A-Rod Isn't Sports' Greatest Villain
Alex Rodriguez hit his 660th career home run Friday night, tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list. The next day, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed what we'd been hearing for months: The team will not pay the $6 million bonus that's part of Rodriguez's incentive package for hitting milestone home runs.
The reason, ostensibly, is that the Yankees don't think such milestones are marketable anymore given Rodriguez's seasonlong suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and his very public fall from grace. This seems rather petty and short-sighted by the Yankees. It also reveals exactly what we value, what we're willing to overlook and where our outrage truly lies.
There's no minimizing Rodriguez's transgressions: getting caught doping more than once, lying about it, throwing everybody he could under the bus while trying to salvage his name and reputation. But there's also no comparing PED use to what Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Jameis Winston have done or been accused of doing.
Yet the outrage over PEDs has been far more lasting than any outrage over violence against women. Fans and commentators are quick to condemn Rodriguez and deny his Hall of Fame eligibility. They are just as quick to defend Mayweather and Winston, to call their accusers liars, and deny any institutional enabling by boxing or football or local authorities.
Winston, selected as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft on Thursday, signed a rookie contract with Tampa Bay worth a reported $25.35 million over four years, including a $16.69 million guaranteed signing bonus. Everyone was willing to look the other way regarding his "off-the-field issues" -- the Tallahassee police botched its investigation into allegations that he raped a woman, while the Buccaneers did not talk to his accuser, who has filed a civil suit against Winston.
Mayweather could take home around $180 million from his victory over Manny Pacquiao, thanks in no small part to a concerted effort to protect him from the legal ramifications of past guilty pleas and convictions. His camp even managed to temporarily block the credentials of at least two prominent journalists who have extensively covered his history of domestic violence. Even Pacquiao comes with his own set of issues.
And then we have the Yankees and Rodriguez, who remain at odds over a $6 million bonus after Rodriguez served the longest PED-related suspension in the history of Major League Baseball.
So why is one of these men universally reviled, yet it's the one who hasn't been accused of attacking someone? And why do the Yankees continue to prolong this story, a needless "distraction" from the baseball season?
If Alex Rodriguez is indeed less "marketable" than Floyd Mayweather and Jameis Winston, that's a depressing barometer for where we are in sports and society. But it also shows a lack of imagination from the Yankees. If the team really wants to turn this into a PR win, they would pay Rodriguez the money on the understanding that he would donate it to charity. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal suggests Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, an MLB-sponsored youth outreach program. I'd also suggest the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which teaches young athletes about the dangers of doping. Let's throw in the GoFundMe page started by blogger Bill Baer to support the Camden Yards stadium workers who lost wages from the Baltimore Orioles' scheduling changes amid the city's protests last week.
There are plenty of worthy causes that could use the cash much more than Rodriguez, who could certainly use the image boost from such a move. Everybody wins. But it seems the Yankees might be more set on publicly punishing Rodriguez than really helping anyone involved.
I'm not so willing to accept that Rodriguez is sports' greatest villain, even though he's guilty of his crime and has made it so easy to dislike him. There are just so many bigger villains out there, and we saw two of them on full display this past weekend.
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