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:

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.