Alex Rodriguez took Major League Baseball by storm in the late 1990s.
With a combination of immense power, elite defense, and great speed, Rodriguez was the game’s most exciting player in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Embroiled in controversy throughout much of his playing career, Rodriguez put up one of the most impressive careers of any player in baseball history, winning three MVPs and a World Championship in the process.
Much like Barry Bonds, Rodriguez was a product of the steroid era, which will remain one of baseball’s darkest yet exciting eras.
There was no player quite like Rodriguez, and it is doubtful there will be for a long time.
— TodayInSports (@TodayInSportsCo) July 6, 2022
Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez was born on July 27, 1975, in New York City to parents Victor and Lourdes Rodriguez.
At the time, his father ran a retail shoe store in the city, but when Alex was just three years old, the family would move to the Dominican Republic.
Victor Rodriguez had once been a baseball player in the Dominican Republic before settling down and starting a family in the United States.
After just three years, the Rodriguez family moved back to the United States and settled in Miami, Florida, where Alex would soon become a baseball phenom.
Learning the game from a young age thanks to his father’s tutelage, Rodriguez showed considerable talent.
A few years after their return to the United States, Victor left the family, leaving Lourdes to struggle with multiple jobs and raising three children all on her own.
This had a profound effect on Rodriguez and taught him a valuable life lesson.
Reflecting on this period in his life, Rodriguez said:
“When Mom got home, I’d always count her tip money to see how good she did. She taught me the meaning of hard work and commitment.”
The young Rodriguez was already making a name for himself on the field by the time he reached high school.
After transferring from Christopher Columbus High School in his freshman year, Rodriguez played shortstop at Westminster Christian School.
His pure athletic ability also led him to start as quarterback on the school’s football team.
As a baseball player, Rodriguez was unmatched in his performance in the Miami area.
Combining raw speed and power at the plate, Rodriguez was always causing headaches for opposing pitchers on the base paths and at the plate.
He also showed considerable defensive skills at shortstop.
By the time his high school playing days came to an end, Rodriguez had cemented himself as the top baseball prospect in the entire country.
He led his team to a state championship in his junior year and was named an All-American his senior year, among other accolades.
Professional teams and colleges from around the country had their eyes on the two-sport phenom.
Weighing offers from multiple colleges, the 17-year-old intended to attend his hometown University of Miami on both a baseball and football scholarship.
In a shocking move, Rodriguez decided to ditch college sports and signed instead with the Seattle Mariners, who had drafted him first overall in the 1993 amateur draft.
The Mariners selected a kid from Westminster Christian HS 1st overall in the '93 MLB Draft
His name? Alex Rodriguez pic.twitter.com/zHoR3Id7HE
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 12, 2016
The Mariners and Rodriguez agreed to a three-year contract worth $1.3 million with a $1 million signing bonus shortly after he graduated from high school.
The most hyped Mariners prospect since Ken Griffey Jr. just a few years before, Rodriguez skyrocketed through their minor league system.
He made just two stops on his way to the big leagues, not missing a beat since his high school days.
He hit over .300 and was showing considerable power for a shortstop when the Mariners called him up to the Major Leagues midway through the 1994 season.
At just 18, Rodriguez made his debut at Fenway Park in Boston.
He struggled mightily in his first few weeks with the Mariners and was demoted to AAA by the end of the month.
The 1994 season would go on to end in August anyway due to the infamous player’s strike.
Today in 1994, Alex Rodriguez makes his MLB debut.
— TodayInSports (@TodayInSportsCo) July 8, 2019
The 1995 campaign was full of ups and downs for the young shortstop. He spent time in both the majors and minors, never quite able to stick with the big league club.
While he played well for the AAA Rainiers, he continued to struggle at the Major League level.
1996 was the year that Rodriguez cemented himself as the Mariners’ everyday shortstop.
He bolstered an already talented team with a roster that included sluggers Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, as well as the dominant left-handed pitcher Randy Johnson.
Rodriguez at just 21 years of age became one of baseball’s best shortstops and was a true five-tool player.
His power, speed, and defense combined made him one of baseball’s great young stars and a fascinating player to watch.
He would win the AL batting title with an outstanding .358 batting average while hitting 36 home runs and stealing 15 bases.
He was selected to his first All-Star game in 1996, the first of 14 he would be named to in his career.
