2 paths, 2 greats

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Phelps, ARod retire, maybe

I wrote a column earlier this year about retiring athletes after being heavily inspired about the retirement of NBA great Kobe Bryant. Well, another couple of greats are calling it a career- so they say. Both have achieved remarkable things. One is stamped as a cheater the other is stamped as an American hero.

Let’s begin with the man who is hard to put in a category: Alex Rodriguez. To many sports fans or the common layman, either you like A-Rod or you hate him. In my opinion he deserves to labeled as one of the greatest of all-time.

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With his size and skill set, he was exactly what scouts meant when they say a “five-tool player.” He was the Lebron James of baseball, before there was a Lebron James of baskeball.

Rodriguez made his debut in the Major Leagues at the age of 18 and never looked back. He’s accumulated over 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs and is currently fourth on the all-time home run list with 696 homeruns; trailing only Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Defensively he is a two-time gold glove winner at shortstop. He finally won the elusive World Series title with the New York Yankees in 2009, the only knock against him at the time from putting him atop the all-time greats.

Then the Biogenesis Scandal happened in 2009, and after denying using PEDs years before, Rodriguez admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003. Since then, his all-time greatness has been overshadowed by the label of “cheater” and “liar” and it has given fans of not just the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers or Seattle Mariners a reason to “boo.” Yes, he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but to say steroids made him as good as he was is being ludicrous. The man could ball.

Let’s look at the numbers before 2001. From 1994 to 2000, Rodriguez had a batting average of .286, including a high of .358 in 1996. Four out of those seven seasons he had over a hundred RBIs. After being suspended for the whole 2014 season due to the MLB doping policy, A-Rod came back in 2015 to hit 33 homeruns, 14 shy of Chris Davis’ league leading 47.

I doubt A-Rod makes the Hall with his name being associated with steroid use. Even the homerun king, Bonds isn’t getting recognition, but it shouldn’t go unsaid that ARod is one of the best to ever play the game of baseball. If last Friday was indeed his last game of his career, the man had a heck of a career. Great, good and ugly and I mean really ugly.

Another guy saying, he is calling it a career is Michael Phelps. There is no denying he is the greatest swimmer of all-time in the Olympic arena or any swimming pool in the world for that matter.

Phelps will take home five gold medals and one silver medal from the Rio Olympics. No one is close to his 23 career gold medal wins. His total of 28 medals is 10 better than Soviet Union gymnast Larisa Latynina. Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in individual events with 16 medals, with 13 being gold.

His final race was the 4x100m medley relay, swimming the third leg butterfly. When he hit the water, Team USA was trailing Great Britain by .61 seconds. When he touched the wall after his turn, he gave Team USA a .41 second lead. Freestyle swimmer Nathan Adrian brought home the gold for his team and Phelps presumed last of his career. If that race was his final bow, which he seemed at peace stating to the world the race was indeed his last, it has been quite a journey and a pleasure to watch his greatness.