Schelling: A-Rod conquered steroids, playoffs

first_imgIn the proverbial book of baseball history, many chapters exist.You have the Dead Ball Era and the Live Ball Era that combined to span the first four decades of the 20th century. Then there were the War Years, Integration Era, Expansion Era and Free Agent Era, covering the next 50 years of baseball history.More recently and infamously, of course, is the Steroid Era.Characterized by larger-than-life players and stat lines, the Steroid Era initially produced the desired result of increased fan interest in a league that sorely needed it, but you need look no further than its name to know why it has been such a black eye for baseball.Some of baseball’s biggest names of the Steroid Era, who previously were lauded for their accomplishments, have been dragged through the dirt in recent years: Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez.The last of those players, though, has done what none of the others ever would: he admitted his mistake, took the criticism that came with it and tried to move on with his career. The result has been a comeback story for the ages, a new chapter in the Steroid Era.Rodriguez has always been a phenomenal baseball player, as evidenced by the mind-bogglingly huge 10-year, $252 million deal he signed with the Texas Rangers after the 2000 season. But with much money comes incredible responsibility and pressure to perform.It’s for that reason Rodriguez said he began using steroids. While he claims he stopped using steroids after his trade to the New York Yankees, the expectations have only gotten larger and the pressure to perform far greater.In his time in the Bronx, Rodriguez has never lived up to the hype for Yankee fans. Sure, he has been great at getting the team to the playoffs, but he has not performed once there.In fact, the questions surrounding A-Rod only grew louder and more frequent when news of his steroid use came out. From February to April, people frequently questioned his ability to bounce back from allegations of steroid use.And why wouldn’t they? No one else has come back from the asterisk effect of steroids.Palmeiro — a member of the 3,000 Hit Club — lost all credibility and retired within a year of his steroid suspension. Likewise, Sosa and McGwire — both of whom have hit more than 580 career home runs — are now synonymous with steroid use, while many consider their epic home run chase in 1998 a fraud, despite the excitement it generated at the time.Bonds continued to perform after the BALCO scandal, even breaking the all-time career home run record. But many people, including those who have suggested an asterisk be added to Bonds’ record, still consider Hank Aaron the home run king because of Bonds’ association with steroid use.Ortiz hit just .238 in 2009 and was generally unreliable as Boston’s designated hitter, despite 28 home runs and 99 runs batted in. Ramirez, who sat out a 50-game suspension, hit .290 this season but added just 19 home runs in 104 games — the first time he has had fewer than 20 since 1994, his second season with the Cleveland Indians.But with the Yankees just a win away from their 27th World Series, Rodriguez seems to have fully bounced back from the steroid controversy, and while Phillies fans continued to chant “You used steroids,” A-Rod has quieted his biggest critics — Yankee fans.In the 2009 postseason, Rodriguez has hit .360 (18-for-50) and six home runs, while driving in 18 runs for the Yankees. Even still, his critics continued to wonder if he would be able to keep performing at such a high level in the ALCS and again in the World Series.Now, they may have been right about Rodriguez, who has hit just .222 (4-for-18) against the Phillies in the World Series. But to say his hits have been huge is an understatement.First, Rodriguez (with the help of instant replay and a poorly placed camera) delivered a two-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday, which got the Yankees’ offense rolling en route to an 8-5 comeback victory in Game 3.Then came the biggest hit of his career so far.With two outs in the ninth Sunday in Philadelphia, Rodriguez hit a game-winning double off Phillies closer Brad Lidge, scoring Johnny Damon and putting the Yankees within one win of their 27th championship in franchise history.Rodriguez wasn’t done there, however. He connected in his first at-bat Monday night with a double into the right-field corner, again scoring Damon to put the Yankees up 1-0 early.Although the Yankees fell behind after an offensive barrage from the Phillies, Rodriguez came up with his fourth clutch hit of the series in the eighth, a double to left off the glove of Raul Ibanez. The hit drove in a pair of Yankees, cutting the lead to 8-4 and knocking Cliff Lee out of the game. When A-Rod later came around to score, the lead was just 8-5.Those three runs Rodriguez helped deliver in the eighth made a huge difference when they came to bat in the ninth, allowing them to have a chance to come back. New York came up short, but it wouldn’t have been close if not for A-Rod’s clutch double.It now seems like years since the steroid allegations were the biggest news involving the Yankees’ third baseman. Nine months later, Rodriguez has had a career-defining season.All he has to do now is win his first World Series and the Yankees’ first since 2000.Jordan is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Do you think Alex Rodriguez has proven his worth to Yankees fans? Send your thoughts to jschelling@badgerherald.com.last_img

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