Alex Rodriguez, arguably the most disgraced athlete in professional sports, is just itching to prove the critics wrong and have a strong campaign in 2015.
But as the three-time MVP and 14-time All-Star approaches 40 – he reaches the milestone July 27 – is that even possible? Can Rodriguez be a major factor for the New York Yankees this season?
“I don’t know about major factor,” MLB Network analyst Sean Casey said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “He didn’t play obviously in 2014 with the suspension, (and) he played 44 games (in 2013). I think his prime years are behind him. Do I think he could be a serviceable backup to (Mark) Teixeira at first base every now and then? Maybe a little DH? I still think he’s going to be okay, but he’s not the guy that we all knew when he was in his prime of his career. I think those years are past him, but I think he can still be a pretty good big-leaguer.”
Casey, 40, played in the majors for 12 seasons – from 1997 to 2008 – right in the heart of the steroid era. Brian Jones asked Casey for his takeaways from that time period.
“There was no testing during that time,” said Casey, a three-time All-Star. “You know how it goes in sports, BJ. Guys are always looking for an edge. That’s just the culture that it was in. I think when you started seeing the big records go down and you started seeing guys hitting 70+ home runs and two guys hitting 60+ a couple years in a row, I think that’s when the radar started to go up like, what’s going on here?
“But I don’t know, man,” Casey continued. “Those are some great players. I think Barry Bonds was great before he started doing anything. He had a couple MVP awards, so I think it’s something that you look back on. I played against those guys and their talent was amazing. It’s such a hard thing. I never did steroids, and I think the guys that didn’t do it really didn’t know who was doing it. But the guys that did in that culture, they all knew who was doing it. Hopefully at some point these guys get in the Hall of Fame because I think you can’t take down a generation of players.”
Of course, not all drugs are performance-enhancers. Sadly, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton reportedly suffered a drug relapse involving cocaine and alcohol this offseason. If true, Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $125 million deal before the 2013 season, could face disciplinary action.
“It’s kind of a bummer,” Casey said. “Josh Hamilton’s a good guy that’s really had a bunch of injuries (these last couple years). You see the talk about him maybe having a drug and alcohol relapse. You feel for him more as a person. Forget the player. Obviously he’s making some good money and stuff. But for him, you wish Josh the best. He’s had a tough go with all the drug problems he’s had in his life and hopefully he just figures it all out.”
Casey, a career .302 hitter, was also asked about baseball’s pace-of-play rule changes, including one stipulating that a batter must keep one foot in the box at all times, with a few exceptions. Players who violate the rule could be subject to a fine.
David Ortiz ranted against the new rules this week, saying, “I’m not going to change my game,” “I don’t care what they say,” and “I might run out of money.”
What do we make of this?
“You just got to change the culture,” Casey said. “You got to change the way guys think of things. But (what) Big Papi was saying was true – and that’s the first thing I thought of when they were talking about it. When guys step out for a second, as a baseball player – especially a hitter – you’re trying to slow the game down. You’re trying to get your thoughts together, get your deep breath and relax.
“People pack the crowds to see Big Papi hit,” Casey continued. “Well, Big Papi getting his mind right and getting in the box is probably the most important part of his day. That’s why he’s so good. So all of a sudden, if you have him look at a clock and you’re speeding him up, well, now he’s not the same guy. It brings a little anxiety to it.
“So it’s definitely something you’re going to have to look at. But I think eventually keep-your-foot-in-the-box will be part of (the game) like it was back in the old days, and be ready to hit and get your routine done quicker.”