When it comes to baseball players who have tremendous talent but inspire a wide range of opinions from fans, two names stand out. One, of course, is Barry Bonds. The other is the man nicknamed "A-Rod," New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
There's no questioning what Rodriguez has accomplished since he began his MLB career as a shortstop for the Seattle Mariners in 1994 at the tender age of 18. From his first full season in 1996 - when he hit .358 with 36 home runs and 123 RBI - A-Rod has done things with a baseball bat that shortstops had simply never done before.
More sublime seasons like his 40-40 campaign in 1998 would follow, but after the 2000 season, Rodriguez left Seattle and signed a free agent deal with the Texas Rangers. And not just any contract - his new deal was the largest in baseball history, a whopping $252 million over 10 years.
Amazingly, A-Rod came as close as humanly possible to living up to the contract, posting back-to-back seasons of 50-plus homers in 2002 and 2002 and winning his first American League MVP trophy in 2003. What he couldn't do was turn an otherwise mediocre Rangers team into a contender, so in February of 2004, Texas traded Rodriguez to the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later.
With Yankees captain Derek Jeter entrenched at shortstop, Rodriguez learned to play third base. He also got an education on the realities of playing in baseball's biggest market. While he continued to put up ridiculous stats, some observers pointed out his failure to produce during the postseason. Just a season after winning his second MVP, A-Rod actually began hearing some boos from his own fans in 2006. It should be noted that while he received more criticism than ever before, he ended the season batting .290 with 35 home runs, 121 RBI and 15 stolen bases - a true sign of how high he'd set the bar for himself.
Rumors circulated that A-Rod's time with the Yankees was coming to a close, but his start to the 2007 season made him the biggest story in all of baseball. Slugging 14 homers in the first 18 games got even the most jaded fans back on his side and suggested that he's got plenty more history left in his bat.
Baseball card collectors haven't been nearly as divided on Rodriguez as fans in general, as his rookie cards from 1994 command some pretty nice values considering the era from which they hail. His SP # 15 can be especially tricky to find in top condition, since it's a foil card with edges that chip easily. A-Rod also has a number of insert cards from that same year that sell for big money, including his Sportflics Rookie/Traded Artist's Proofs # 148 and his Upper Deck # A298 autograph.
Alex Rodriguez 1994 Rookie Cards
- Collector's Choice # 647
- Flair # 340
- Fleer Update # 86
- SP # 15
- Sportflics Rookie/Traded # 148
- Upper Deck # 24