During a press conference on Sunday morning, veteran slugger Alex Rodriguez announced he will retire after the Yankees-Rays game on August 12, and serve as a special adviser and instructor to the Yankees until the end of 2017. The announcement comes after weeks of rumors and speculation that the Yankees would release him. Manager Joe Girardi said that if Rodriguez wants to be in the lineup all week, then he would accommodate and play him. The soon-to-be former player was not in last night’s lineup against the Boston Red Sox.
Rodriguez’s impending retirement means that he will be eligible, along with David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira, and others retiring this season, for the Hall of Fame in 2021. But, as the dust settles on his long, productive, and tumultuous career, is Alex Rodriguez actually a Hall of Famer?
Alex Rodriguez’s name is scattered across the Major League Baseball record books. As of August today, he ranks fourth in baseball history in home runs with 696, third in RBI with 2,084, eighth in runs with 2,021, 19th in hits with 3,114, and eighth in total bases with 5,811. He also holds the record for most career grand slams, with 25. Tack on two Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star selections, 10 Silver Sluggers, three MVPs and a World Series ring in 2009 and you have a sure thing Hall of Famer, right? Not so fast.
Rodriguez’s name has been linked to performance enhancing drugs, at first denying any use but as his career progressed, admitted to using them from 2001-2003, and during the Biogenesis scandal in 2013. On August 5, 2013, Rodriguez was suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 season. He would appeal his suspension and play out the rest of the 2013 season, before accepting the suspension and sitting out for the 2014 season. The 162-game season long suspension is the longest handed out by Major League Baseball, with the exception of Jenrry Mejia‘s lifetime ban.
The Hall of Fame voting process has not been kind to players who have either been accused of using performance enhancing drugs during their careers. Rafael Palmeiro fell off the ballot in 2014 after receiving 4.4 percent on his fourth ballot, Sammy Sosa has teetered around the 7 percent mark all four years he has been on the ballot, Barry Bonds received 44.3 percent in 2016, his highest total since he became eligible in 2013, Mark McGwire received 12.3 percent of the vote in his last year of eligibility, and Roger Clemens 45.2 percent of the vote in his fourth year of eligibility. All are well below the 75 percent required to be enshrined.
All five players have the numbers to easily make the Hall. Palmeiro is one of four players to get 3,000 hits as well as 500 home runs, and is the only one who was not nearly unanimously enshrined on his first appearance on the ballot, Sosa is one of eight players with 600 home runs with 609, Bonds is the all-time home run leader with 762, McGwire has a career 583 home runs, and Clemens is one of nine players to win 350 games, and the other eight all have their plaques. So is Alex Rodriguez different than the aforementioned players? For one, he admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs and served the longest suspension in Major League Baseball history. Clemens and Bonds continue to deny their drug use despite mounds of evidence to the contrary. Sitting out for an entire season is not something anyone wants to do. He wasn’t able to play the game he loves, as well as had his body age another year while losing some muscle and quickness in the process and hurting his chance at 700 home runs. A-Rod is the only guy from the mentioned group to accept a steroid-based suspension.
There are two views on Alex Rodriguez; either you like him or you dislike him. There is no middle ground, no in between on the subject. Fans of A-Rod (and Bonds and Clemens) will cite their undeniable talent. The case for McGwire, Palmeiro, and Sosa without steroids is not so certain, and this is reflected in their much lower vote totals. The anti-Rodriguez camp will take a hard line that no admitted steroid user belongs in the hallowed wings of Cooperstown, no matter how good a player they were. Both sides will yell a little bit, fuss, and pound the table, with very little chance of winning over the opposite side.
The Baseball Writers Association of America has shown in the past that they do not like steroid users, and with good reason. They cheated the game in order to gain personal success. But is admitting to what you did (no matter how long it took), and sitting out an entire season enough to change some minds of the voters? Alex Rodriguez certainly hopes so. Over the two years following his suspension, A-Rod has done a remarkable job of rehabbing his sullied image. That may or may not be enough in light of the minimal effort made by Bonds and Clemens to clear the air on their past transgressions.
Alex Rodriguez might not make it into the Hall of Fame during his first ballot in 2021, but should see his day in Cooperstown before his 10 years of eligibility are up. Eventually, a newer, younger generation of sportswriters will begin taking control of the ballot, a generation that is much more willing to forgive steroid use. It wasn’t always perfect with the artist known as A-Rod, but his place among the game’s greats should eventually be accepted after the dust settles on his career.