Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Boo? Jeer? A-Rod isn't worth the energy

He's the most hated man in sports.

He's a cheater and a liar, and if that isn't bad enough, he's a New York Yankee.

And he's here in town.

Alex Rodriguez will be at Tropicana Field tonight and through the weekend, playing there for the first time since appealing his 211-game suspension for violating baseball's drug agreement and labor contract.

What was that violation? Simply put, Major League Baseball, and pretty much anyone who follows the game, believes he is a steroid juicer who has compiled some of the most impressive numbers in history thanks to performance-enhancing drugs.

That, combined with a vile blend of narcissism, ignorance and stubbornness, have turned him into sports' most infamous villain.

The thing is, our hatred for Rodriguez exceeds his sins.

He's not surly like Barry Bonds. He's not vindictive like Lance Armstrong. And he certainly isn't anything like O.J. Simpson.

He has never been busted for pulling a gun or driving drunk or slapping a woman. As far as we know, he has never kicked a puppy, been rude to a kid asking for an autograph or even removed the do-not-remove tag from a mattress.

Though clearly self-absorbed and ego-driven, he still can be charismatic, thoughtful, warm and engaging.

So why do we hate him so? Why is the disdain for him worse than it is for the dozens of other players caught up in steroid scandals? Why do we abhor him more than we do athletes who commit far worse crimes than sticking a needle in their rear end to hit baseballs a little bit farther?

Part of the reason is that his peers seem to dislike him so much. You almost never hear players en masse publicly criticize a player on another team, regardless of the transgression. Yet, it's now open season on A-Rod.

The Rays' Evan Longoria doesn't think Rodriguez should be playing. Pitcher John Lackey of the Red Sox said the same thing. Lackey's teammate Ryan Dempster was so irritated that he drilled Rodriguez with a pitch in a game Sunday, earning himself applause from fans and a five-game suspension from Major League Baseball he didn't even bother to appeal.

Those are just a few of the public displays of contempt for A-Rod. Behind the scenes, the remarks about Rodriguez and the anger toward him are worse. When the players are leading the charge, it's easy for the rest of us — the media and the public — to pick up pitchforks and torches.

We haven't always hated Rodriguez, you know. Once upon a time, A-Rod was to be our hero, the man who would wipe away the stain of the steroid era by becoming the greatest player of all time and doing it cleanly. Someday, we hoped, he would surpass Bonds as baseball's home run leader and give us a home run king we could be proud of, a player never associated with performance-enhancing drugs.

A-Rod seemed like a good egg. We liked him. More important, we believed in him.

Turns out, A-Rod wasn't clean. He failed his first drug test in 2003, well before anyone suspected him. All those years he was lying to us, and we bought it. That is why we feel so betrayed now.

There's more to this hatred. As much as we would like to think money has nothing do with it, hard-working folks struggling to get by loathe a man with such gifts who still took shortcuts and cheated his way to an already-earned $353 million, with $114 million left on his contract.

And finally, maybe more than everything else, there's this:

Rodriguez seems so completely unaware of why he is so disliked. He seems oblivious to why he is in trouble, not only under baseball's rules but in the court of public opinion.

He's tone deaf to criticism and so self-involved that he believes he is the victim. Deep down, he seems to believe that if he just keeps smiling and hitting homers and protesting his innocence with shrugs and a bunch of "We'll sees'' and "I don't knows'' and "It's time to move ons'' that he not only will be vindicated but someday celebrated as baseball's greatest player instead of its most reviled.

He thinks he can play his way out of this.

In some quarters he has. Many with New York accents applaud Rodriguez. He might be a cheater, but he is their cheater.

The rest of us, however, see Rodriguez for what he is: a fraud who has compromised the integrity of the game.

So what should happen tonight?

Will the Rays seek a little frontier justice like the Red Sox and give A-Rod a fastball in the ear? Rays manager Joe Maddon said the players should not be baseball's judge and jury.

And Maddon is right. Besides, giving A-Rod a baseball sandwich would make him only a victim.

The fans are a different story. Buying a ticket does give you the right to judge and dish out your own punishment.

So how should you react when Rodriguez steps into the batters' box?

You could boo. You could jeer. You could yell out a few PG-rated insults. That's all fair.

