The Return of Alex Rodriguez: Cool or Drool?

Dan Bisno and Henry Weissberg

Warning to Nate Levinson, Sports editor, and fellow Yankees fans: Proceed with caution.

We’re back again to update you faithful Review readers on what’s happening on and off the field in the world of sports. This week, we turn to the case of Alex Rodriguez, a one-time superstar and truly dangerous player behind the plate. Many readers will remember Rodriguez’s 2014 campaign, or lack thereof, which ended before it began when news broke that A-Rod would be suspended from 211 games for his illegal use of both steroid creams and human growth hormone. The suspension was later shortened to 162 games, but his record-setting accomplishments are, sadly, forever blemished.

The Yankees have just begun their 2015 campaign, fresh off of one of their most upsetting seasons in recent memory. Derek Jeter, “The Captain,” retired at the end of the season, adding insult to a season in which the Yankees missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Currently, Rodriguez has 655 career home runs, placing him fifth on the all-time list and only five homers behind Willie Mays, the “Say Hey Kid” and one of the most beloved players in baseball history.

In 2008, A-Rod signed a massive 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees, and now that albatross of a contract will be a burden on the team’s payroll for the next three seasons.

He returns to Yankee Stadium this season to resume his tumultuous position in the hearts of Yankee fans. As a 39-year-old player, Rodriguez’s role on the team is not what it once was. The former MVP has had multiple hip surgeries and doesn’t have the powerful legs he once had. With Chase Headley holding down the third base position, A-Rod has mostly been relegated to designated hitter duties and backing up Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira at first base.

But does it even matter if he’s starting or not? Whether playing in the infield or just acting as the designated hitter, A-Rod will get plenty of opportunities to hit the five home runs he needs to pass Mays. It’s an inevitable outcome. A-Rod will pass him on the all-time home run list. For that, we cry.

The current all-time leader in home runs is the infamous San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds, who is, ironically, the godson of Mays. Bonds recently said in an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today, “When Alex hits No. 660, I’ll be happy for him, Willie will be happy for him, everybody should be happy for him.” It seems fitting that Bonds, perhaps the only steroid user more controversial and infamous than A-Rod, would support his efforts.

All baseball fans surely remember when Bonds broke the all-time home run record in 2007. It was a bitter moment for fans who had trusted Bonds’ denial of alleged steroid accusations. The legendary ball was auctioned and subsequently purchased for $752,467 by baseball fan and fashion designer Marc Ecko. After acquiring the ball, Ecko hosted an online poll to decide what do with it. Some of the options were to leave the ball unblemished, shoot it toward the moon or burn an asterisk onto it, reminding fans of its questionable nature. Nearly five million fans supported his final decision to permanently laser an asterisk onto the ball and donate it to the Hall of Fame, where it would be enshrined and judged for years to come. As perhaps the most hated player in all of baseball, one can only dream of the creative designs people have in store for A-Rod’s 661st home run ball.

While some faithful Yankees fans may still support A-Rod’s endeavors as long as he produces, he remains the face of baseball villainy in the eyes of many. Like Bonds and the other dominant superstars of the steroid era, A-Rod will keep the records he breaks. The three-time American League MVP, 14-time All-Star, and five-time AL home run champ has achieved the success every young ballplayer dreams about. However, he had to cheat and lie to do it. His seamless lies were beautifully slipped through his shiny white teeth, while he batted bashful eyes. Still, after all the trickery, he’s set to earn $64 million on a contract he signed when everyone thought he was clean.

A-Rod can’t take back the harm he’s done to baseball. Like Shoeless Joe Jackson, who threw the 1919 World Series, or Pete Rose, who bet on his team’s games, the damage to the integrity of baseball is already done. We suspect Cameron Diaz and Madonna, Arod’s ex-girlfriends, would strongly agree with this opinion.

Steroid use is downright selfish and only tarnishes the work of other hard-working, honest players. Players like Willie Mays don’t deserve to have their work tarnished. After starting out in the Negro Leagues, Mays built up his reputation in the minor leagues and became one of the most storied players in the history of baseball. He was the perfect role model, giving up two years of his baseball prime after being drafted to fight in the Korean War. He was also known for his kindness toward everyone.

A-Rod will never be considered better than Mays — at least, not after cheating. Mays maintained the integrity of the game en route to a remarkable 24 All-Star appearances. We can’t help but suffer gut-wrenching pain as A-Rod approaches his record. This entire situation is starting to smell like the banana-baby-food-infused slobber coming from your baby nephew’s mouth. No doubt about it, A-Rod’s return is a Major League drool.