Alex Rodriguez often said he will leave it up to others to determine his baseball legacy. With his tenure as a Yankees player ending this week, let the examination begin.
“It will be, I think, a different legacy immediately upon retirement and a different legacy 10 or 20 years down the road,’’ said John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s resident historian. “He was the best player in baseball for a long time. I think his PED use and his obstreperous relationship with Major League Baseball during the [Biogenesis] investigation cast a cloud over his career.
“But the numbers speak for themselves. He was [originally] a shortstop, so those kinds of numbers at that position are without precedence. Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken could only dream of those numbers. He came to the Yankees knowing he would not displace Derek Jeter. However, he was the better defensive shortstop at that time.’’
Rodriguez has voluminous Hall of Fame-worthy statistics — led by 696 career home runs — but a yearlong suspension in 2014 in the Biogenesis case would likely impact his candidacy at least in the early years of eligibility, which begins five years after his last season in the big leagues.
“My crystal ball is cloudy, so I can’t say with any certainty what will happen,’’ Thorn said, “but I am hopeful that with time the individual transgressions or malfeasances will be seen in the context of an era which had a different norm for conduct, different mores. Rafael Palmeiro, [Sammy] Sosa, [Mark] McGwire, the names go on who posted numbers that would have placed them in the Hall of Fame five years upon their retirement. They would have been locks.
“I take no position whatsoever on who is in the Hall or who is not or how the Hall conducts its business or how the baseball writers conduct their business. I have no position personally and truly I have a Hall of Fame between my ears in which all the best players reside and that’s good enough for me. I did not need Cooperstown to impact that.
“My view is that everyone was guilty, everyone benefited from the offensive explosion in the 90s and early [2000s]. To have the only people hung out to dry at the end being individual players of extraordinary accomplishment seems to me overly simple and that the Hall ought not to have a crater in the back room for this era. I think that the pendulum will swing to forgiveness rather than to punishment.’’
Hall of Fame voter Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe, who was just inducted into the writers wing at Cooperstown, said of Rodriguez’s eventual candidacy, “I think it’s hopeless until all the guys like myself are dead. The young [voters] who don’t put any stock in PEDs, it seems to be a trend toward vote for everybody. Clearly there’s a genre of voters skewing younger who do not factor in this, which means you vote for Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro and Alex.’’