You could get up and walk out into the concourse, refusing to watch Rodriguez.

You could hold a program in front of your face, visibly ignoring his every move.

Those things, however, would be strong reactions to his actions and would only feed Rodriguez's already enormous ego.

The best way to combat a narcissist? Treat him like you would any other player. Treat him like he was just another guy. Give him the same attention you would give some prospect just up from the minors.

Treat him with indifference.

Maybe then Rodriguez would truly understand that, yes, we are offended by his actions and annoyed by his behavior, but more than that, we are tired of his act. We are over this story. We just want him to go away.

Believe it or not, we really don't want to hate A-Rod anymore.

We would much rather never think of him again.

Comments
Ray Tank: Fans have fun with name of team’s new blog

Ray Tank: Fans have fun with name of team’s new blog

Rays fans upset about the team's recent moves found the perfect target for their ridicule Monday when the team announced the name of its new blog.The Ray Tank.Announcing... The Ray Tank!Our new blog will have behind-the-scenes stories, photos, and mo...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Rays journal: Matt Andriese not mad (but not happy either) with move to bullpen

Rays journal: Matt Andriese not mad (but not happy either) with move to bullpen

PORT CHARLOTTE — Having spent the offseason preparing for a spot in the rotation, RHP Matt Andriese said he was initially "shocked" when told Sunday that he will begin the season in the bullpen."Ultimately, I'm not happy with the decision," And...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
The Yankees’ show of shows is off and homering

The Yankees’ show of shows is off and homering

TAMPA — Move over, Hamilton.The show of shows began Monday at Steinbrenner Field. The Boss would have loved it. Yankees shock and awe began during the first full workout. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton took batting practice. The mere sight o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

TAMPA — Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart says he’s ready to put his checkbook where his heart is when it comes to supporting a Tampa Bay Rays move to Ybor City.So is the investment fund for the founding family of Ashley Furniture. So, it ap...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Live from Port Charlotte: First full squad workout

Live from Port Charlotte: First full squad workout

The Rays held their first full squad workout today, though RF Steven Souza Jr., did not work out because of a family matter. He had already reported to camp.More fallout from Saturday's Jake Odorizzi trade and DFA'ing of Corey Dickerson. This time fr...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Kevin Kiermaier sounds off on Rays’ weekend moves: ‘I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset’

Kevin Kiermaier sounds off on Rays’ weekend moves: ‘I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset’

Standout CF Kevin Kiermaier made very clear Monday what he thought of the Rays' weekend decisions to part ways with veteran OF/DH Corey Dickerson and RHP Jake Odorizzi:"I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Goodbye, Jake Odorizzi and Corey Dickerson

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Goodbye, Jake Odorizzi and Corey Dickerson

The Rays continue their salary dump as they trade Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a Single-A shortstop and designate All-Star Corey Dickerson for assignment, saving about $10 million in the process.In his latest podcast, Rick Stroud breaks down the mo...
Updated: 9 hours ago
As Odorizzi bids goodbye to Rays, Archer says he’ll be missed many ways

As Odorizzi bids goodbye to Rays, Archer says he’ll be missed many ways

RHP Jake Odorizzi was up early Sunday, driving over to the Rays training complex in Port Charlotte to pack his stuff and say his goodbyes after being traded Saturday night to the Twins.RELATED: Rays make a deal, three actually, to trade Odorizzi, DFA...
Updated: 11 hours ago
What were Rays thinking in ditching Odorizzi, Dickerson, adding Cron?

What were Rays thinking in ditching Odorizzi, Dickerson, adding Cron?

PORT CHARLOTTE – Rays officials insisted Sunday they made the best deals they could in a bad market, trading No. 2 starter Jake Odorizzi for an unheralded Class A shortstop prospect and DFA-ing 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson in essentially a swa...
Published: 02/18/18
Don’t like Rays moves? You’ve got company in Longo

Don’t like Rays moves? You’ve got company in Longo

Evan Longoria has said pretty much all the right things since the Rays traded him in December to the Giants.But the former franchise cornerstone felt strongly the Rays made the wrong move in designating for assignment Corey Dickerson and spoke out on...
Published: 02/18/18