Alex Rodriguez

When did A-Rod become a villain?

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Joe Posnanski reminds us that Alex Rodriguez was not always baseball’s biggest villain. There was a time when he was seen as not only the game’s best player, but maybe its savior.

Joe walks us through the timeline of A-Rod’s career, but spends extra time focusing on a day in May 2002 when the sky seemed to be the limit:

On that day in May, just more than a decade ago, Alex Rodriguez was unlimited. He was 26 years old. He was a brilliant defensive shortstop. He could draw “oohs” from the crowd by simply throwing a baseball across the diamond — that’s how strong his arm was. He could run. He was a .300 hitter. He was seemingly invulnerable — playing every day.

And he could hit fly balls that just kept going and going and going. He was as thrilling to watch as anyone. We will never know how much of that genius for baseball was his own talent and hard work and how much of it was in the chemicals he injected into his body. The sad part is that most people don’t care to know. They don’t care enough about him to think about it. They just want him to go away.

This morning Kay Adams and I talked about when, exactly, the story changed on Alex Rodriguez. While he has shot himself in the foot repeatedly for ten years, I really do think that the seeds for all of us hating him — or, at the very least, seeing everything he does in the most negative possible light compared to that which other players do — came just before that day in May 2002 Posnanski speaks of:

Athletics sign Santiago Casilla to two-year, $11 million deal

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 10: Santiago Casilla #46 of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch during the 9th inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
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After letting rumors of the deal percolate for the last week, the Athletics officially announced their two-year, $11 million contract with right-hander Santiago Casilla on Friday (and threw a little bit of shade at the Giants, too). As previously reported, the contract includes an extra $3 million in performance bonuses.

Casilla, 36, got his major league start with Oakland back in 2004, racking up a 5.11 ERA and four saves over six seasons in the A’s bullpen. After picking up a minor league deal with the Giants in 2010, the righty flitted in and out of the closing role with varying degrees of success. Notwithstanding a slight downturn in his production rate during the 2016 season, he earned 123 saves and a 2.42 ERA during the past seven years in San Francisco. Securing another closing role might be a little tougher across the Bay, however, with a bullpen that includes fellow closers Ryan Madson, Ryan Dull and Sean Doolittle.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system. Who has the worst?

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 06:  General manager Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks laughs on the field before the Opening Day MLB game against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on April 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Why is this man smiling? Man, I wouldn’t be smiling if I read what I just read.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility.

For the second straight year, Law ranks the Braves as the best system in baseball. Number two — making a big leap from last year’s number 13 ranking – is the New York Yankees. Dead last: the Arizona Diamondbacks, which Law says “Dave Stewart ritually disemboweled” over the past two years. That’s gotta hurt.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone.