Alex Rodriguez has been a lightning rod since he emerged with the Seattle Mariners as a bright young face of baseball, went on to sign with the Texas Rangers as an overpaid superstar on a sub-par squad, and concluded his career with the New York Yankees as the man who could never be Derek Jeter. Throughout, he seemed to waffle from blissfully unaware of his effect on his teammates to trying too hard to be liked, making friends with the other players around him at first and then wearing away at the relationships over time. For instance, he once said of highly respected teammate Mike Mussina that “he knows I’m the only one on the team who likes him.” Mussina, in response, simply laughed and aptly asked “do you think it might be the other way around?”
When he was all but forced to retire last season, A-Rod’s enigmatic career came to a sudden stop. The legacy he left behind was of an almost universal respect for his talent and deep disrespect by many for the way he went about using that talent. With that in mind… here are 8 Players Who Loved Being Alex Rodriguez’s Teammate And 7 Who Hated It
15 Loved: Michael Young
At the end of his 14 year playing career, Michael Young (Pictured Center) was labeled the “anti-A-Rod” by Sports Illustrated. However, when Rodriguez announced his retirement last season, Young tweeted “without @AROD, my Ranger career would've lasted 2 years...tops. Prep, work, love of the game. Thanks, Al.” High praise indeed coming from the man who played the most games and had the most hits in Texas history, and actually succeeded his mentor as starting shortstop the season following his departure, leading to six straight All-Star appearances. A-Rod only spent three years with the Rangers from 2001-2003 after signing what was, at the time, the largest contract in baseball history by far (and is, remarkably, still the third biggest agreement in MLB history behind Giancarlo Stanton’s recent Marlins contract and A-Rod AGAIN when he later opted out of the deal to re-negotiate with the Yankees). While he led the AL in home-runs each year while with Texas and was the 2003 MVP, the Rangers finished last in their division three times in a row with an average of only 72 wins, leading to A-Rod being traded to the Bronx Bombers in 2004.
14 Hate: Hank Blalock
While the man playing to A-Rod’s left in the Rangers infield from 2001-2003, Michael Young, saw him as a mentor, the man to his right, Third Baseman Hank Blalock, saw him… differently. When Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees, he quickly caused a stir by referring to his former team as him and “24 kids.” Blalock shot back at A-Rod and his new squad by saying “think of how a guy saying we’re all kids makes us feel. Now he’s with all of his peers.” Truthfully, Rodriguez, at only 27, was actually the elder statesman to a young infield that included 1B Mark Teixeira (see #13 on this list) while upon joining the Yankees he immediately became the youngest infielder alongside Derek Jeter, Miguel Cairo, and Tony Clark. Blalock had a career year following Rodriguez’s departure, finishing with 32 home runs and 110 RBIs helping his team to an 18 game improvement in the win column, from 71 to 89 in a single leap.
13 Loved: Mark Teixeira
The third member of the A-Rod led young Texas Rangers infield, Mark Teixeira initially fell in between Michael Young and Hank Blalock in terms of his feelings towards his former teammate, only saying people “were a little disappointed” when word came out that Rodriguez felt that he had been playing with “24 kids.” Over a decade later, A-Rod’s announcement of leaving the Yankees came only days after Teixeira’s, now both long-time veteran stars of the team (where they played 13 and eight seasons, to end their respective careers). "We love Alex as a teammate and as a person. And hopefully, it’s his decision," Teixeira responded to the news. "We’re going to support him.” As to whether A-Rod was stealing his thunder, Teixeira smiled and said “not at all. Alex’s thunder is always a little bit louder than mine anyway.”
12 Hated: Jay Buhner
As early as A-Rod’s first seasons with the Seattle Mariners, there was already an edge around the team towards his behavior. Outfielder Jay Buhner (Pictured Second Right), a close friend to rival star Ken Griffey, Jr., and a pronounced presence on and off the field, reportedly had come in from early hitting in 106 degree heat in Kansas City, to Rodriguez, who had arrived late, was sitting in the dugout with a Taco Bell bag. According to veteran pitcher Chris Bosio, A-Rod asked if anybody wanted a taco, and Buhner walked up to him and asked “‘What are you doing? How come you’re not out here early?’ He goes, ‘Oh man, I’m just having some food, I was starving.’” Bosio said. “Jay goes, ‘Wow man, that’s awesome, you got Taco Bell. You going to get that for everybody?’ Alex goes, ‘Oh yeah, I brought plenty.’ And Jay picks the bag up, throws it up in the air, takes his bat and swings and just smashes it all over the wall of the dugout and goes, ‘Don’t ever be late for early hitting again, rookie. Now clean up this ****!’
