Is it possible that we might miss A-Rod when he’s finally gone from Major League Baseball?
Alex Rodriguez has done a lot of things well throughout his big league career, even if his on-field success will forever be tainted by his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Nothing compares to his ability to play the role of villain.
Rodriguez might be a liar, a cheater and as arrogant as they come. He might have disrespected baseball, spit in the face of the game and made matters worse by refusing to own up to anything. He might even be the most hated man in sports. But isn’t it all somewhat entertaining, albeit for reasons most of us despise?
There are players that we love. There are players that we hate. And then, there are players that we love to hate.
The level of disdain for Rodriguez is incredible. The fact that there are millions of people across the country that want to see A-Rod get drilled every time he steps into the batter’s box speaks volumes about just how deep his transgressions run in the minds of baseball fans. And for that, most fans would prefer that he just go away rather than continue to disrespect the sport. But when A-Rod eventually does pack up his locker for the final time, there will be a huge void to fill — and filling it won’t be easy.
According to the ESPN Research Twitter account, Sunday’s Red Sox-Yankees game drew a 2.5 overnight rating, making it the highest-rated Sunday Night Baseball telecast of the season. Sure, the whole New York-Boston thing had something to do with it, but wasn’t A-Rod the main attraction? Wasn’t he the reason that the entire weekend series at Fenway Park had a different feel to it? And isn’t the potential for incidents like the one between Rodriguez and Ryan Dempster on Sunday why casual fans are going to tune in to Yankees broadcasts even as the team clings to life in the American League playoff race?
Rodriguez is the furthest thing from a role model, so as MLB looks to attract younger viewers, A-Rod is the last guy that the league wants as the face of its brand. However, there’s no denying that America’s vitriol toward Rodriguez has people talking about baseball during a time when overall interest in the sport is down.
Sports fans want to see their team succeed. It typically doesn’t matter how it happens or who’s responsible for it. Winning is what matters, and fans take great pride in their teams’ success. There’s still something a little bit sweeter about taking down a villain in the process, though, and Rodriguez represents the quintessential bad guy.
2004 would have been a special season for the Red Sox regardless of who they defeated during their World Series run. But overcoming Rodriguez and a bitter rival made the plot more interesting, the journey more stressful and the triumph even greater.
We shouldn’t condone A-Rod’s actions or anything like that. There will always be some form of good versus evil in sports, though, and villains like Rodriguez — however they arise — are why we have such an appreciation for those players who do play “the right way.”
We can sit here and say that we want Rodriguez to go away. But after he finally hits the bricks and the dust settles, there will undoubtedly come a point when we miss absolutely hating his guts.