2015 was a strange year in the sports world. The New York Mets played in the World Series. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in one of the most improbable final sequences imaginable. A horse almost won an award for people. And, of course, we talked about deflated footballs for, like, our entire lives. All of that is pretty fucking nutty when you think about it, but none of those things come close to Alex Rodriguez, Feel-Good Redemption Story.
Coming into the season, Rod was less than an X-factor. He was fighting for a job at spring training and he was only given that opportunity because the Yankees still owed him something like a gajillion dollars. He played well in spring training, but still, it was only spring training; the jury was still out. Three games into the season, Rod announced to the world that he was back, and he was here for your soul.
He did not want to consume your soul, however. He wanted to rehabilitate it through good acts. Baseball's Sisyphus, who has repeatedly come back to show his fortitude only to see his works rolled back by salty-ass fans, a salty-ass commissioner, and a salty-ass Ponce de Leon wannabe, turned the other cheek all season and became a national hero.
For a long time you could argue that Rod was an underdog, despite his salary and stature in the game. He was reviled everywhere, even in New York, even though he was clearly one of the best players to ever play. Reviled. If you found yourself rooting for Rod, you were in a very small minority. A contemporary on a certain private list made public, David Ortiz, famously cursed in front of God, Country, and impressionable children, and he has never been more beloved. Yet somehow Alex Rodriguez, who has only ever mashed taters at a prodigious rate, was routinely booed in his own stadium...until this year, when he mashed taters when no one thought he could anymore.
It took some time, and an absurd railroading from Bud Selig—a man who has had enough professional good fortune that he could have ping-ponged the Titanic off dozens of icebergs and still safely found port—but the rest of the world soon caught on to the unrelenting greatness of Alex Rodriguez.
Rod just kept hitting dingers and taters in the beginning of the season and became the driving force of the Yankees offense. The Yankees were nothing without him. The Yankees, who essentially treated this living legend, this mountain of a baseball talent, like a roster invite in the spring, depended on Rod by midseason. And Rod delivered, with a smile on his face and the "just happy to help the team win" quotes we all love to hear. It was no coincidence that the Yankees faltered as Rod faded when old age and a long season began to sap him of his strength. Nevertheless, he then went on to be the only analyst worth a damn on FOX's postseason broadcast.
If that is not the single greatest narrative of the 2015 sports year, I don't know what is.
If you remain skeptical, peruse a sampling of the year in Rod:
We don't need NFL pregame sets, or pregame shows for that matter. Rod knows this and he is willing to do his small part in the fight.
Rod's cup runneth over with baseball knowledge. He's also got a little ingenuity up his sleeve, so it's no wonder that he singlehandedly re-wrote the rule book on how to safely, and beautifully, slide into home for an ever important run.
Look at this fucking guy!
This one, frankly, amazes me to this day. Exactly two months and two days before July 4th—what are the odds?—A-Rod hit another dinger against the Red Sox and changed the course of history. In the man's own words:
"I'm not even sure how it happened. One minute I'm hitting a home run and the next thing I know I've codified some of history's greatest philosophers into a living instrument for governance and unity more suited to our needs than whatever loose confederation came before it," he said. "Which is pretty cool when you think about it."
This story about an unhinged reader of the Daily News is only possible through Rod, and for that we should be thankful.
Ditto for this guy.
Rod was up against some stiff competition, but with one single against the Red Sox he beat out Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic, the discovery of a polio vaccine, man walking on the moon, and Al Gore forever changing the way we communicate to top the list of Humanity's Greatest Achievements.
A hearty and well-deserved congratulations to Alex Rodriguez, the best goddamned story of the year.