1996, Alex's first full year in the Bigs was historically good. He hit .358, slugged 36 homers, drove in 123 runs and had a 1.045 OPS, which vaulted him into 2nd place for MVP. Rodriguez like any First Overall Draft Pick had high expectations, but nobody foresaw the numbers he put up that first year. As you might predict, A-Rod came back to earth a little his second year hitting .300 with 23 homers and 84 RBIs, but still made the All Star team and helped the M's to a 2nd place finish.
From 1998 on, A-Rod solidified himself as the Best Shortstop in the game making perennial All Star teams and high MVP finishes. After the year 2000 A-Rod was up for his first Free Agent contract. Everyone knew the number was going to be too large for the Mariners to afford, so the bidding war began. The Texas Rangers outbid every other team, offering Rodriguez 10 years, $252 million the richest contract in sports history. That is until 3 years later when the Rangers traded A-Rod to the Yankees, whom agreed to pay Alex $275 million for the next 10 years (the Rangers paid $67 million of it).
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Looking back at that time period in Baseball, from the Strike of '94-95 to 2006 when MLB Banned PEDs & Steroids, the Culture of the Game was all about the
'Long Ball.' The '96 Colorado Rockies had 3 guys with 40+ HRs. 1998 was the year of the chase. McGwire & Sosa both broke Maris' record, hitting 70 & 66 HRs. And of course in 2001, HGH, Cream-&-Clear Barry hit 73 illegitimate HRs. The Whole World became obsessed with HRs; How Many, How Far and How Many More can we hit? Turns out, after the Strike, Offense brought people back to the Ball Parks in record numbers, so of course no one at the time cared to question how or why all these records were being broken.
What it all comes down to with A-Rod is, he is simply a man of the times. A follower. Everyone else was doing it so of course he had to keep up. In actuality, not everyone else was doing steroids, but the 'cool' kids were. You can't place all the blame on the players of the Steroid Era. Major League Baseball deserves blame for enabling and practically encouraging the use of PEDs for that ten to fifteen year period. But no one forced any of them to take drugs. The ones who took them to survive are forgivable; the guys who needed them to make the Show or stay on the team. The ones who took them to get rich or break records are not forgivable. They can rot with their shriveled balls, floppy tits & fat bank accounts.
Alex Rodriguez was a special talent, but not a special person. Alex's Ego & his Salary became more important than Baseball. The young guy who looked up to Ken Griffey Jr. grew up to be nothing like him. A-Rod chose Vanity & Greed where Jr. chose to be a BallPlayer. A-Rod cheated, lied, played the victim and tried to get away with it. That pretty smile and that 'say & do the right thing' persona was all a facade. We all now know the Real A-Rod. Funny how you can be teammates with Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr yet still remain fraudulent. All the Talent in the World but still just a scared, little boy on the inside. No dignity. No Class. All Vanity & no Hall pass.