OAKLAND, Calif. – Alex Rodriguez’s retirement announcement Sunday morning brought back vivid memories for at least one former Seattle teammate from A-Rod’s early years, along with questions about the steroid-tainted superstar’s legacy.
“Alex was one of the greatest young players baseball will ever see,” said Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, a Mariners pitcher when Rodriguez debuted in 1994. “The impact he had immediately was amazing.
“Just looking back at some of our young players that we’ve had the last couple years – we’ve got one here with Kris Bryant putting up those kind of numbers. But Alex was hitting [.358] with  homers and 12 RBIs in his first year when he was 20. I just don’t think you’ll see anything like that again.”
Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, a middle-school kid in the Seattle area when A-Rod debuted, remembers him from a fan’s perspective back then and as a part of a fierce division rivalry with the Yankees when Lester was with the Red Sox.
“A little bit shocking,” Lester said of the announcement.
As for Rodriguez’s legacy:
“He’ll always have that asterisk next to his name,” Lester said. “He’s a great ballplayer. Always has been. I remember watching him coming up in Seattle. I don’t know him personally; I don’t to talk about people’s character that I don’t know.
“I don’t know why he did what he did, but he did. And that’s something he’ll always have next to his name. That was his personal choice.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon remembers “wow” moments early in A-Rod’s career – a ranging up the middle and throwing out a runner on a spectacular defensive play as a teenager, a mammoth home run in Anaheim a few years later as a kid younger than Addison Russell and then watching him run out routine grounders as an established, MVP for a last-place Texas team.
“He’s always going to be surrounded somewhat by controversy, but I saw a really, really good baseball player,” Maddon said. “Enormous ability.”
The last time the Cubs played the Yankees — twice at home and twice on the road in 2014 — Rodriguez was serving a year-long PED-related suspension handed down by major league baseball.
He’s 13-for-39 in nine career games against the Cubs (.794 OPS), without any of his 696 career home runs against them.
“It’s up to the individual [to judge],” Maddon said. “Somebody will create the dialogue and frame it however you want. But I saw him when he was a baby, and this guy was one of the best. When he came up right after [Ken] Griffey [Jr.], with those two guys as youngsters in Seattle – it’s hard to imagine getting a better duo than those two guys.”