Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sport for Thought: Why A-Rod Finally Did the Right Thing

Many argue and ask, when has Alex Rodriguez ever done the right thing? There are constantly stories released from the media attacking him in some way, whether related to his personal life or his baseball career. No matter what this man does it seems to never be the right thing.

Was it A-Rod's fault that an immense amount of pressure was put on him the moment he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners to reach Ken Griffey Jr. status? Was it A-Rod's fault when the Texas Rangers thought he was the best player in baseball and signed him to a ridiculous contract of $252 million? Was it A-Rod's fault when the Yankees further increased his salary and created a record $275 million contract for 10-years?

Alex was primed to become baseball's home run leader passing both Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds*, showing a tremendous amount of power for a shortstop who was then converted into a third baseman. He was the highest earning player in baseball, but he still lacked a key component to what really makes a player legendary.

Once being traded to the New York Yankees, Rodriguez did not just have to perform in the 162 regular season games, but also the additional postseason games that are expected from the historic franchise. However, when a team consistently makes the playoffs, what stands out most is when the highest earning player in baseball has almost no contribution year after year, in the teams most important games.

All of the pressure of not performing in the postseason led Rodriguez to make a decision he did have control over. The moment he walked into Anthony Bosch's office in Miami, A-Rod knew what he was doing, and it was all to live up to the hype and to finally win the elusive World Series Championship.

After years of ridicule from management, fans, and the media, A-Rod  had a postseason for the ages, blasting what seemed like every pitch thrown to him in 2009. He almost single-handedly carried the Yankees through the ALDS and ALCS putting up monstrous numbers and quieting all of his critics. The hitting did not stop there, when he continued to power his way through the Phillies pitching staff, and contributing key hits.

But with the few bright spots in Alex's career also brought the moments of complete embarrassment and failure. After years of denying the use of performance enhancing drugs, MLB began an investigation with a clinic owner from Miami, Anthony Bosch, and his relationships with high caliber professional baseball patients. Among the dozens of players being investigated for attending Bosch's clinic were Melky Cabrera, Ryan Braun, and none other than Alex Rodriguez.

Immediately the spotlight went to A-Rod and his years of denial of taking steroids. Although their was not much evidence besides leaked text messages, it was Bosch's word against A-Rod's. The media had a field day with these allegations and once again A-Rod continued to deny the claims even after a record breaking suspension from baseball by commissioner Bud Selig that he went on to appeal.  It is not every day when such a high profile player gets accused of "cheating" during a time when taking steroids is unfortunately becoming the norm, just to be able to compete in this league.

After losing his very public appeal full of outbursts in court and alleged lying by MLB just to tarnish Rodriguez's career, Alex and his lawyers were adamant about challenging the decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. But would suing MLB and the Players Union really help save A-Rod's career? Absolutely not! All a lawsuit would have accomplished is turn his baseball peers and few supporters against him. Their had to be a moment when Alex had to accept his punishment and just move on. The best way to have any chance in not only somewhat redeeming himself but also to ever play again, was to be quiet and work hard. After his 162 game suspension Alex will have to prove to the entire baseball community that he can still play the game he says he loves so much.

He is always going to have doubters and critics, but playing the right way and respecting the game is the only way to reconcile with MLB and its fans. Although Rodriguez has made many wrong decisions during his career, as he is approaching 40 years-old, he has to perform out on the field. He may never make it Cooperstown because of his decisions over the years, but the least he can do is prove he cares about the future of the game and eliminating the use of steroids throughout baseball. Continuing with the lawsuit would have almost guaranteed the end of a career to an overpaid player that never lived up to expectations in the clutch, and in the end made detrimental decisions.

The way this entire case was handled is an embarrassment to not just Alex Rodriguez but also MLB. The two sides should have been more professional and handled their disputes in a more responsible manner. MLB does have a history of going overboard with penalties they disburse. For instance, Pete Rose, the all time leader in hits, and he is banned from MLB and the Hall of Fame for betting on games. Im am not saying A-Rod deserves to be in Cooperstown, because obviously he does not deserve it, but this situation was more than just about preventing Rodriguez to go to the Hall of Fame due to steroids for MLB.

It was pretty clear to an average fan that MLB was doing everything in their power to ruin A-Rod's career with what appears like an excessive suspension. How is it fair that a first time steroid offender is supposed to be given a 50 game suspension yet, when Rodriguez was the guilty participant, the number of games more than tripled to 162 games? Maybe all of the facts have not been released but the decision seems spiteful and unjust. It could be that MLB is attempting to make it extremely clear that they have no tolerance for the use of performance enhancing drugs in the league and decided to punish the most recognizable name, but in my opinion, MLB should be ashamed of this entire circumstance.

Taking a year off may not just be beneficial for A-Rod to clear his mind and get back into the right mindset of being a productive player once again, but also for the New York Yankees. Due to missing the entire upcoming 2014 season, Alex will be losing $25 million dollars that the I am sure the Yankees were more than satisfied to be able to spend that money on other needs for the team. Although Alex's career was full of terrible decisions on his part, the decision that matters most is taking responsibility and accepting his suspension for not just his legacy, but the legacy of MLB.

Alexa Fontanella is a freshman Sport Management Major at Drexel University, from Totowa, NJ. This winter she will be working with Drexel Athletics on marketing strategies and game day operations for the Drexel Dragons basketball team. Alexa is looking forward to participating in her first co-op next fall and is excited for such an amazing opportunity. She is a huge New York Sports fan, specifically the Yankees and the Nets. Follow Alexa on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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