Saturday, August 12, 2017

Meet a Prospect: Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez, contrary to popular belief, was not always the guy that was questioned whether or not he could hit in a big spot or in the playoffs. Believe it or not Alex Rodriguez was not always nicknamed A-Rod or Aroid or surrounded by steroid clouds or the New York media. Alex Rodriguez was not always the next guy to pass all the top home run hitters of all time and Alex Rodriguez did not always have an AAV of $30 million bucks a season. Believe it or not Alex Rodriguez used to be a quiet and humble kid who just wanted to play baseball. Let us meet him, ladies and gentlemen, Alex Rodriguez.

Alex Emmanuel Rodriguez was born on July 27th, 1975 in Washington Heights, New York. Alex, born to two Dominican parents, moved back to the Dominican Republic when he was four years old. When he moved back to the states him and his family moved to Miami, Florida where he gained an appreciate for guys like Cal Ripken , Keith Hernandez, and Dale Murphy and grew up with the New York Yankees Mets as his favorite baseball team.

Alex went to Miami's Westminster Christian High School where he became the start shortstop for the school. In 100 games there he batted .419 with 90 steals en-route to winning the high school national championship in his junior year. He was first team prep All American as a senior, hitting .505 with 9 home runs, 36 RBI, 35 steals in 35 attempts all in 33 games. He was selected as the USA Baseball Junior Player of the Year and Gatorade's national baseball student athlete of the year as well that season as a senior. Rodriguez was the first high school player to try out for the Team USA Olympic Baseball team in 1993 and was quickly donned with the title of top prospect in the country. After high school he signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the University of Miami, who also recruited him to play quarterback for their football team. Alex surprisingly turned down the baseball scholarship and never played college baseball, instead signing with the Seattle Mariners after being drafted in the first round of the MLB First Year Players draft at the ripe old age of 17 years old.

Alex, after being drafted first overall in the 1993 draft, was already playing for Seattle's AAA team in 1994. He played 32 games and had 37 hits, for a .311 batting average, in 119 at bats while knocking in 6 home runs and 21 RBI. He made it all the way to the majors by July of the 1994 season, being the starting short stop on July 8th against the Boston Red Sox at 18 years old. Alex's rookie season was obviously cut short that season due to the shortened strike season by the MLB Player's Association and the league. Rodriguez split time between the big club and AAA in 1995 before joining the Mariners permanently in August where he got his first taste of the post season while still being the youngest player in Major League Baseball. His first full season, 1996, was easily considered his break out season as he hit 36 home runs with 123 RBI while leading the American League with a .358 batting average, the highest BA for a right handed hitter, since Joe DiMaggio hit .381 in 1939. He was also the first major leaguer to win the batting title at short stop since 1960, the first in the AL since 1944... All at 20 years old. Obviously he made the All Star team that season while leading the AL in runs, total bases, and doubles while within striking distance of the hits (2nd), extra base hits (2nd), multi-hit games (3rd), slugging % (4th), RBI (8th), and On Base Percentage (8th). He set the highest totals ever for a short stop in runs, hits, doubles, extra base hits, and slugging while tying for most total bases and set Seattle Mariners records for average, runs, hits, doubles, and total bases. Some say that this is still the best season ever by a short stop. He was named the Sporting News and Associate Press Major League Player of the Year and came in 2nd place, three points back, in the MVP vote to Texas all-star Juan Gonzalez. After a "down year" in 1997, that included an all-star appearance by being voted in ahead of Cap Ripken Jr, he rebounded in 1998 setting the AL record for home runs by a SS and becoming the third member of the 40-40 club with 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases. He was the Players Choice AL Player of the Year that season, won his 2nd Silver Slugger Award, and finished in the top 10 in the MVP Voting. Following an amazing season he hit another 42 home runs in 1999 even though he missed over 30 games with an injury. 2000 was his final season with Seattle, even though he was the guy that they were building around after trading away guys like Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr to keep him. Even though he had a great season and even hit well in the playoffs the Mariners lost to the Yankees in the 2000 ALCS. He was selected as the Major League Player of the Year award by Baseball America and finished 3rd in the Baseball Writers Association of America AL MVP voting.

Alex signed the most lucrative and expensive contract in all of baseball after that 2000 season, signing with the Texas Rangers for a record 10 years and $252 million dollars. A Texas Rangers team that finished last in the division in 2000 signed Alex to a contract $63 million more than the highest contract ever given out to date. In an article written years later in the Daily News Alex said he regretted signing with the Rangers and instead wanted to sign with the New York Mets. Rather than following his heart though he listened to, then agent, Scott Boras and followed the money. He did make the best of his time in Texas though, hitting 52 home runs and 133 runs scored with 393 total bases in his first season as starting SS for Texas. He followed that up with a major league best 57 home runs with 142 RBI with 389 total bases in 2002. He won the Babe Ruth Home Run Award for leading the MLB in home runs and win his first Gold Glove Award that season for his outstanding defense. Despite 109 home runs in those two seasons the Rangers finished in last place in the AL West both seasons. The Rangers losses are probably what cost Alex the MVP Award in 2002, as he finished second to Miguel Tejada's 103 win Oakland A's who won that AL West that season. 2003 would be his last season as a Ranger, but it may have been his best if that is possible. Alex won the MVP award , finally, while leading the AL in home runs, runs scored , and slugging &. He also won his second straight Gold Glove Award and Babe Ruth Home Run Award while becoming the youngest player to 300 home runs.

