A-Robbed: Does Alex Rodriguez deserve a more David Ortiz-like send-off?

ByAndrew Marchand and Scott Lauber ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

BOSTON -- Alex Rodriguez is receiving a quick -- though far from quiet -- farewell this week, while David Ortiz is being celebrated with a season-long goodbye tour. New York Yankees beat writer Andrew Marchand and Boston Red Sox beat writer Scott Lauber discuss why the end of their careers are finishing so differently, and whether that's fair.

Marchand: Well, for A-Rod, it starts with the fact he has not been a very good player this year. If he were hitting, he would not be going anywhere. He would have another year to repair his image and perhaps could've been treated more like Ortiz if he had lasted to 2017 with the Yankees.

Lauber: OK, but Derek Jeter was honored wherever he went in 2014 despite playing at a sub-Jeterian level. And chances are Ortiz would be receiving the same treatment if he wasn't having the best season ever by a 40-year-old. To me, it's about likability. Outside of New York (and even within the five boroughs), A-Rod is too polarizing for the farewell-tour treatment, even if he hadn't sprung this news on us Sunday and left little time for a proper goodbye. Can you imagine the reaction in Seattle, in Texas, certainly here in Boston, if A-Rod was showered with gifts all year long?

Marchand: No doubt Ortiz is more popular and has an engaging personality. A-Rod has had issues throughout his career. He has not been great guy a lot of the time. But who was the greater player? A-Rod, by far. Ortiz did use PEDs too, according to the New York Times. So while one has seemed more likeable, they aren't that different.

Lauber: It's absolutely true that Ortiz wears the stain of PEDs. Everyone's still waiting, by the way, for the explanation that he promised in 2009 at Yankee Stadium for what happened to trigger the positive survey test six years earlier. But A-Rod also tested positive after MLB instituted testing. Ortiz hasn't. And that's as big a distinction between them as anything else, including their personalities.

Marchand: A fair point, for sure. I'm not sure if I would vote Ortiz for the Hall of Fame, but I definitely wouldn't put A-Rod in. He took a year suspension when testing was in place. Before that, there is a little more of a gray area in terms of how to judge PED users. Still, I'm not saying A-Rod deserves a big farewell. I think the whole practice is a bit overblown. But, I do think the Red Sox should have some fun with A-Rod on Thursday. You agree?

Lauber: Oh, absolutely. Look, the Sox tastelessly roasted Mariano Rivera in 2013 by replaying Dave Roberts' famous ALCS stolen base, complete with commentary from Roberts. If there was ever a player worth roasting, isn't it A-Rod? They could dig up video of Jason Varitek's mitt in his face -- maybe even in super slo-mo? And judging by his comments Tuesday about Sox fans having "a great chance to give me one great loud boo," A-Rod might actually like it. At the very least, it would raise the stakes for a creative Yankee Stadium farewell to Ortiz next month. Speaking of which, any suggestions?

Marchand: Hmm, I think the Yankees should maybe give Ortiz home plate at Yankee Stadium because he always owned it and they never knocked him off of it. The Red Sox Mo tribute was very poorly done. They could have said he is the greatest and then said, but we got you a few times. I think the Yankees should respectfully have some fun with their Ortiz tribute and tell Big Papi they won't miss him.

Lauber: I'd co-sign the home-plate tribute for Big Papi. Seems appropriate. Clever, too. One of the things that becomes evident when you watch these tributes to Ortiz is how genuinely popular he is with players across the league, whether it's Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in Anaheim or Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez in Seattle or the outpouring of affection at the All-Star Game. There are still a lot of hard feelings among the rank and file for A-Rod. It's kind of fitting that he gave everyone five days' notice before his career fades to black. Without a doubt, he's among the greatest baseball players of our generation, but he's also probably the most complex. A warm and fuzzy farewell tour next season would've seemed, well, forced, to say the least. I'm sure few folks in MLB's offices were shedding any tears Sunday knowing that there will be no need to go through with the charade of a long goodbye for A-Rod.

Marchand: Well, that is the one amazing thing about A-Rod's comeback from his suspension. He has been able to mend so many fences. Look how Hal Steinbrenner is treating him. Not too shabby for a guy the manager and front office think is washed up. Even the commissioner is very happy with A-Rod these days. They did a charity event earlier in the year. But, yeah, a farewell tour would be awkward.

Lauber: It's terrific if A-Rod is able to retire having made peace with the Yankees and with MLB. He shouldn't be a baseball pariah. Hopefully he'll be cheered in the Bronx on Friday night and whenever he returns for Old-Timers' Day. But being celebrated across the majors just wouldn't have seemed right for someone who has sparked so many conflicting feelings over the years.

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