Alex Rodriguez has had a career that most young players can only dream about. A 14-time All-Star, he won three MVPs, a batting title, a couple Gold Gloves and a World Series. He's a member of the 3,000-hit club and four home runs shy of 700. And yet for all his greatness, he's often found himself under fire. Will he end up in Cooperstown? Only time will tell.
MLBPA via Getty ImagesDilip Vishwanat
A-Rod arrived in the majors in 1994 with as much fanfare as Seattle's other prodigy, Ken Griffey Jr. The two played four full seasons together, reaching the playoffs twice overall. But they never reached the World Series, and in 2001, A-Rod left the small-market Mariners as a free agent and went to Texas, which had the deep pockets to pay him. Sadly for Seattle, this completed the breakup of a legendary core that included Randy Johnson (and just preceded Ichiro Suzuki), and the Mariners still remain one of two teams to never have played in a World Series.
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A-Rod's rise to stardom coincided with the emergence of two other All-Star shortstops, Boston's Nomar Garciaparra and the Yankees' Derek Jeter. A-Rod clearly was the best with the bat: He had arguably the greatest season ever by a shortstop in 1996, leading the AL in batting average (.358), runs (141), total bases (379) and doubles (54) while hitting 36 homers with 123 RBIs and 215 hits. But Jeter and the Yanks won the World Series that year — after losing to A-Rod and the M's in the ALDS the previous year — to begin a run of six Series appearances in eight seasons, and four championships. And A-Rod took notice.
Texas broke the bank to sign Alex Rodriguez to a record 10-year, $252 million contract in 2001. And A-Rod didn't disappoint, hitting 52, 57 and 47 homers in the next three seasons and winning his first MVP in 2003. But the Rangers never won more than 73 games in that span, and realized they'd mortgaged their future for a player who wasn't winning them more games, much less a World Series. There was only one team that could take a contract like that off their hands: the Yankees. In 2004, the Rangers sent A-Rod to New York for young slugger Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
The odd couple
It was an uneasy alliance when A-Rod joined Derek Jeter on the Yankees. First of all, A-Rod had to move from short to third, despite the fact he'd won a Gold Glove each of the past two seasons. Second, their personalities were so different. Jeter was the captain, A-Rod was the diva. A-Rod never could be beloved by the fans the way Jeter was, nor could he handle the fame as well as Jeter did. They wouldn't always get along, but they starred together in New York for 11 seasons.
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In your face
A-Rod was somewhat unpopular even before he joined the Yankees, but he hit a new level once he was part of the Evil Empire. Who better to rudely welcome him to New York than the Boston Red Sox and catcher Jason Varitek, who started a bench-clearing brawl with this dust-up in 2004. It was just a prelude to the ALCS, where Boston became the first team to rally from down 3-0 to win the series, stunning the Yanks en route to ending their World Series drought. They'd win again in 2007, extending the Yanks' sudden Series drought to seven years. And while A-Rod won two MVPs in his first four years in New York, he was gaining a reputation for disappearing in the postseason, following three straight forgettable playoff appearances.
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The Contract 2
After two MVPs in his first four seasons in New York, Alex Rodriguez wanted an even bigger contract than his record $252 million one. And if that wasn't enough, his agent Scott Boras announced that he was opting out and becoming a free agent during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series. It was a hugely unpopular move, but A-Rod saved face by reaching out to the Yankees, who rewarded him with a new record 10-year, $275 million deal.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
A-Rod loves some A-Rod
Did we say A-Rod was somewhat unpopular? His reputation for being full of himself only grew when he did this narcissistic photo shoot for Details magazine that was published in April 2009. A-Rod's image would be hit a lot harder by the steroid scandal that began with a Sports Illustrated report that had been released just two months earlier.
World Series winner
Alex Rodriguez finally broke through in the postseason as a Yankee, powering them past the Phillies to win the World Series in 2009. There was a parade with Jay-Z up lower Broadway but no dynasty, as the Yankees have failed to get back to the Series since then, and A-Rod's postseason woes resumed.
AFP/Getty ImagesEMMANUEL DUNAND
Steroid scandal and suspension
A-Rod became a poster boy for baseball's steroid scandal, first in 2009 when he admitted to using them while with Texas, and then again in 2013 when MLB dropped the hammer, suspending him for the entire 2014 season for violating its drug policy after his continued PED use was exposed in the federal crackdown on the Biogenesis labs.
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Keep a stiff upper lip
A-Rod weathered some tough times in the toughest media market, where tabloids routinely took shots at him and exposed every detail of his private life. He endured his record suspension and the public scorn of a Yankees team that wanted nothing more than to unburden itself of him and his massive contract. But he never crumbled under the weight of it all, and even won back many fans with a comeback season in 2015 as he turned 40.
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As A-Rod watches his rivals and contemporaries wind up their Hall of Fame-caliber careers, and he struggles to the finish line, the baseball world wonders when he'll hang 'em up. A-Rod is just four homers from 700, but the Yankees are releasing him. However, A-Rod will stay on in New York in a different capacity as the Yankees pay off the rest of this year's salary and next year's $21 million. But given that he's not officially retiring, who knows if he's played his last game?