As always with the Times, you must register, but it's free:
A good read. I think it's kind of premature to speak about A-Rod's possibilities of surpassing Aaron -- and, more to the point, Bonds, if he passes Aaron first -- and the whole steroid situation is still pretty sticky. But the article paints A-Rod in a very good light that I think we sometimes forget.
I was speaking with a friend today about the intense hatred A-Rod endures. Much of it, of course, comes simply from the fact that he's so freaking good, and so there's bound to be jealousy, sour grapes, what have you. But even so, I wonder why he's not more revered and looked up to than he is. He is absolutely vilified in some circles, for some of the following reasons, as far as I can gather:
1. "He's wishy-washy." First of all, as this article goes to great lengths to point out (not that it's not pretty obvious), Alex Rodriguez has one of the strongest work ethics in the majors. He's kind of a freak about it, actually. Not exactly what I'd qualify as wishy-washy. Then there was the whole what-team-do-I-compete-for fiasco with the WBC. I think this is perfect evidence of A-Rod's biggest character flaw -- not problem, but flaw, as we all have: he is still so concerned about what other people think about him. It is, in my opinion, what hampers in the postseason. He puts so much pressure on himself to be perfect that it backfires on him. It's not wishy-washiness; it's immaturity and self-doubt. He'll grow out of this once he learns to say I don't give a flip what you think once in a while.
2. "He went with the money." Well, cry me a river. You show me one kid who wouldn't have taken that kind of money to go play for a perenially contending team, and I will show you a kid who does not play major league baseball. Notably absent from these people's arguments? He switched positions for the good of his team. he deferred to the hero of the team, who is a poorer shortstop, in order to play for the Yankees without disrupting the atmosphere of their clubhouse. We can argue the management's decision in this case all we want -- I happen to think that, in the end, it was a good one -- but the fact is the decision and the work that it took to become the excellent third baseman that he has are noble things.
3. "He knocked the ball out of Arroyo's hand." He was in a desperate situation. he panicked. It was not intentional, and many people would have done the same thing.
And all the rest. He has pink lips. He admitted being in therapy. etc. These really aren't even worth argument.
The funny thing is, I am a huge Yankees fan and I was appalled by this trade. I thought it was a horrible move for a name player and I didn't think things would work out. I wasn't convinced by his first season there; he did have trouble adjusting in all the ways I expected him to (and frankly, the fact that he did so more last year makes me think better of him. He's gotten used to not being the only superstar anymore.) And he's never been my favorite guy. At times, he has rubbed me the wrong way. But in a sport filled with guys who are nasty, who knock down cameramen and are awful to fans, I have gotten to the point where I am really at a loss as to see why A-Rod is regarded as a jerk. And this article really brings it all home to me. He is an amazing, amazing ballplayer, offensively and defensively. He's hit 400 homers earlier than anybody else in baseball. he works incredibly hard. He's rumored to be a pretty nice guy. He doesn't have that unshakable confidence that his teammate Jeter has, but then many people who use this as a reason to hate A-Rod use that exact contrary argument to hate Jeter as well. A-Rod is a superstar with the media and makes tons of money in endorsements, but I don't get the impression that the country as a whole views him with much affection.
I guess my point is kind of that I feel A-Rod's accomplishments to date are amazing, and while they're certainly recognized, I feel that if he had a stronger personality -- even stronger in a "bad" way -- or if he played for any other team, he'd be a million times more revered for them. It's still very early, but if A-Rod does continue on this path to break the record, and he doesn't get the attention for doing so that Bonds does, for any of the reasons listed above, or because he's a Yankee, or because he doesn't have the inflammatory look-at-me personality that Bonds does, or because there's no controversy because there's no evidence of steroids with A-Rod then I think that will be a really sad commentary on the sport of baseball.