Humorous? Yes. Also a good prediction of A-Rod’s future relationship with teammates over the coming twenty years? Absolutely.
11 Loved: The Charleston Riverdogs
On a rehab assignment in 2013 in his late 30s, Alex Rodriguez suddenly found himself once again playing with a bunch of men barely in their 20s, this time for the Class A Charleston Riverdogs. Unlike his sentiments towards the young Texas Rangers infield a decade ago, perhaps to some surprise he picked up the dinner tab on consecutive nights, giving the thrill of a lifetime to his new teammates, including future Yankees first baseman Greg Bird. "It was a great experience to talk to someone of his stature in the game, one of the all-time greats to ever play baseball," he said. "What he’s gone through is a great experience for us. He taught us the consistency of a routine, how it starts the night before a game, all of the way to what he eats for breakfast, lunch, and gets ready for a game.” And, perhaps for the first and only time in A-Rod’s career, Bird added that the team would even “love to have him come back.”
10 Hated: Jason Giambi
In the midst of one of A-Rods biggest slumps in the prime of his career during the summer of 2006, in which he hit .257 with 81 strike-outs while committing 13 errors, Yankee teammate Jason Giambi noted that Rodriguez had slipped into a sort of “false confidence.” The veteran leader could take it no longer as, by his estimation, Manager Joe Torre was silently sitting by just assuming Alex would find his stroke. Finally, he approached “skip” and pronounced “it is time to stop coddling him.” He had tried to approach Rodriguez on his own but had found him in complete denial. "We're all rooting for you and we're behind you 100 percent, but you've got to get the big hit," Giambi said. "What do you mean?” Rodriguez responded, ”I've had five hits in Boston."
"You [expletive] call those hits?" Giambi said, according to a Sports Illustrated article aptly called “The Lonely Yankee.” He continued, ”you had two [expletive] dinkers to right field and a ball that bounced over the third baseman! Look at how many pitches you missed!”
9 Loved: Jorge Posada
When promoting his new book in 2013, legendary Yankee catcher told reporters that he didn’t think Alex Rodriguez belonged in the Hall of Fame and pointed to his third-place finish behind A-Rod in the 2003 AL MVP race, a year in which it was later revealed A-Rod tested positive for steroids and asked rhetorically “what could have happened?” The next day, however, Posada was apologetic for the comments, saying “I tried to text him yesterday. I feel like I was cornered into this answer." One of the Yankees highly respected “Core Four” alongside Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, Posada gave a far more ringing endorsement of A-Rod’s Yankees legacy upon his retirement, saying “Alex was not only one of the best players in the world, he was also one of the smartest players on the field. It was such a great combination.”
8 Hated: Russell Martin
Posada’s replacement with the Yankees had a far lesser esteem of A-Rod. Despite having played with him for less than two seasons, in 2012, catcher Russell Martin made a very clear and very loud public statement regarding how he felt about one recent Alex Rodriguez tradition. During walk-off celebrations on the field, A-Rod had been hogging an honor that the team had started doing together, where the player scoring the winning run would toss their helmet in to the air and it would be caught by a fellow Yankee. Perhaps in wanting to call out Rodriguez for this selfish maneuver, Martin tossed his helmet all the way up the first line, making the veteran star run to retrieve it, almost as if he was a dog playing fetch. Martin would leave the Yankees after the season, signing as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
7 Loved: Andy Pettitte
“I had a chance to see Alex as a young player in the league, and I knew immediately he was going to be special. It was always fun competing against Alex, but I really enjoyed having the opportunity to play side-by-side with him in New York,” Andy Pettitte said of their time together as teammates from 2007-2013. Alex Rodriguez is largely credited with leading the core Yankees to one final championship in 2009, so it is perhaps no surprise that the legendary pitcher enjoyed finishing his career alongside A-Rod, but the two stars also bonded over something a little less… savory. In 2008, Pettitte arrived at Yankee spring training to face reporters after his name had been revealed in the Mitchell Report for having used human growth hormone. The very next season, A-Rod was outed by Sports Illustrated for testing positive in an anonymous survey in 2003. “He's my teammate, and I love him,” Pettitte said in support. "It has no effect at all, the way I look at him.”
6 Hated: Francisco Cervelli
While starting catcher Russell Martin was busy showing the world exactly why he disliked A-Rod, his back-up, Francisco Cervelli, was actually a close friend. "He taught me so many things when I got to the Yankees, so many positive things about the game," Cervelli said. All that changed in 2013 however, when he was given a performance-enhancing drug related suspension alongside Rodriguez for their involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. The problem was that it was reportedly A-Rod’s people who had fingered the Yankees catcher for his involvement. “He was my teammate and that was it but I haven't talked to him,” Cervelli said. “2013 was a nightmare.” It wasn’t until spring training of 2015, that the two ended up on a field together, having not spoken for over a year, and they weren’t exactly friendly. "It was just, 'Hello. How are you? Good luck,'" the now Pirates back-stop said. "That was it."