Rodriguez narrowly finished second in the MVP race to Texas Rangers slugger Juan Gonzalez.
Rodriguez would go on to play in just four more seasons in Seattle.
By the time his tenure with the Mariners came to a close after the 2000 season, Rodriguez had hit a staggering 189 home runs, stolen 133 bases, and had been named to four All-Star teams.
His best season with the Mariners came in 1998, in which he became a member of the 40-40 club (40 home runs, 40 stolen bases).
At the time, Rodriguez was the youngest player to have hit 100 home runs and stolen 100 bases at just 23.
By the time the 2000 season had come to an end, the Mariners had lost some of their firepower after trading Griffey Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds and Randy Johnson to the Houston Astros.
That loss, combined with the team’s lack of postseason success, meant Rodriguez was looking for a change in free agency.
Fielding offers from several clubs eager to sign baseball’s best shortstop, Rodriguez decided to sign with the Texas Rangers.
The contract was the largest ever given to a professional athlete at the time, a 10-year, $252 million deal.
Still just 25 years old, Rodriguez didn’t miss a step once he came over to Arlington.
He had one of his best statistical seasons in 2001 with the Rangers, hitting 52 home runs and driving in more than 130 runs.
Playing in all 162 of the Rangers’ games, his 393 total bases were the most ever for a shortstop.
He was among the league leaders in hits, RBI, extra-base hits, slugging percentage, and fielding percentage.
His 2002 campaign was similar, as he led the league in home runs with 57 and took home his first Gold Glove Award.
It is difficult to overstate just how dominant Rodriguez was at this point in his still-young career.
He hit 109 home runs between the 2001 and 2002 seasons, yet the Rangers would finish with dismal records in each of those years, never coming close to sniffing the postseason.
Rodriguez took home his first-ever MVP Award following the 2003 campaign, in which he once again dominated the league at the plate.
He won another Gold Glove Award and became the youngest player in Major League history to reach the 300 career home run mark.
The Rangers once again finished in last place in the AL West despite Rodriguez’s historic season.
2003 would be Rodriguez’s last season in Texas.
The Rangers had committed so much money to Rodriguez that they were looking to offload his contract to a bigger market and free up payroll.
It was widely reported that the Rangers and Boston Red Sox had agreed to a trade that would send Rodriguez to Boston, but the trade was vetoed by the MLB Player’s Association for contract reasons.
The New York Yankees, desperately looking to replace their third baseman Aaron Boone after a freak injury, swooped in and traded Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias for the star shortstop.
As the Yankees already had a star shortstop in their own right in Derek Jeter, Rodriguez agreed to move to third base despite winning multiple Gold Gloves at shortstop.
The Yankees were already a competitive team and were looking to be even better after the addition of Rodriguez.
Finally, on a team with a chance to go to the World Series, Rodriguez was determined to help them get there.
As he adjusted to a bigger market and a new position in New York, Rodriguez had a productive 2004 season, but it did not live up to his previous three years in Texas.
He hit 36 home runs and stole 28 bases.
The Yankees would make the postseason that year but would fall to the Red Sox in the infamous ALCS of that year in which Boston overcame a three games to none lead to win the AL Championship and eventually the World Series.
Stunned, the Yankees and Rodriguez went home with nothing to show for their impressive season.
Rodriguez hit well in the postseason, but it was not enough to overcome the historic comeback by the Red Sox.
Rodriguez won his second MVP Award in 2005, leading the American League in home runs and batting an impressive .321.
Once again, he became the youngest player in Major League history to reach the 400 home run mark at age 29.
He followed 2005 with another impressive campaign at the bat in 2006 but struggled on defense as he led the league in errors at third base.
At the plate, Rodriguez drove in 121 runs and hit 35 home runs.
In his season at age 30, Rodriguez had already amassed 2,000 hits, had hit 400 home runs, and had won two MVP awards.
He was on track to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player already.
He further cemented his legacy in 2007 when he hit 54 home runs, stole 24 bases, and garnered a .392 on-base percentage.
He won his third MVP Award but was frustrated by the lack of postseason success in his career, saying:
“There’s definitely a huge hole in the resume. It’s my third MVP and I’m here to say that I would trade all three for one world championship. I wouldn’t think twice about it.”
After the 2007 season, Rodriguez and the Yankees agreed on a contract extension for 10 years, $275 million through his age 42 season.
