Thursday, August 05, 2010

What Does A-Rod Mean?

[[switching to first person]] We have been told by so many people on how we should feel about Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez that I simply cannot figure out how I feel about his 600th home run. It seems fitting that I've watched every game of the "chase" to 600 until today (because I forgot it was a day game). His entire career has been elusive and political. The fact that becomes so hard to grasp is that this may be the finest ballplayer this side of Barry Bonds that we'll ever see. Why can't we enjoy it?

I want to like A-Rod. I really do. But how can you even relate to a man like him? He isn't a ball player, he is a businessman. He is a Texas Rangers' creditor. He is Tiger Woods with half the charisma. This year, that seems like more an apt comparison than ever before. But again, I really want to root for him. It was neat that he and Jeter hugged after the milestone. But isn't it weird that even while the milestone was happening...even as I was watching the replay, I was wondering how the media was going to cover this. That's what A-Rod does to anything he touches. He makes it surreal. This isn't just home run number 600. It's another debate about steroids. This isn't another Yankee team moment, it's an A-Rod moment. This isn't an accomplishment that is amazed at or celebrated, it is ho-hummed by most of the baseball world. Why?

Put your fingers around a guy who is only 35 years old already having 600 homers. Before you go thinking that doesn't mean much, imagine getting two homers a game every day for most of two season. Think about hitting a home run a day for almost four years. Think of mulitplying Jose Bautista twenty times where he is now. That's a lot of homers. Alex Rodriguez now has 1100 extra base hits. That's more doubles, triples and homers than Robinson Cano has hits in his career. If he gets just 100 more extra base hits in his career, he'll finish sixth all time. Alex Rodriguez now has 4960 total bases. That's 19th on the all time list. A-Rod has averaged 354 Total Bases for every 162 games he's played. If he averages a paltry 200 a year for the next six years (he already has 176 this season and it's an off year), then there will be only three men ahead of him: Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays.

If Alex Rodriguez were to quit tomorrow, he'd already be a Hall of Fame caliber player. He's already built the stats in EVERY category to do that. His next stolen base will be his 300th. He's rewritten batting prerequisites for shortstops and third basemen. And unfortunately, there will be lots of debate about whether he belongs in the Hall or not because of his PED admission. And that's a shame.

You can't compare A-Rod with Mark McGwire. You can't compare A-Rod with Sammy Sosa. Not only did he play a more highly skilled position than either of them, but he was always a better player than them. He has 1100+ more Total Bases than McGwire and his career OPS+ is 21 points higher than Sosa's. And I believe both of those gentlemen should be in the Hall of Fame. But I can also see the resistance. I can't see that resistance for A-Rod as he was a complete package who could do it all and do it regularly.

All that I have written in the last three paragraphs is the truth. All of it contains accolades that A-Rod has exceeded in deeds and accomplishments. But there has never been a more polarizing player ever. Sure, Bonds was hated everywhere and loved feverishly in San Francisco, but A-Rod has never even been feverishly loved anywhere he's played. I marvel at his accomplishments. I respect his mad skills that are superior to all but one of his generation. I acknowledge that he is a complex and inscrutable person and human being. I attempt sincerely to like him. I applaud his milestone. I recognize that he is a superhero of sorts with his boy-wonder conqueror first name and messianic middle name.

At the end of the day, the sad reality at the bottom core of it all is that I only like him when he hits and hits often. And even if it's the best of times, that's only going to be a third of the time.

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