Alex Rodriguez is not a drama queen as much as he is a Drama Bro. He’s an absurdly talented player who embraced an era of self-adulation, celebrity, and mass media. A-Rod always knew how to create and draw attention which makes tonight perfect. When certain people are followed by chaos and discomfort throughout their lives the natural inclination is to say some of it is their own doing, some of it not. But in A-Rod’s case, it is all his doing. Because he loves it, he relishes it, and he wouldn’t know how to exist without it.
It comes down to one game tonight in front of the “home fans” as he is sent off into the night time by an embittered Yankees brass who feel duped and embarrassed and cheapened. Home fans must be put in air quotes or italics because while A-Rod has called the Bronx home most recently, he is not beloved in any of the three places he has played. There are no tears, no wistful nostalgia around the A-Rod era in Seattle, Texas or New York. He was a charming yet dishonest, incredibly-gifted mercenary who could never be warm and cuddly in a Jeter or Griffey kind of way.
Rodriguez was perfect for New York because he was the tabloids. They fit him beautifully. He didn’t resent the attention or feel uncomfortable with the constant prodding and poking and dumpster diving of the Gotham rags. Like Reggie Jackson, he loved it. He craved it because it meant he mattered. A-Rod has dealt with a never-ending insecurity of being irrelevant. At his core, Rodriguez is not an awful, hardened misanthrope. In fact, his easy-going, smiling facade is much more authentic than it appears. He’s handsome and he knows it. He’s well-spoken and he knows it. He’s beyond wealthy and everyone knows it. What’s there to be angry about?
But being important, and more specifically being noticed for being important, is what A-Rod seeks. And the biggest city and the biggest team and the biggest contract and the biggest numbers were the mile posts he needed. Kissing the mirror, taking pot shots at Jeter, lying and then copping about PEDs on 60 Minutes all seem like juvenile idiosyncrasies of a floundering ego maniac. While he is an undeniable narcissist, he also knew it all kept his name on people’s lips.
Which is why his final week with the Yankees has been nothing short of perfect. In fact, his last three years have been symbolic of his bizarre career. He vehemently denied taking PEDs (again) via Biogenesis. Eventually admitted that too was a lie. Threatened litigation against everyone (including his league and employer). Returned and smashed 33 homeruns at 39 years old (after 18 months gathering rust). The Yankees grinned through gritted teeth because they couldn’t believe they had to say nice things about him again while paying him exorbitant amounts of cash. But he helped them back to the playoffs.
Since he has broken down into a creaky old slugger with holes in every part of his swing this season, the Yankees have resented the daily questions of whether he should be in the lineup. Which again made A-Rod remarkably giddy because even though he was a 40-year-old mummy hitting under the Mendoza Line, he was daily talk radio fodder. The Yankees tried to play him, then bench him, then ignore him… only to hear the noise ratchet up. As the principal tried tuning out the rambunctious detention hall, the rascals just yelled louder.
So the Yankees would publicly embarrass him with six weeks to play by releasing him, saying he’d be a team advisor, but admitting he could go take a long walk off a short pier if he so desired, and condescendingly giving him one last home game as a send off. As a kind gesture, of course. And this is the definition of A-Rod’s relationships. No one trusts him, and most have to pretend patty-cake with him because he plays the role of Mr. Nice Guy when the cameras are on. He can be described as passive, and aggressive, and passive-aggressive. The ultimate Me-Guy, but the ultimate Team Guy. So what do you do?
Would he get three games in Boston to hunt a few more homeruns before Friday? No, the Yankees would sit him on the bench and force A-Rod to think about what a bad boy he’s been. Except when fans and media began screaming about unfair, petty treatment in a lost season the Yankees had to do an about face. They not only started him last night… they hit him cleanup. Here you want to smoke a cigarette? Then smoke the whole pack! You can imagine them smiling as he flailed at pitches all night.
Tonight will be one of the weirdest scenes ever to play out on a baseball diamond. There will be fans that fondly remember his ’09 World Series and earnestly thank him for that. There will be those who think he’s a punchline for the Slap, and the Ha!, and the groupies, and Madonna, and the horse painting, and the lying. They will laugh and point as he departs. There will be those who appreciate any human being that hit the fourth most amount of homeruns ever, won three MVPs and was one of the greatest player of his generation. And A-Rod will love all of it, because it means he mattered.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.