$0.02: When being the greatest isnt enough, Part III
Before Alex Rodriguez joined Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Pete Rose in the baseball cesspool, he had one thing going for him. His play.When it comes to his personality, Rodriguez has always been too unreliable for the rest of the nation to share his affection for himself. Hes the married bazillionaire who escorts strippers in foreign cities; the supposed family man who was reported to have been at Madonnas apartment the night after his wife gave birth. Rodriguez yells at rival players trying to catch routine pop flies and karate chops pitchers arms when they try to tag him. You could make a case that the richest man ever to play baseball wasnt hated half as much for the money he made as for the way he comported himself.But no one could ever dispute his talent.I remember watching Rodriguez on the old ESPN show Scholastic Sports America when he was a senior in high school. I still recall how fluid his swing looked, so effortlessly powerful as he clubbed a pitch over the right-centerfield fence in Miami. I was 13 then, mesmerized by the way a kid could go yard to the opposite field with such ease.But Rodriguez, who admitted Monday to taking steroids from 2001-2003 while with the Texas Rangers, apparently felt he needed to be more than the best player in baseball. What that would make him, I dont know.I do know, however, that this revelation forever stains his performance on the field a place that had always been his lone asylum. Because for every cynic who ever called Rodriguez a goat, there were always those rational minds who countered with a different kind of GOAT Greatest Of All Time.He, like Bonds and Clemens, might have had a reasonable argument to such a title. No longer. Now he is just another greedy superstar who was too proud and weak to face the inevitability of failure. Looking for THE American figure to shoulder the media burden leading up to next winters Vancouver Olympics? You can stop looking. Lindsey Vonn, who won her second gold medal of the Alpine World Championships with a victory in the downhill Monday (following a gold in super-G), has turned into a clay mold of top-tier consistency. In 15 major races since late December, she has finished in the top 10 in 13 of them, including five wins. Shes dominating the World Cup overall standings by nearly 200 points, seeming a sure bet to repeat her title of a year ago, barring injury. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to remember that Vonn, already the greatest womens ski racer in U.S. history, is only 24. Out of Switzerland, meanwhile, we may have seen a glimpse of Vonns closest competition. Lara Gut is barely old enough to drive (17), but in finishing as runner-up to Vonn on Monday, she won her second silver medal of the world championships an unheard-of achievement in a sport where racers usually dont peak until their mid- to late-20s. To add some context to Guts showing, less than a year ago she was competing in the Junior Worlds in Spain and fighting for points on the Europa Cup. Because its never too early to begin planning your office hoops pool, keep an eye on Kentucky and Washington, two NCAA tournament sleepers who will likely receive lower seeds but have the talent to go far. In parting, I know this baseball offseason hasnt featured a standard free-agent climate, what with the economy tanking and veterans wanting to be paid on the basis of their reputation. But still. Can anyone remember a time when the list of players who dont have a team to call home included so many huge names? Just a few days from pitchers and catchers reporting, we see among the available free agents people like Ken Griffey Jr., Garret Anderson, Bobby Abreu, Pudge Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, Adam Dunn, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez.Reads more like an all-star lineup than an unemployment roster.Breckenridge resident Devon ONeils $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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