Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Teammates Support A-Rod

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Teammates Support A-Rod

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Jeff Nelson remembers Alex Rodriguez, the kid. The prodigy.

The promising hot shot teenager. The can't-miss No. 1 prospect who seemingly could do no wrong.

"It was 1993 when he was drafted and signed with Seattle," said Nelson, who spent the early portion of his career with the Mariners before winning four World Series titles with the Yankees from 1996- 2000.

"Most organizations bring their No. 1 picks in for batting practice. I was there watching this kid, 17 or 18 years old, coming right out of high school and hitting bombs the other way in the Kingdome. You knew right then this kid was going to be special."

The numbers entering Saturday undeniably have been just that: 667 home runs, 2,004 RBI and, most recently, his milestone 3,000th hit Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

How he achieved those numbers, however, is a much different story.

Admitted steroid use -- twice -- and an unprecedented

162-game, season-long ban in 2014 has taken away from what has been one of the greatest careers, statistically speaking, in baseball history.

Long a historian and student of the game, Rodriguez is unable to fully appreciate his own numbers without knowing the majority of them came during times he was on performance-enhancing drugs. There always will be a dark cloud surrounding his numbers.

"Who am I to say what he's done in the past dims what he's accomplished in his career?" Lou Piniella, Rodriguez's first manager in Seattle, asked before Saturday's Old Timers' Day at the Stadium.

"I remember this young guy coming up as a great player and saw him develop into a superstar who could do anything on a baseball field.

"Someone else can make those decisions about how to view his career, I'm not going to."

Rodriguez, by his own doing, is as polarizing a figure as there is in baseball today. Forever a villain in some eyes, a now- sympathetic figure in others.

The stark contrast in beliefs is evident even in the seats of Yankee Stadium. …

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