Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Fennelly: Alex Rodriguez leaves tainted legacy

ST. PETERSBURG

We interrupt the five Olympic rings, Mr. 58 and Ichiro's 3,000th for that old headline hog:

Alex Rodriguez, 41, soon to become the highest-paid special adviser and instructor in special adviser and instructor history, will play his final baseball game Friday night at Yankee Stadium. Against the Rays, for those keeping score.

Rodriguez and the Yankees announced it Sunday. A-Rod appeared tearful. The tears were sent to a local lab to see if they're real.

That's where we are and probably always will be when it comes to Alex Rodriguez.

What was real and what wasn't?

He steps away as famed slugger turned admitted cheater turned comeback player turned discarded by New York, if that's the real story here. Looks to me like A-Rod saw the handwriting and cut a good deal. He gets all his millions. And I'm not even sure the guy is going to retire.

Remember: This is A-Rod.

Don't even think about it, Rays.

Not even for a second,

Not even for 30,000 at the Trop for A-Rod 700th Homer glow-in-the-dark Bobblehead Night.

One statement about Rodriguez from Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner made me smile.

"Baseball runs through his blood," Steinbrenner said.

If baseball had always been the only thing running through his blood, all we'd be doing today is hailing Rodriguez as one of the greatest talents in history.

Instead, we wonder how many of his 696 home runs, 3,114 hits, 2,084 RBIs and record 25 grand slams were the real deals. Probably a lot. But we'll never know.

What was real and what wasn't?

Throw in all the A-Rod lying, tape-measure narcissism and A-Rod news of the weird over the years and it's like a circus just folded its tent. Loved. Hated. All under one big top.

What was real and what wasn't?

Give the man this: He eventually admitted using. And he produced a remarkable and apparently clean resurgence last season at age 40. He turned it around. But he'll remain a polarizing figure, especially when he's eligible not to be voted into the Hall of Fame. I have no current plan to check the box next to his name.

In other news, Friday will provide another installment of the Rays standing on the street corner of Yankees history. It never ends.

The Rays were at old Yankee Stadium for the first game there after the Sept. 11 attacks. They were at the new Yankee Stadium for the first game after the passing of the Boss, George Steinbrenner. The Rays were present for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, a home run off David Price. The Rays were there for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's final home game.

Now this.

Maybe A-Rod, who'll play DH on Friday, will make more history. Maybe he goes deep off Chris Archer, the scheduled Rays starter. Archer has already given up 22 homers this season. What's one more?

Yankees fans will cheer if Rodriguez hits one, but it won't produce the emotions of Jeter's farewell, when the Yankees captain delivered a walkoff hit in his final Yankee Stadium at-bat.

Jeter remains beloved.

A-Rod remains A-Rod.

He has made more money than any player in baseball history — more than $400 million — but he lost something along the way. Yes, he loved the game. Truly. But if only he had loved and respected it enough not to cheat. If only baseball fought PEDs from the start instead of listening for turnstile clicks.

That's why we're all turned around at moments like this, as stars we truly could have cheered — if they had given us a chance — take up their watch at Cooperstown, on the outside looking in.

What was real and what wasn't?

That's A-Rod's legacy.

Shed no tears.

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