Alex Rodriguez is probably the greatest player I’ve ever rooted for. He had unbelievable talent, an easily mimicked swing and an undeniable ease about playing the game. But I still use the word probably because there are no absolutes with Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez except for this one: I have spent more minutes talking and thinking about Alex Rodriguez than any other athlete.
Somehow, it’s taken until his retirement for the topic to get a little bit tired. I’m tired of talking about A-Rod’s morality and whether he should be in the Hall of Fame and using him as the poster boy for the Steroid Era.
When I think of A-Rod 10 years from now, I want to remember the 2009 postseason, in particular Game 2 of the ALCS, one of the forgotten great games from the past 10 years. It was rainy and disgusting outside and the game went 13 innings, ending early the next morning. In my 5th grade class on Monday, I was one of the lucky kids because my parents let me stay up and watch. I was half asleep when A-Rod hit the tied the game in the 11th but I still remember the feeling when the ball cleared the right field fence at Yankee Stadium by about six inches. Two innings later when Jerry Hairston Jr. scored the winning run, that feeling of anxiety and relief turned to joy and a little more than two weeks later the Yankees were on top of the world and it turned to euphoria.
I skipped school for the parade. My dad’s office had a perfect view of the Canyon of Heroes and we had sat and watched the year before when the Giants had their parade after beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. In 2009, we never got within a block of the building. It was so crowded you couldn’t cross the street without fighting a mob. I barely caught a glimpse of the parade but it didn’t matter because the Yankees were champions and order had been restored to the universe.
That parade doesn’t happen without Alex Rodriguez. Not just for his home run in Game 2 of the ALCS but for a .365 average that postseason, including six home runs and more clutch hits than you can count.
I want to remember hundreds more homers and big hits, more than I care to count. In August of 2009, the Yankees and Red Sox played 14 ½ scoreless innings before A-Rod blasted one into left-center to end it. I learned about that one the next day because I had fallen asleep listening to it on the radio. Last April when he hit one 471 feet in Tampa Bay and everyone knew that he was back and the walk-off grand slam against Baltimore nine Aprils ago, an eon in the timeline of A-Rod. And last night when he jogged out onto the field in the ninth inning to play third base for the first time in over a year and looked like a little boy who had just met Santa Claus.
And yes, there are also lots of things I’d love to forget about A-Rod. That goes without saying. Controversy came with the package but if you were to ask me, I’d happily do it again. There are too many memories to say otherwise.
All stats are from baseball-reference.com or fangraphs.com unless otherwise noted