The Almost Trap: An Open Letter to Alex Rodriguez

Jordan KatzCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2009

Dear Mr. Rodriguez,

This letter is about “ALMOST”—almost living up to your image, almost being forthright, almost taking full personal responsibility, almost being strong.

I‘ve been a big A-Rod fan, but suspect my feelings are those of many fans.

For the longest time, I’ve been in awe of you.

Your swing is poetic—a fluid, seamless swivel of your hips, followed by the firm arc of the bat. This almost made the complex task of hitting simple.

Your athleticism is uncanny.

You combine a perfect mix of power and speed. Year-after-year you continue to acquire stolen bases, and your cannon arm continues to throw out base runners. You bring a defensive presence to the infield and an air of invincibility at the plate.

You’ve been the man.

You’re a good looking, smooth-talking charmer, with a million-dollar smile that I always emulated.  During interviews you are articulate; the consummate professional. In the past, you’ve said all the right things—giving your teammates their proper due, thanking the necessary people, and giving love to your fans.

You’ve been the very best player in baseball. Until late 2007, in the current me-first generation, you seemed to be the exception; the game’s greatest player, ultimate teammate, and excellent ambassador of the sport. As outsized as your persona has been, you still seemed to place team first and uphold the sanctity of the game.

Unlike so many others, you chose the road less traveled, again at least up until the end of 2007.  A difficult path where hard work, honesty, and selflessness are required to reach the intended destination. You earned my respect.

But, somewhere along that path, you lost sight of where the road goes…and began traveling backwards.

You became less than a hero.

You opted out of your Yankee contract to leverage your status as the game’s best, in an attempt to make the most money possible. You gave no thought to loyalty or legacy. Instead, you put the all-mighty dollar first.

Despite the team underachieving during you tenure, we remained loyal to you—even after you found the market less generous than anticipated and begrudgingly re-signed with us. Even after you flirted with other teams and flaunted it in our faces.

This incident began to chip away pieces of your honor. I began to think the unthinkable: was the face of baseball and my sports’ hero simply a talented athlete whose character did not match his physical skills?

And then you answered my question by admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

In an era where a large percentage of players were using steroids, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But man, you were A-Rod—the best player to ever grace a diamond. You didn’t need the juice because you had it ingrained in you! You should have been above corruption and ignorance and need.

You had the biggest contract in sports, were on pace to break the sport’s most revered records, and you had nothing left to prove. But, beneath all that money, under the massive amount of accomplishments and hidden inside those hulking muscles did not lie strength, but rather a weakness I never believed possible.

You cracked under pressure. You couldn’t handle it. You weren’t content being the best, you got greedy, son.

You lied to those who paid your outlandish salary and those who cheered your name till their voices went horse. You lied to yourself and the very essence of what you claimed to represent. You are the biggest hypocrite in all of sports…the villain who pretends to be the hero.

And in your media spin session this week, you failed to take complete personal ownership of the details. You couldn’t bring your self to explicitly confront your weaknesses. You couldn’t bring yourself to say, “I did it because I wanted an even greater edge. I made a conscience decision to cheat and own up to that mistake.”

Instead, you ALMOST took full responsibility. 

Now, you’ve become a less vilified Barry Bonds. Your credibility is in ruins and your legacy will be forever tarnished. Your records will be accompanied by a big, fat asterisk, real or virtual.

And you’ve managed to make yourself into an “almost” real Hall Of Famer. You may get in, but you failed us twice—once when you used the PEDs, and once again this week when you failed to completely own up to the details, however difficult they might be.

Weakness can be forgiven, but it’s really hard to do so when it’s compounded by hubris.

On the deepest level, you let people down. You let me down. Fans wanted to believe in you, kids wanted to be you. You had it all and you gave it away for what? An extra couple mili-seconds on your 40-time? 10 more long bombs a year?

Personally, I understand your reasons. I sympathize with your pressures and relate to your loneliness. Obviously it’s more difficult to stand alone against many, than to be just another guy.

The fact is though, you weren’t just another guy, but you didn’t have the strength to realize your full potential—on and off the field.

You aren’t A-Rod anymore. Your’re not even “almost A-Rod.”

You are Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, the chump who had the chance to live the good life, but didn’t have the strength to grasp the opportunity. You are Sam Rockwell in Matchstick Men; biting that hand that feeds you in utter betrayal. You are Bill Clinton on the stand proclaiming, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!” You are A-Fraud.

You might bench press 300 pounds, hit 70 home runs and be the most physically gifted player of all time. But, you were weak, and worse still, remained so this week at the moment we all needed you to be your strongest, morally.

And I USED to be an A-Rod fan.