Last Gasp From An A-Rod Apologist

August 12, 2016 will mark the end of Alex Rodriguez' Yankee playing days. Some will celebrate. Some will be satisfied that he will go out with a whimper and not a bang (unless he does some sort of Babe Ruthian last game with three homers). There is no doubt he has earned some of the sobriquets he will be called in Boston. Personally, I will be sorry to see him go. He was one of the best players I have ever seen.

Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles is the new A-Rod. If you watch Machado play, you will see hints of what Alex Rodriguez was. A-Rod was a terrific shortstop and a ferocious offensive player. The sorry part about saying all this is that many will wonder how much of that performance was real.

That, to me, is a shame. If you have known me long enough, I do not lend much credence to how much PEDs improved a player. The spike in offense in the previous playing generation is almost always linked to PEDs. I don't totally buy it. Pitchers took it as much as batters. And if a pitcher wasn't taking PEDs, he was being shot up before a start with drugs common to surgery and never intended for prescription use.

Many say the ball was juiced in that era as much as the players were. There was a lull in pitching talent. Others point to the strike zone. You still had to hit a round ball with a round bat, one of the hardest thing to do in sports. And you cannot definitely ascertain that PEDs helped a player exponentially. 

If you believe that three-quarters of the players at the time used PEDs (as I do), there was still an elite that were the best of their generation. A-Rod was one of those. 

I was a kid who loved the back of baseball cards more than the front. From an early age, I liked looking at the year-to-year numbers and the career totals. Today, you can do that on several baseball reference sites. You can't get much more googly-eyed than looking at Alex Rodriguez' career numbers. It just blows you away. I invite you to go look.

Baseball-reference.com gives him 117 bWAR. Fangraphs.com gives him 113. Fangraphs gives him 64 runs above average for his career defense. Baseball-reference.com gives A-Rod 9.5 dWAR. Make no mistake about it, Alex Rodriguez was a premier shortstop and took a huge career fielding hit by moving to third to accommodate Derek Jeter. Combine his defense, his offense and his base running and he is elite for his generation.

I also believe one other thing about PED usage: While the theory is that it helped a player statistically (not that I am totally buying), I also believe that creating intense muscle mass also cut short his statistics much in the same way that Mark McGwire's career was cut short. The hip problems, leg muscle strains, etc., cut short his career statistics. His playing time suffered from 2008 through 2013 due to such injuries. To me, the gain and the loss even themselves out.

Alex Rodriguez was also a player involved in constant controversy. His famous statements alienated him from Derek Jeter. His love life was ridiculed (and sadly admired). Stories abounded from him being a douche and a horrible landlord. He did stupid stuff like scaring a third baseman out of catching a popup.

So what? Ty Cobb was no Georgia peach. And unlike Cobb, A-Rod did have redeeming qualities that rubbed off on younger players. And you could never fault the one thing in life that is important to me: He loves baseball and he has loved playing the game.

Go ahead and be happy. It is a free country. Enjoy the fact that his final year was a bust. Haters are gonna hate. To me, he is one of the top twenty players of all time, should be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and was a joy to watch play baseball. And I still secretly harbor a hope that once he is released, some AL contender will pick him up and have him hit ten homers down the stretch. 

Take care, A-Rod, and thanks from this guy who enjoyed watching you play.