Some fourteen years ago, heading into the 1999 Major League Baseball amateur draft, several scouts told me that Josh Hamilton—a high school kid out of North Carolina—was the second most-talented amateur player they’d ever seen.
The first? Alex Rodriguez.
Coming out of Miami, Alex (as he was known back then) could do everything. Run. Throw. Field. Hit for average. Hit for power. He was a kid with a limitless future, and as he soared through the Seattle Mariners’ system, there was good reason people believed they were watching a modern Babe Ruth or Ted Williams. He was that phenomenal. Surely, we would speak of Alex Rodriguez as we spoke (with reverence) of Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial and Tris Speaker and Lou Gehrig and Ruth and Williams. Legend—that was the word of choice. We were witnessing future legend.
The year is 2013. Rodriguez is about to be banned from the sport. He has been waddling through minor league stadiums, being made to looking foolish by pitchers who will—in many cases—never sniff a 50,000-seat stadium. The Yankees don’t want him. Old teammates don’t want him. He is wealthy and handsome, but pathetic and sad.
In short, he is Fat Elvis.
Remember Fat Elvis? Back in the mid-to-late 1970s, when he was Rodriguez’s age, Elvis Presley was waddling around stages, bumbling through bad songs, decked out in XXXL white jump suits. He was drugged out and wasted and a sight few wanted to behold. Elvis die-hards longed for the Elvis of their youth. Hips shaking, ladies swooning, one smash hit after another.
Alas, that Elvis was dead.
As is Alex Rodriguez, the legend who never was. He could have been something special. Even if—without drugs—he only hit, oh, 450 homers; only stole 200 bases; never quite became Ruth. Even if he had never turned great, we would have spoken of Alex Rodriguez as a tremendous baseball player who made the game fun.
Instead, we are left with baseball’s Fat Elvis.
Hope, turned depressing.