COMMENTARY | New York Yankees fans may hate Alex Rodriguez and his bloated contract, but local gossip columnists and sportswriters are likely longing for the third baseman's return to New York next week. Rodriguez is expected back with the big-league club Monday after finishing his rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
In anticipation of the most-hated man in baseball's return from hip surgery, here are some of A-Rod's off-the-field lowlights. Coupled with his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs, his contract and postseason slumps, is it any wonder why Yankees fans despise Rodriguez?
Centaur of Attention - In October 2009, Us Weekly reported that one of A-Rod's former flings remembered seeing portraits of Rodriguez as a centaur hanging over his bed. "He was so vain," the ex-girlfriend told the gossip magazine. "He had not one, but two painted portraits of himself as a centaur. You know, the half-man, half-horse figure? It was ridiculous."
A-Rod later denied that such a painting was anywhere in his house. "No, I do not have a painting of my upper body on a Minotaur," he told the New York Daily News. "I don't know where they get that stuff." Nevertheless, the rumor persists and a few media outlets, including "Big League Stew," have had fun with it.
Lady Madonna - Rumors of an A-Rod-Madonna relationship spread in 2008 after the third baseman and the pop singer were seen around New York City together. Rodriguez even reportedly joined Madonna at Kabbalah services. However, the romance didn't last long as Madonna dumped A-Rod for an even younger man, reportedly embarrassing Rodriguez.
The Canadian Stripper - During a 2007 road trip to Toronto, Rodriguez, who was married at the time, was spotted canoodling a stripper at a strip club and was later seen with the woman later that night at his hotel. A few days later, an exotic dancer told the New York Daily News that A-Rod preferred the "she-male, muscular type." Not long after, A-Rod's wife, Cynthia Rodriguez, filed for divorce, citing extramarital affairs and other marital misconduct by her husband.
Forget the World Series, I'm Opting Out - As the Boston Red Sox were about to win the 2007 World Series, Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, made it known that A-Rod was opting out of his 10-year, $250 million contract. The announcement, which came in the eighth inning of Game 4, overshadowed Boston's eventual victory and later sparked a ruling that such announcements could not be made during the World Series.
A Ball for Your Number - After being removed for a pinch-hitter in Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series, A-Rod allegedly had a baseball delivered to an Australian bikini model he was flirting with near the Yankees' dugout. A-Rod reportedly asked a ball boy to give a ball to the woman and her friend with a note asking for the model's phone number. Team sources confirmed the rumor, but A-Rod told ESPN, "Don't believe any of that (expletive)."
A Big Phony - Last year, Rodriguez topped the list of a Sports Illustrated poll of more than 300 ballplayers asked to name the phoniest player in baseball (not including a teammate). A-Rod got a whopping 26.2 percent of the vote, garnering nearly twice as many votes as Nick Swisher (13 percent).
Is it Because I'm Good-Looking? - In a 2006 interview with Sports Illustrated, A-Rod tried explaining why people were focusing on his contract and not those of his teammates. In what ranks as my favorite A-Rod quote ever, Rodriguez said, "(Mike) Mussina doesn't get hammered at all. He's making a boatload of money. (Jason) Giambi's making ($20.4 million), which is fine and dandy, but it seems those guys get a pass. When people write (bad things) about me, I don't know if it's (because) I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team ..."
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
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