The baseball season began this week. Who better to post about the game than Jesse Klett? Jesse is a personal trainer at the West End YMCA, a young man with a passion for baseball and for writing.
I am delighted to introduce my first Guest Blogger, JESSE KLETT.
This could well be the beginning of a new tradition.
Few players in major league baseball have had the accolades, awards and accomplishments of Alex Rodriguez. Drafted first overall in 1993 by the Seattle Mariners, his talent was unquestioned. He amassed 14 All Star berths, 3 American League Most Valuable Player awards, 654 career home runs and was the youngest player ever to hit 500. Not to mention the fact that he made a nice amount of money along the way. Becoming a free agent in 2001, he signed the richest deal ever in major league baseball history: $252 million, for ten years with the Texas Rangers.
That year, however, he also made the biggest mistake of his career. Although we didn’t know it until years later. On the field, A-Rod dominated hitting, with a career high 52 home runs that season. The following year he hit 57 more. In 2003, his last year with the Rangers, he won the MVP award. He was the best baseball player alive. But Rodriguez had a little help getting where he was. Banned help. In 2003 he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs.
Players had agreed to do the tests with the promise of anonymity. But another player, open PED user Jose Canseco, had already gone public with a book exposé. A black cloud of suspected steroid use hung over baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These allegations stained the reputations of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, all potential Hall of Famers whose careers could not recover. Lying to reporters, fans, and even to US Congress, took away their credibility, their popularity, and any hope of being named to Cooperstown.
Would “A-Roid,” as he was now being called, go down the same path? Of course. He lied to everyone about his involvement, looked at people like they were crazy, and became irritated by the same repeated questions. Like Lance Armstrong, he was sticking with his story, though the public and his peers had formed their own conclusions. Eventually, in 2009, he admitted to using PEDs from 2001-2003, during his most successful years. He did so only after opting out of his initial monster contract in 2007 and signing an even bigger one for ten years and $275 million with the New York Yankees. In January 2014, he finally came completely clean to the Drug Enforcement Agency about the scandal. He was suspended for 162 games, the longest suspension in baseball history, and sat out the entire 2014 season. His admitted drug use, his cocky attitude, and his lawsuits (which he later abandoned) against the Baseball Commissioner, the MLB Players Association, and even the Yankees, had made him the most hated man in baseball.
Now 39 years old, A-Rod is giving it another shot. Why wouldn’t he? He has three more years on his contract with the Yankees and the potential to earn $61 million. From here, he can only go up. And why walk away from 60+ million bucks? Undoubtedly, the Yankees’ management would love him to retire or fail another drug test. That’s not happening. After a year off, A-Rod has had something of a fresh start in spring training. He is battling for a position on the team like he was a rookie again. He appears to have a good outlook, and doesn’t seem washed up at the plate. This week, against the Toronto Blue Jays, he got a hit and was given a standing ovation by Yankees fans. With the skeleton out of the closet, perhaps he will have a productive season and redeem himself. People who didn’t like him before probably won’t now. But Yankees fans seem to have forgiven him. I’ve always been a fan, so I’ll be rooting for him too. And everyone loves a good comeback story.