Alex Rodriguez has always been controversial, but the degree to which his critics have historically gone overboard in slamming him has always outstripped his actual transgressions.
He landed a big contract and was instantly cast as the greediest person alive. He fooled around and blew his marriage up and was cast as an immoral villain. He made some public relations missteps and he was branded as the most clueless person alive. He took performance enhancing drugs and lied about it and he was compared, with no irony, to a literal mass murderer.
It all started with that $250 million deal he signed with the Rangers, though. A-Rod may have broken rules and acted arrogantly and stepped in it a whole bunch, but the day he signed that deal with Texas is when he ceased to be a ballplayer like any other ballplayer in the eyes of the press and became a caricature whose every move was scrutinized more and whose very existence was treated differently than any other player’s. That’s when the narrative about him was forever slanted and after which he’d never get a fair shake.
Even now, on the eve of his final game, it does not end. Just look at this Associated Press story:
NEW YORK (AP) — By the time Alex Rodriguez collects his last payment as a player from the Yankees next year, he will have received $317,368,852 from New York, according to a review of his contracts by The Associated Press.
Luxury tax caused by his deal totaled an additional $132 million through this year, although the Yankees could have spent more money on other players had A-Rod not been on the roster.
Was it worth it, given that the Yankees have won one World Series title during his years in pinstripes?
Honestly, what other athlete is covered in this way? The only other ballplayer who gets anything close to this treatment is Joe Mauer, but that’s a localized phenomenon for the most part. Where are the national stories about how much the Dodgers, for example, have spent on player salaries without a World Series title to show for it? Where is the cost-benefit analysis of the Albert Pujols deal? The Miguel Cabrera deal? Robinson Cano? Joey Votto? CC Sabathia?
More to the point, where is the stuff about how much revenue the Yankees have taken in during A-Rod’s time in pinstripes? Or are we to believe that Alex Rodriguez is the only actor in the world of baseball who sought to maximize his earnings?
There is a debate to be had whether A-Rod was worth his contracts over the years and I’m sure that, if asked, the Associated Press and the author of this story, Ronald Blum, would defend it by simply saying that it is a fact piece, not an opinion piece. And yes, facts are facts. But the very act of writing and running this story is an editorial choice which reveals a belief that Alex Rodriguez — unlike any other athlete, league, team or executive — must answer for the money he earned. And a strongly implied judgment from the get-go that any answer will come up short.
It’s been that way for 15 years, really.