Alex Rodriguez (aka A-Rod) Biography
Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez, born July 27, 1975 in New York, lived with his family behind his Dominican Republic parents’ shoe store. Though the Rodriguezes returned to the Caribbean briefly, they eventually settled in Miami, where Spanish-speaking Alex struggled to keep up in school but made friends through his love of baseball.
When Alex’s dad moved to New York to look for work and never came back, baseball became Alex’s life. He joined the Boys & Girls Club of Miami as shortstop and led the team to victory. In high school he shone on the baseball diamond; when his team was named best in the country, Rodriguez was asked to join the U.S. national team for the World Junior Championships in Mexico.
As grad approached Alex had his eye on the pros – and the pros had an eye on him. By June he knew he’d be drafted, possibly to the Seattle Mariners. But he wanted to go to the LA Dodgers, so his agent told the Mariners it’d take $2 million to sign Alex. Seattle, who had first pick over LA, refused, and a long, ugly negotiation delayed A-Rod's first pro summer. He spent the season trying out for Team USA (the first high schooler ever asked to try out), but a conflict over who held rights to print his rookie card - Classic Games or Topps - kept him off the field. By the time a foul ball grazed the side of his head, Alex had had enough. He took the $1.3 million bonus offered by the Mariners and, in 1994, was promoted from spring training directly to the majors, with a locker next to Ken Griffey Jr.
But the jump to the big leagues was too much, and Alex Rodriguez was sent back to play with the Calgary Cannons in the Pacific Coast League. Once he was truly ready, he joined the Mariners as a shortstop, earning two Player Of The Year honors in his first full-year of play and leading the league in batting, doubles, total bases and runs scored. The only problem was his team: Seattle didn’t have the talent to make the playoffs.
In 1997 Alex’s numbers fell and his error total climbed. In a collision with Roger Clemens during a play at the plate, Alex Rodriguez suffered a bruised chest that ruined his year. He hired Michael Jordan’s personal trainer and worked himself into the best shape of his life. At 6’3” and a little over 200 pounds, Alex felt stronger, quicker and more flexible than ever. His personal life improved, too, when he met Cynthia Scurits, a high-school psych teacher (they eventually married in 2002).
Rounding The Bases
Healthy and happy, Alex Rodriguez made an amazing comeback, joining Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds as history’s only 40-40 players, hitting .300 for the third straight year and making the All-Star team for the third time. But the streak ended with an injury in the new season’s first week and, after surgery and rehab, Alex Rodriguez /kwlink] returned to a struggling team – one he knew he’d have to carry himself. Driven to win, it wasn’t long before enemy hurlers started pitching around him (the Kansas City Royals walked him five times in one game) – until a concussion caused [kwlink 4433]A-Rod to fall into a slump, leaving fans to assume his ticket out of town was already punched. Still, he finished the season strong, leading Seattle to its first playoff appearance in three years.
The Cost Of Freedom
Now a free agent, when the Texas Braves offered him $252 million over 10 years, Alex took the money knowing how badly the team was doing. And when Texas finished last in the division, fans felt being on a losing team was what a greedy player like Rodriguez deserved. But the backlash didn’t stop him and he continued to scare pitchers with his swing. Eventually, though, carrying a losing team took its toll and in 2003, Alex left the Rangers for the New York Yankees. Finally, surrounded by the best group of hitters in his career, Alex felt right at home in his pinstripes. And when he made his return to Texas in May, he silenced the booing crowd by blasting a two-run homer at his first at-bat.
Alex Rodriguez quickly became one of the league's top glovemen. But in a battle with the Red Sox for the right to go to the World Series, Alex and the Yanks struggled. With New York behind by two runs in Game 6, Alex squibbed a roller down the first-base line. Bronson Arroyo fielded the grounder and Alex swatted at his glove, knocking the ball loose. The umps called Alex out. New York lost the game. Then in 2005’s Division Series against the Angels the Bronx Bombers led in every game but only won twice, with Alex batting a meager .133, just two hits and no RBIs. New York fans were angry at their so-called MVP, claiming his regular-season stats meant nothing if he couldn’t perform when it counted. Same story in 2006: Alex clubbed 35 homers and led the team with 121 RBIs but was criticized for everything he did wrong. When the team lost the World Series to Detroit all fingers pointed at Alex, who managed just one hit in four games. He didn’t look like a $252 million player at all.
After the 2007 World Series, Alex had the choice of becoming a free agent. The Yankees made a half-hearted attempt to extend his contract but wondered about his ability to produce when it counted. Alex – who’d trimmed down during winter and adjusted his swing to increase his bat speed –¬ decided to prove them wrong, hitting 14 home runs in 18 games and 34 RBIs, just one short of the record. Then, in a game in late May against the Blue Jays, Alex became the center of a new storm when he distracted a Toronto player trying to catch a routine pop-up by shouting something. The old schoolyard trick branded Alex as a bush-league player by many fans.
Though he kept driving in key runs, hit the 500th home run of his career in August (the youngest player ever to do so) and became the fifth player ever to have a 50-homer, 150-RBI campaign, Alex decided to drop his contract when the Yankees missed the World Series for the fourth year in a row. Looking like a traitor and asking $30 million a year, few teams wanted him – until New York came to his rescue, offering a 10-year, $270 million deal and even more in bonuses to break Barry Bonds’ 756 career home-run mark. Alex accepted, but strained his right quadriceps early in 2008; New York never recovered and neither did A-Rod. Playing well below his abilities, the headlines started focusing on Alex’s behavior off the field instead of on. He and Cynthia divorced, and she accused him of having an affair with Madonna. He was criticized for being consumed with his public image and earned the nickname A-Fraud.
Then the bomb dropped. In January 2009, Alex was accused of using banned substances in Texas. Cornered, he admitted his drug use and was forced to fan the flames by holding a press conference, in which he blamed himself and said again and again that he had been "young and stupid." Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to forgive Alex; some would even like to see him pay a price for his mistakes. And as he nears the all-time home-run mark, it’s anyone’s guess how Hall of Fame voters will respond. For Alex, who’s always been concerned about his reputation, such questions will haunt him the rest of his life – that and the fact, despite his many awards, accomplishments and record-breaking stats, he still hasn’t won a World Series.
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