At The Stadium, Alex Rodriguez shirts that typically cost $32 have been marked down to $5.
And they’re still not moving.
“I don’t want them in stock,” said Chaz Betz, who has owned the sports apparel, novelty and collectibles store located at Crossgates Mall for about 14 years. “It’s aggravating that they’re sitting there not selling.”
Rodriguez has been suspended for 211 games after a Major League Baseball investigation found that he used and possessed testosterone and human growth hormone over multiple years, that he attempted to hide his transgressions and that he engaged in “a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner.”
The case of Alex Rodriguez is a curious one.
A three-time MVP who ranks fifth on baseball’s career home run list, Rodriguez is loathed by baseball fans throughout the league; even Yankees fans say they can’t stand him.
Joe Shea, a Yankees fan who manages the Saratoga Springs-based sports bar The Stadium, would like to see Rodriguez banned from baseball. He said that most baseball fans “don’t care if he comes back. … If you took a survey right now, 95 percent of fans would not want him to come back.”
“People are annoyed because A-Rod lied, and they don’t want him to get away with it,” said Shea. “He had a chance to get out of it and come clean, but he tried to get away with it.”
A big factor in Rodriguez’s unpopularity is performance; at 38, he is in decline. There’s also the perception, fair or not, that he’s not a clutch hitter and doesn’t come through with big hits in the post-season. Last year, he was benched for the Yankees’ crucial game five against the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Division Series; he was also criticized for reportedly flirting from the dugout with a bikini model and designer named Kyna Treacy after being pulled from Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Betz said that Rodriguez, who plays third base, is a hard person to root for.
“It’s his demeanor,” Betz said. “He’s not likable. Look at the girlfriends he has.”
Rodriguez lacks the strong fan base of other ballplayers who have been linked to steroids scandals, such as Barry Bonds, who never lost the support of San Francisco Giants fans, Shea said. Part of the reason is that Rodriguez came to the Yankees in 2004 via a trade with the Texas Rangers, and in 2007 signed a 10-year, $275 million contract with the team, the richest in baseball history.
Shea said Rodriguez faced an uphill battle when he went to the Yankees, because it was unlikely he would ever be as popular as stars such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. “Jeter just sits back and does his job,” he said. “A-Rod is more of a figure who is always in the limelight.”
Rodriguez is appealing his suspension, and can play during the appeal process. He made his season debut Monday against the White Sox, batting fourth.
Twelve other players received 50-game suspensions for violating MLB’s drug policy.
Betz said the scandal has taken its toll on baseball fans. He said that sales of baseball-related items are down at his shop, and that people are tuning out the sport because they’re tired of hearing about the misdeeds of highly paid athletes.
“People don’t want to see it,” he said. “They just want to enjoy the game, and they can’t. … I feel bad that baseball is going through this. As a kid, I never saw anything like this.” He said that he’s eager for football season to get under way, because it’s likely that sales at The Stadium will pick up.
Betz said he needs to see more of the evidence against Rodriguez before deciding whether he agreed with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to suspend him for such a long period of time.
“A-Rod is the biggest target,” he said. “The media is trying to take him down.”
A Yankees fan, Betz said he admires players such as Mickey Mantle and Jeter — players who have never been implicated in a cheating scandal. Rodriguez wasn’t always unpopular with Yankees fans, Betz said, noting that they embraced him when he hit his 500th home run. “The fans were excited,” he said. “They bought more [Rodriguez items].
Ron Plourde, head baseball coach at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, said people are tired of discussing baseball’s steroid problem.
“People would rather talk about the good things that are happening on the field,” he said. “Most people just want to see Alex Rodriguez go away.”
A Red Sox fan, Plourde recalled the day Rodriguez signed with the Yankees in 2004. Earlier that offseason, the Red Sox’s attempt to acquire Rodriguez had fallen through, and on Valentine’s Day, shortly before dinner with his wife, Plourde learned that his team’s archrival had traded for baseball’s most coveted star.
“It was one of the worst days,” he said. “Alex Rodriguez ruined my Valentine’s Day dinner. But in the end, it turned out to be a blessing.”
The steroids scandals “haven’t diminished my love for the game,” Plourde added.
Paul Mound, head baseball coach at Union College, issued a statement on Rodriguez.
“I support the suspension of any player who has altered the game through the use of PEDs,” he said. “I, along with the majority of the baseball community, want to see the game cleaned up. It is a tremendous game with a lot of great history and the players of the past who did it the right way should never take a back seat to players who cheat. I applaud the players who are driving the initiative to bring this great game back to its roots.”
Rodriguez does have some defenders.
One of them is Scott Lemieux, an assistant professor of politics at The College of Saint Rose who sometimes writes about baseball at the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money. He said he believes Rodriguez’s punishment was overly harsh, and that he thought it was likely that the arbitrator who will hear Rodriguez’s appeal would agree. He noted that Rodriguez has not failed a drug test, and said that his unprecedented 200-plus game suspension was unlikely to hold up as a result.
“I would have no problem with a 50-game suspension for A-Rod,” Lemieux said. “The other players’ suspensions are reasonable.”
Under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement, the suspensions for PED violations are 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.
Lemieux said people pay more attention to baseball when Rodriguez plays. “A lot of fans hate A-Rod, but they will be watching when he plays,” he said.