5 Loved: Carlos Beltran
By the time Carlos Beltran was Alex Rodriguez’s teammate, they were both veteran stars with Hall of Fame type numbers vying for at-bats as the Yankees designated hitter, so forgive him if he has a skewed perspective of a man who he first met when they were 38 and 39 respectively. “He’s a humble player,” Beltran said of A-Rod, words that perhaps his teammates in the past might have never thought anyone would utter. “That’s what I see. I think he’s great, he cares about baseball and he wants to do well. He wants the team to win. He really cares, there’s no more you can ask for from a teammate.” Interestingly, of all the stats A-Rod achieved, Beltran was most impressed not with the nearly 700 home runs but with the 2000 RBI. As he returns to the Houston Astros for his 20th season next year, Beltran will probably finish his career with more than 1600 himself, enough to place both men in the top 35 all-time.
4 Hated Ken Griffey Jr.
In 1997, the Seattle Mariners were the talk of baseball, winning their division behind the performance of the American League MVP, Ken Griffey, Jr. and setting what remains the all-time record for home runs in a single season with 264. Junior’s 21-year-old teammate was beginning to be seen as a star in his own right however, and Griffey allegedly “felt threatened by Rodriguez’s own emergence.” By 1999, a source said “their uneasy alliance” had “turned [Griffey] paranoid” and he would go on to later call A-Rod “calculating” and “manipulative.” Griffey demanded a trade after the season, and wound up with the Cincinnati Reds. Pat Gillick, the Mariner’s general manager of the time, later said he regretted trading Griffey instead of Rodriguez, and that he believed Junior would have stayed if he no longer needed to share the spotlight. “I wasn’t there, but what I kind of understood is that maybe there was a little tension between A-Rod and Griff,” Gillick, who had just been hired that off-season, said. “I don’t know if you want to call it jealousy, tension — there was a little bit there.”
3 Loved: Robinson Cano
One of the best-hitting second baseman of today looks back at his time as an emerging star with the New York Yankees in the late 2000s and credits a certain fellow infielder for mentoring him into the player he became. And no, its not Derek Jeter (though Cano has great things to say about him as well). “There’s three things that I can say,” said Cano. “He loves baseball, he’s a guy who works hard and a guy who loved to win. He was a great teammate. For me, he was one of the best teammates I’ve had and a guy who helped me when I first came up and I appreciate all of the things he’s done for me.” Cano remained a staunch supporter of Rodriguez even after he went on to sign with the Seattle Mariners, rooting for A-Rod to return in 2015 after he had served a one year suspension for steroid use and then voicing his unhappiness that he had been forced out of the Yankees last year.
2 Hated: Derek Jeter
In the late '90s, it was no secret that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, despite playing on rival AL teams were “blood brothers,” as A-Rod described them. Even in a 1999 brawl between their squads, the Yankees and the Mariners respectively, they drew the ire of Jeter’s teammate Chad Curtis for basically standing and joking together as it went down. But then, for some reason, perhaps because he was jealous of Jeter’s postseason success and upset about his probably unfair status of MLB public enemy #1 after he signed his record-breaking contract with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez decided to publicly attack the Yankee captain. He told Esquire magazine in 2001 that “you go to New York, you wanna stop Bernie (Williams) and (Paul) O'Neill. You never say `Don't let Derek beat you.' He's never your concern.” Despite reportedly driving to Jeter’s house and apologizing, by the time A-Rod joined the Yankees, their relationship could be described as cordial at best, chilly at worst.
1 Loved: Mariano Rivera
Its one thing to think highly of Alex Rodriguez as a teammate, its another to heap praise upon praise on him. But none other than one of the most beloved players in New York Yankees history, Mariano Rivera, regularly does just that. When A-Rod played his final game with the pinstripes, Mo said “I had the privilege to play with Alex. Through all his preparation and work ethic, you saw how much he cared about this game and about helping this team win. I love him - as a friend and as a teammate. He was all you could ask for in both.” This wasn’t the first time Rivera had spoken of Rodriguez in such terms, calling him “another brother” after he had been suspended for the entire 2014 season.
“Through tough times, through good times, adversity, he was there,” Rivera said. “He never hid. And that's the beauty about him.”
And probably the beast too.
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