fits in like a mismatched shoe. He's a prima donna (remember the centaur?), he makes roughly $30 million a year, and outside of a magical October in 2009, he's one of the least clutch great players in baseball history.
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Now, with the Yankees hitting like the Houston Astros and Derek Jeter out with a broken ankle, the A-Rod fury is coming to a head. After the New York Post reported that the aging star tried to pick up a girl sitting behind the dugout during Game 1 of the ALCS—the same game that Jeter broke his ankle—the fan condemnation has been fast and furious. The Yankee superstar is 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitching in the postseason and has been benched for three of the team's final four playoff games, an unfathomably bold/stupid move by Joe Girardi that is undoubtedly poisoning A-Rod's relationship with the Yankee manager for the long term. The next bit of breaking news, that the Yankees have contacted the Miami Marlins about possibly trading A-Rod during the offseason, seemed all too pro forma, akin to a wife kicking her husband out of the house while she prepares divorce papers.
There are a plethora of questions to be asked here, but two stand out. One, with last night's lost, is this the beginning of the end for the current Yankees dynasty (five World Series and 17 playoffs appearances in the last 18 years)? Jeter and fellow veterans Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte have all suffered serious leg injuries this season and are at the tail end of their careers. No everyday starter in the Yanks' regular-season lineup is younger than 29, and the team's only still-in-his-prime star, Robinson Cano, just had a historically awful 0-for-29 stretch in the playoffs.
Two, what does this mean for A-Rod and his legacy? By the numbers alone (647 HRs, 1950 RBIs), Rodriguez is one of the 10 best players in baseball history and potentially the greatest right-handed hitter of all time. But great numbers can be forgotten in the face of steroid use (which A-Rod has admitted to) or general dislikability—just ask Barry Bonds. Now A-Rod may be shipped off to South Beach in disgrace, an aging, slightly above average veteran that no one really wants.
Where do you stand on all this, Hampton? As a Kansas City Royals fan, are you chortling over A-Rod's no good, very bad week?