While 2022 will be most widely remembered as the year that the fates of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling are decided on the Hall of Fame ballot, another one of the sport's most controversial icons appears on this year's list of candidates for the first time.
Three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez headlines a group of first-time eligible players on the 2022 Hall of Fame ballot, joined by David Ortiz, Jimmy Rollins, Tim Lincecum, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard, among others.
During an interview largely focused on his future as part of the Minnesota Timberwolves ownership group, Rodriguez was asked if believes he belongs in Cooperstown.
"I certainly hope so -- I do," Rodriguez told Chad Hartman on 830 WCCO Tuesday. "But look, that's not my decision. "I put both my best foot forward and my worst foot forward, and regardless of what comes out, I pray and hope that one day my daughters and my mother get to see me walk into the Hall of Fame. I'm over-the-moon privileged that I'm on the ballot, I've worked a lifetime for it.
"But you gotta understand, I'm also a young man that grew up here in Miami ... my father left when I was 10 ... drafted No. 1 at [age] 17 ... was fortunate enough to make $1 million at 17 ... and then entered this world, much like Kevin Garnett and others ... Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron [James] ... and boy, I wish Chad that I knew then what I know now. And some things would have been done differently. But at end of the day, I'm proud of my time as a Major League Baseball player, and regardless of what happens, I think the opportunity that God has given me today -- to go out and be a Hall of Fame father, to be a Hall of Fame friend and hopefully bring a World Championship to Minnesota -- is far greater than any Hall of Fame."
Statistically, Rodriguez is one of the greatest players in MLB history. A 14-time All-Star, Rodriguez slashed .295/.380/.550 with 696 home runs, 2,086 RBIs and a staggering 113.7 fWAR in a 22-year career spent with the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. If you just look at the back of his baseball card, Rodriguez should receive 100% of the votes from the BBWAA.
Of course, it's not that simple.
Rodriguez has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-2003, his entire time with the Rangers. Over that period, he slugged 156 home runs and won the 2003 AL MVP.
He also was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season for acquiring and using PEDs from Biogenisis of America Clinic in Florida. During an investigation that ultimately led to the suspensions of 14 players -- including Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz -- Rodriguez admitted to the DEA that he had used PEDs again from "late 2010" until "October 2012."
There are already some players suspected of using PEDs -- Pudge Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza -- who have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, there's no maybe with Rodriguez. The only question is if he used them for an even larger portion of his career than he's revealed.
Some voters don't care. They can't imagine a museum dedicated to the history of baseball not including some of the greatest players in the history of the sport. So they'll vote for Rodriguez, just the same as they have with Bonds, Clemens, Sammy Sosa and other players with substantive PED connections.
Other voters will vote for Bonds, Clemens and Ortiz because they were never suspended by the league, but penalize Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, who are among the greatest hitters in baseball history, but were ultimately caught and suspended by the league.
And then there's a third group of voters who won't vote for anyone connected to PEDs, regardless of how great they were or whether they were suspended by MLB.
All of this makes it hard to imagine Rodriguez ever receiving the necessary 75% of the vote to be elected the Hall of Fame, which would mark another sad story in an era where the overwhelming majority of superstars are perceived to be tainted in some way.