By Kevin Cusmano
Until the summer of 2013, nobody had ever heard of a baseball player being suspended for 211 games. But with Alex Rodriguez and PED's forever linked, Major League Baseball had the all the ammunition it needed to single him out and give him the unheard of suspension.
In 2014, Alex Rodriguez had no involvement with baseball. His year away did involve court hearings, lawsuits and adding more people to an already long list of A-Rod haters. Rodriguez certainly didn't help his cause by running out of court and doing an interview with Mike Francesca on how he was innocent, not to mention a host of other incidents the anti-A-Rod crowd will quickly point out.
With the year off from baseball, no one knew what to expect from Rodriguez this season, as the Yankees even gave his third base job to Chase Headley in the offseason and barely promised him any playing time at all as a designated hitter.
But A-Rod has greatly exceeded anyone's wildest expectations. Rodriguez has impressive numbers for a guy who is 40 years old and coming off an entire season on the sidelines. He's batting .267 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI.
Rodriguez struggled Sunday, going 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts against the Blue Jays, leading him to say after the game he was tired and would have to work his way through the dog days of summer, but nobody can complain about what he's done for the Yankees this season.
The numbers are all fine and good, but this year's version of A-Rod is much different than from year's past. This new version of A-Rod is humble. He's quiet. Most of all he's turned into the leader on the team. All of the young guys who've come up and played for the Yankees rave about what an amazing teammate Rodriguez is. Without Derek Jeter in the clubhouse, Rodriguez has become more relaxed, more himself.
With all of the PED business now behind him, Rodriguez should be honored for his accomplishments. Luckily, the Yankees are always looking to make money, so now he gets a day to honor him reaching 3,000 hits.
Don't look now, but Alex Rodriguez might not be the most hated guy in sports anymore.