Mac Engel

Should you forgive Alex Rodriguez? Yes, about everything, columnist says

Former Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez has enjoyed a public transformation into an area of sports he had always hoped.
Former Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez has enjoyed a public transformation into an area of sports he had always hoped. AP

Baseball season is just about here, and although he has not played since 2016, prepare to see more of your least favorite ex-Texas Ranger, Alex Rodriguez.

If you watch baseball on TV, at all, you will see A-Rod. On Fox. Now ESPN, too.

Welcome this reality. As a baseball analyst, A-Rod is second only to John Smoltz.

Few people conveyed insincerity more effectively than A-Rod, and seldom has a pro jock been slaughtered more because of it.

Let it go. He has.

A-Rod only needed about 20 years, but the most reluctant Ranger in the history of the franchise is at last in the place he always wanted: To be liked. Or at least not reviled. Not the constant source of criticism and disdain.

If you hang around long enough in the public eye, you will take a turn at being both loathed and loved.

Just a few years ago, A-Rod was serving a one-year suspension from Major League Baseball for being dumb enough to be caught using PEDs.

He did his time, and how he’s dating J-Lo, sitting on Jimmy Fallon’s couch on late night TV, and for the first time in his career is conveying the type of sincerity his fans always wanted.

“What I can control is my behavior, my actions, what kind of father I am, what kind of teammate I am to people like (ESPN play-by-play man) Matt Vasgersian and (ESPN analyst) Jessica Mendoza, and Kevin Burkhardt and Joe Buck (of Fox), whoever is my teammate,” A-Rod said in a recent ESPN Baseball conference call.

“So I think it’s not an image. This is a long ride and it’s a slow burn. And nothing’s going to happen easy,” he said. “What I enjoy most now, to be honest with you, is visiting with high school or college kids and talking to them about the mistakes I’ve made, and hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes.”

Sounds so pristine and pretty. Should you buy it?

At last, yes.

Despite all of his money and fame, he knows he screwed up and that he will likely never be where his talent belongs: the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While there has been a thawing by some HOF voters for some cheaters of the game, notably Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, each of whom received more votes than previously in the most recent balloting, A-Rod is not receiving the same treatment.

Whereas there exists the myth of uncertainty regarding Bonds and Clemens, there is no maybe on A-Rod; he used. A lot. A-Rod is not eligible for the Hall until 2022.

The irony to A-Rod is that no pro jock I have ever met was more image conscious. Or insecure. Despite his considerable confidence and talent, there was an insecurity about him regarding education, and those close to him said of his childhood, and his relationship with his dad.

The few times you could actually get to A-Rod away from a crowd, and just talk, he was sincere. He was/is bright. He just didn’t know how to project it to the public without shoving both feet into his mouth and sounding like a fraud.

A-Rod wanted to be loved so badly, and yet few were worse at projecting the type of Snapchat snapshot that generates adoration.

That he is sincere. That he is this wonderful guy who cares about the world outside of himself. That he was not a narcissist on steroids.

Try as he may, the image he tried to project played out in reverse. In the end, A-Rod was all of the above, and another dumb human who screwed up routinely. Welcome to the club.

As a player, he was never real. As a broadcaster, he is.

Fans, and the media, could see right through it all.

“First of all, I’ve changed. So it starts with you, right?” A-Rod said. “And I think one of the things that — I changed and once I served my suspension (in ’14) and I had the whole year to sit down and reflect, I wanted to in many ways turn the lens inward and try to figure out a better way, because I knew that I needed some type of paradigm shift.

“And the suspension was long enough, unfortunately or fortunately, to allow me to think about changes and putting that change in motion.”

What A-Rod is is beyond the battering he took from the likes of myself and the rest of the media that took pleasure in his public flubs, the fact that he wasn’t Derek Jeter, his failures in the playoffs, and most certainly when he was suspended for an entire year for using PEDs.

The sports media that covered him took it upon themselves to crucify him for his insincerity. For being a fraud. His quest to present an image of perfection was covered in flaws, and BS. The media (looking at the mirror) cherished the chance to maul him for it.

Was it the right avenue, or was it needlessly personal? Yes.

A-Rod is 42, and now is a complement to a game that you should never doubt he truly adores. You can question A-Rod’s sincerity about a variety of topics, but not his passion for baseball. Nor his knowledge.

Through the years he did a lot of dumb things, and he said a lot of dumb things. A-Rod is an excellent broadcaster and fantastic addition to any baseball telecast.

Take him for that, and let the rest go.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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