The contract was loaded with further incentives based on Rodriguez’s performance.
In the first year of his new contract, Rodriguez hit .302 with 30 home runs and 103 RBI.
He played in just 124 games that season, missing some time due to injury.
The following season would result in what Rodriguez had been waiting for his entire career up to that point, a World Series championship.
The Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in six games to capture their first title since 2000.
At the beginning of 2009, however, Rodriguez was involved in a scandal when he admitted he had taken a banned substance during his time in Texas due to the immense pressure he felt to perform.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 17, 2015
This controversy would follow him for the remainder of his career and up to the present day.
Rodriguez had another productive season in 2010, again driving in over 100 runs and hitting his 600th home run, once again becoming the youngest player to reach that milestone.
The Yankees would return to the postseason in 2010 but would fall to the Rangers in the ALCS.
Rodriguez’s 2011 and 2012 seasons were marred by injuries including arthroscopic surgery and a fracture in his wrist as a result of being hit by a pitch.
His performance suffered during these seasons due to these injuries and the overall wear and tear on his large 6’3 frame.
In 2012, Rodriguez missed the All-Star game for the second time in his previous 13 seasons.
He had another surgery in early 2013 and was linked again to performance-enhancing drugs, this time with a company called Biogenesis.
By this point in his career, Rodriguez had become one of baseball’s most controversial players, embroiled in scandal and attacks on his character.
In the middle of his least productive season to date in 2013, he was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use and missed the entirety of the 2014 season.
He had a bounce-back campaign in 2015 and hit over 30 home runs and collected his 3,000th career hit.
— FOX SPORTS News (@FOXSportsNews) June 19, 2015
The Yankees lost in the Wildcard game to the Astros in what would be Rodriguez’s final postseason game.
2016 was the end for the former star shortstop, however, as he announced his retirement towards the end of another tough season.
Rodriguez retired from the game of baseball with one of the most impressive careers in the history of Major League Baseball.
He totaled near 118 WAR, hit 696 home runs, and collected 3,115 hits.
He was a three-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, and one-time World Series champion.
His other accolades include two Gold Gloves, being the league leader in home runs five times, and 10 Silver Slugger Awards.
Life After Baseball
Rodriguez has remained active in the game of baseball following his playing career.
He has held a number of broadcasting roles, including holding an analyst position for Sunday Night Baseball from 2018 to 2020, and is currently an analyst for FOX Sports alongside former players David Ortiz and Frank Thomas.
For his broadcasting success, Rodriguez has been nominated for and has won multiple Emmy Awards.
In 2020, Rodriguez and his ex-wife Jennifer Lopez made a strong push to buy a controlling interest in the New York Mets, Rodriguez’s favorite team growing up.
They lost out to billionaire investor Steve Cohen, who currently owns the team.
It has long been Rodriguez’s goal to be involved in the Mets in some way, and he has expressed regret about signing with the Rangers over the Mets when he was a free agent in 2000.
Reflecting on his decision to sign with the Rangers, Rodriguez commented:
“I thought I would make great concessions to go play for the Mets. I thought it was a great story for baseball.” He went on to say “I would just say this: If I was to do it again, I would just take control of my career a lot more.” This was considered a jab against his former agent Scott Boras, who encouraged Rodriguez to sign with the Rangers.
While most consider Rodriguez to be one of the greatest players in baseball history, his steroid use and controversial public life may hinder his ability to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 2021, his first year of eligibility, Rodriguez totaled just 34.3% of the vote.
While he has nine more chances, Hall of Fame voters have been notoriously against players who are suspected or confirmed to have taken performance-enhancing drugs, including Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, and Roger Clemens.
Rodriguez’s career and statistics point to an easy first-ballot Hall of Fame election on paper, but it is unlikely to happen unless new voters can turn around the current opinion.
While Alex Rodriguez remains a controversial figure in the game of baseball, there is no doubt that he is one of the most talented players the game has ever seen.
From a young high school prospect to a bonafide Major League star, Rodriguez’s historic offensive production and his prowess at the shortstop position have cemented his legacy as perhaps the most exciting player of the late 1990s and 2000s.
His stints on the Mariners, Rangers, and Yankees would be good careers in their own right.
Time will tell if Rodriguez’s image will improve and if he will finally be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Regardless, Alex Rodriguez will be remembered as one of baseball’s most dominant offensive forces for years and years to come.