Thank you, Alex Rodriguez. You have reaffirmed everything I believe is wrong with American professional sports: that money trumps everything; that loyalty to a team means nothing; that agents run far more than the public could ever know.
Sacred records will fall and yet be reduced to bullet points on an agent’s sheet of marketing strengths for his client; the fanfare about perhaps the game of baseball’s finest player ever will be lost in the hubbub about whether or not he disserviced the sport by his mercenary approach.
Rodriguez and his deplorably genius agent Scott Boras (say what you will, the man plays his role to a hilt as a no-prisoners negotiator and has avoided a Drew Rosenhaus-style public meltdown; he’s the best agent working for players who care about making money) launched their first fusillade in what may be a long late fall campaign for the eyes, ears, and checkbooks of the baseball realm by announcing the presumptive AL MVP would opt out of the remaining years of his 10-year, $252 million megadeal.
Of course, this would be no news if it weren’t for context: A-Rod’s announcement came neither before nor after, but during the Boston Red Sox’ 9-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies, and eclipsed much of the scarlet sun that rose over the baseball landscape on Monday.
And this is why I write, fifteen hours removed from the most dominant World Series performance of my lifetime and on the eve of a possible dynasty, about A-Rod.
He’s been the game’s greatest player since Barry Bonds’ body deteriorated, and the game’s biggest story outside of Bonds’ record pursuits and steroid whispers for the better part of two years, either muddling through a disappointing season that would be a career year for 95% of the majors in 2006 or cutting critics to ribbons with a sublime effort that culminated in the same befuddling October failure that has plagued him this year.
He’s a household name for a league that can starve for them in their corner of the NFL fiefdom, a lightning rod for tabloids in the country’s most-inked city, a conversation piece to absorb half of SportsCenter.
He is baseball’s biggest star. And, because the compulsion is to look at an preternatural baseball player whose personal qualities dwarf his play, baseball is the worse for it.