With the exception of Bartolo Colon, who will play for the rest of eternity, all of the players I grew up watching in baseball are now retired. Colon and A-Rod were basically the last two hanging on. They are the last two remaining active players to have made an All-Star Game in the 1990s. With A-Rod’s final game set to be played Friday night, an era will truly be ending. An era in which five up-and-coming shortstops once took a picture for Sports Illustrated with their shirts off and baseball pants on. Former MLB infielder/Schmo & the Pro guest Jerry Hairston Jr. summed it up bet on Instragram:
Let’s start with Alex Gonzalez on the far left in the front. Not to be confused with the Marlins’ Alex Gonzalez (although he was always confused with the Marlins’ Alex Gonzalez), Gonzalez never was much of an offensive force batting .243 in his career nor was he very good defensively by any means. He did have decent pop for a shortstop though and could usually produce double-digit home runs. Gonzalez played with the Blue Jays throughout the ’90s, but he’s best remembered for making the crucial error that preceded the Steve Bartman play during the Cubs collapse in the 2003 NLCS. Coincidentally, the starting shortstop for the opposing Marlins that season was … Alex Gonzalez.
Of course, A-Rod and Derek Jeter complete the rest of the front row and we’ll have more on them later, but let’s head towards the back. On the left, we have Edgar Renteria who enjoyed a really solid career primarily with the Marlins and Cardinals. A five-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion, and World Series MVP for the Giants in 2010, Renteria was overshadowed by A-Rod, Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra for the majority of his career. However, he was easily the top shortstop in the National League as Barry Larkin’s play began to deteriorate in the early 2000’s. Renteria dominated the position in the National League during this time as he won three Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves. His 2003 season with the Cardinals was especially spectacular which saw him hit .330 with 100 RBIs and 34 stolen bases. Renteria also has a knack for the big moment. His walk-off single in 1997 off of the Indians’ Charles Nagy secured the Marlins their first World Series title.
Then there’s finally Rey Ordonez in the back right who looks as if he needs to take a really big sh**. If there is a definition of “defensive shortstop,” Rey Ordonez is it. He couldn’t hit for sh**, batting .246 with 12 career home runs in nine seasons. He was spectacular defensively though as he won three Gold Gloves with the Mets during the late ’90s and he once threw a guy out from his knees in left field.
Now for Jeter and A-Rod. There’s not too much to say that you don’t already know. They played together for nine seasons with the Yankees, yet couldn’t be any different. Jeter was the good guy — “The Captain” — who played the game the right way, dated models, and just won baseball games while A-Rod is statistically the greatest shortstop who ever lived that signed two contracts worth over $250 million yet confessed to using steroids after adamantly denying so for nearly two years.
This begs the question as to what A-Rod’s legacy in baseball is. If history is any indication, he won’t be making the Hall of Fame anytime soon. I’d like to think that A-Rod was clean at some point in his career and like to remember him during his time with the Mariners when he was the greatest young player the game had ever seen. At the age of 20 in 1996, Rodriguez hit .358 with 123 RBIs and 36 home runs. He hit .358 at 20 YEARS OLD! No player in the history of Major League Baseball has ever hit above .350 at the age of 20. EVER! Not Ty Cobb (.350 exactly), not Ted Williams (.327), not Mike Trout (.326), not Jimmie Foxx (.328) or Al Kaline (.340) or Mel Ott (.328) or Stuffy McInnis (.321) whoever the f*** that is … NOBODY!
Alex Rodriguez is a goddamn legend and it’s sad that his career took the path that it did if his admission that he didn’t start experimenting with steroids until he arrived in Texas in 2001 is true. There’s no way of definitively knowing whether it is or not, but there’s no way of definitively knowing anything when it comes to steroids and baseball. I’d like to think that Alex Rodriguez was naturally one of the greatest players who ever played the game for five seasons in Seattle from 1996 to 2000.
So tonight appears to be the end for Alex Rodriguez. He’s 40 years old and simply can’t play anymore. There’s a part of me that hates A-Rod for making a mockery out of his career and baseball in general, but there’s another part of me that loves A-Rod for being the greatest player in the game during my time growing up as a baseball fan. Regardless, it’s truly the end of an era.