By Joe Giglio
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When Alex Rodriguez steps into the Yankee Stadium batter’s box this weekend, a smattering of cheers and boos will reign through the crowd. Most likely, those jeers will drown out any support the former three-time MVP will have among the fans in attendance.
Of course, any reaction is acceptable. Fans pay hard-earned money for the right to attend games and react however they see fit toward player and team performance.
In this case, it’s clear that the vitriol towards Rodriguez will be personal. From a fan perspective, it’s understandable. No one should force or tell fans how to react toward athletes.
Yet, from the perspective of Major League Baseball and the media that covers the sport, Rodriguez’s plight from former phenom to highest-paid player to admitted steroid user should not be personal.
Facts and opinions must be separated to give the sport a fair and just outcome of the Rodriguez saga. If he’s truly worthy of a 211-game suspension, an arbitrator should see the evidence and rule that way. If he’s not, making him the scapegoat for two decades of negligence in Bud Selig’s office is erroneous.
Over the last 24 hours, two dissenting voices have weighed in on the story and the player captivating New York.
First, appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban called Major League Baseball “Bud Selig’s mafia” when defending Rodriguez. Despite the hyperbole, he’s right. Selig has attempted to re-write the joint drug agreement rules in order to make an example of Rodriguez, re-write his own legacy before retiring and rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs two decades after the problem truly began to take a stranglehold on the product.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays. One of the best and brightest players in the game, not to mention someone the Yankees wish could replace Rodriguez at third base in the Bronx, spoke out against the idea of A-Rod playing while appealing his suspension.
Of course, Longoria is part of the MLBPA that collectively bargained for due process and the ability for any player, not just Rodriguez, to play until the process is complete and an arbitrator renders a decision.
Too often, from the top of the sport to rival players to media and fans, the narratives around Rodriguez are changed and enhanced by personal feelings toward the player and the person he has been.
Salary, personality and off-the-field antics shouldn’t be part of the equation of his innocence or guilt in the eyes of Major League Baseball.
For years, A-Rod was so far above his peers that it would seem ridiculous to compare his plight to mere mortals such as Everth Cabrera, Jesus Montero and Jhonny Peralta. Yet, that’s exactly where this debate should stand.
It’s more than acceptable to dislike Rodriguez, but acting as if his punishment and process should be different than that of any other player because of his paycheck, accolades or insecure personality is ridiculous.
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