After that 2003 season the Rangers, who were going nowhere with Alex, decided they had to move his expensive contract. Initially Alex was traded to the Boston Red Sox that off season but the MLB Players Association vetoed the deal because it called for voluntary reduction in salary. After the Rangers named him the Team Captain for the team for the 2004 season they quickly traded him to the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. The Rangers agreed to pay $67 million of the $179 million remaining on the contract, dependent on Alex agreeing to switch to 3B. Alex also had to switch uniform numbers because he wore #3 in Texas and Seattle, retired number of Babe Ruth.

Alex has been the exact definition of an up and down career while he has been with the Yankees. After an average Alex Rodriguez season in 2004, which included yet another All Star Game appearance, and a fight with Boston catcher and Captain Jason Varitek the Yankees made the playoffs. Alex absolutely destroyed the Twins in his first post season appearance as a Yankee, batting .421 while slugging .737 with two key extra inning hits. The 2004 ALCS that no one will ever began was set, the Yankees vs the Red Sox. Alex started the series continuing to crush the ball, equally a single game post season record with five runs scored in Game 3 in Fenway. While we will never forget the Red Sox's 3-0 epic come back and breaking the "Curse of the Bambino" while winning the World Series I wonder how many of you forgot about in this series when Alex swatted the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove after rolling a ground ball to the pitcher's mound. I certainly have not forgotten. 2005 marked his first ever MVP award as a Yankee when he drove in 48 home runs and 130 RBIs, becoming the first Yankee to win the award since Reggie Jackson in 1980. He also hit three home runs off of future teammate, and then Angels pitcher, Bartolo Colon while driving in 10 runs in one single game. 2006 was yet another All Star Game appearance for Alex while compiling his 2000th hit and playing for Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. 2007 season was yet another MVP award for Alex, and had him hitting his 500th career home run against Kyle Davies and the Kansas City Royals.

After the 2007 season all the talk was Alex Rodriguez and his opportunity, written into his contract that he signed with the Rangers, to opt out of his contract following the World Series. He did not wait until the World Series was over though as he announced that he would indeed be opting out of his contract but stated that he would like to be a Yankee for the rest of his career. In November of 2007 the Yankees agreed to re-sign Alex on yet another 10 year deal, this time worth $275 million with various incentives for breaking career home run milestones. This contract would take Alex through his age 42 season with the Yanks and could go as high as $320 million bucks.

Alex Rodriguez was actually the first player to have a home run call disputed with Instant Replay when he hit his 549th home run against the Tampa Bay Rays. The play was upheld by the umpires and the home run was in the books. Prior to the 2009 season A Rod had a torn labrum in his right hip and had an arthroscopic procedure that kept him out through the first month of the season. He hit a three run home run on the first pitch he saw that season, against the Baltimore Orioles, and helped the Yankees get back on track after starting the 2009 season with a 13-15 record. We are all Yankees fans so we know about the heroics against the Twins, the Angels, and the Phillies in the World Series en route to the Yankees 27th World Championship. Clutch Rod was born.

I do not want to touch on the whole steroid scandal too much because everyone, Yankees fan or not, knows what happened. Actually the only reason that I wanted to post anything about it was because of the picture below that I thought was too good to pass up. In 2007 Jose Canseco planned to publish a book about Major League Baseball and its steroid use, including dirt on Alex Rodriguez. Some of the dirt, besides steroid use, was that he was a hypocrite, gay, and a "loser". Alex Rodriguez denied all accusations in a 2007 interview with Katie Couric. Although he denied it only 2 years prior in 2009 it was reported by Selena Roberts that Alex failed a steroid test, testing positive for two anabolic steroids, testosterone, and Primobolan during his 2003 season while playing for Texas. He tested positive for the same steroid that Barry Bonds supposedly tested positive for in 2000 and 2001. So much for that anonymous testing and such huh Bud Selig? Alex later admitted to taking steroids in 2001 - 2003 after an "enormous amount of pressure to perform" after signing that record breaking contract in Texas. He claimed that he never took a steroid while in New York, but he did not mention his seasons in Seattle. He later became the spokesperson for the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which educated young people about the dangers of steroid use and has spoken at schools about the dangers of steroids.

The 2010 - 2015 season were up and down for Rodriguez. The stat lines were there until a second hip injury and a second steroid allegation cost him much of the 2013 and 2014 seasons but Alex was back and in a big way in 2015. Alex had a resurgent 2015 campaign putting his name back on the map in Major League Baseball but his body faded down the stretch and so did his stats. Alex was not able to pick it back up in 2016 leading to a benching and the eventual announcement of his impending retirement effective on this day in 2016. We're going to miss to Alex.

Alex grew up with two half siblings, Joe and Suzy, who were born in the Dominican Republic from his mother’s first marriage. Alex also has a half-brother, Victor, who is from his father’s first marriage. Victor is an officer in the United States Air Force. Alex himself has two children, Natasha Alexander and Ella Alexander, with his now ex-wife Cynthia Scurtis, who he met in a gym in Miami, Florida. In July of 2008 Alex and Cynthia separated and divorce papers were filed among rumors of Alex and Madonna having an affair. Madonna was one of Alex's many women to be on his arm since his divorce including, but not limited to, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz, and current girlfriend former WWE Diva Torri Wilson. Not too bad for a guy that owns a Mercedes Benz dealership in League City Texas, has good friends like Derek Jeter and collects art in his free time.

Enjoy retirement and your new gig with the club Alex. Congratulations and thank you… for everything. This has been Meet a Prospect: The Alex Rodriguez Edition.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)