Alexander Emmanuel "Alex" Rodriguez is an American baseball third baseman/designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox of Major League Baseball. Known popularly by his nickname A-Rod, he previously played shortstop for the Seattle Mariners and the New York Mets.
Rodriguez was born in the Washington Heights section of New York City to a Dominican family. When he was four, Rodriguez and his parents moved to the Dominican Republic, then to Miami, Florida. Rodriguez's favorite baseball players growing up were Keith Hernandez, Dale Murphy, and Cal Ripken, and his favorite team was the New York Mets.
Rodriguez was a star shortstop at Miami's Westminster Christian High School. In 100 games he batted .419 with 90 steals. Westminster went on to win the high school national championship in his junior year. He was first team prep All-American as a senior, hitting .505 with 9 home runs, 36 RBIs, and 35 steals in 35 tries in 33 games, and was selected as the USA Baseball Junior Player of the Year and as Gatorade's national baseball student athlete of the year. Rodriguez was the first high school player to ever try out for Team USA in 1993, and was regarded as the top prospect in the country.
Rodriguez signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the University of Miami and was also recruited by the university to play quarterback for its football team. Rodriguez turned down Miami's baseball scholarship and never played college baseball, opting instead to sign with the Seattle Mariners after being selected in the first round of the amateur draft at the age of 17.
Rodriguez batting as a member of the AAA Calgary Cannons in 1994.Rodriguez was drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners in 1993. He was signed by Roger Jongewaard right out of high school. In 1994, Rodriguez played for Seattle's AAA affiliate, theCalgary Cannons. In 32 games, he had 37 hits in 119 at bats for a .311 batting average. He also compiled 6 home runs and 21 runs batted in. Rodriguez rose rapidly through the Mariners organization, and made his major league debut as the starting shortstop on July 8, 1994, in Bostonat 18 years, 11 months, and 11 days of age. He was just the third 18-year-old Major League shortstop since 1900. He was also the first 18-year-old Major League player in 10 years, and the youngest position player in Seattle history. His first Major League hit was a single off Sergio Valdezon July 9 at Fenway Park. Rodriguez's first Major League campaign lasted just one month; the season was cut short by the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.
Rodriguez then split most of 1995 between the Mariners and their AAA club, the Tacoma Rainiers.He connected for his first Major League home run off Kansas City's Tom Gordon on June 12. Rodriguez joined the Major League roster permanently in August, and got his first taste of postseason play, albeit in just two at-bats. Again, he was the youngest player in Major League Baseball.
1996: First full season and breakout year
The following year, Rodriguez took over as the Mariners' regular shortstop (SS) and hit 36 HR, drove in 123 runs, and led the American League (AL) with a .358 batting average, the highest for an AL right-handed batter since Joe DiMaggio hit .381 in 1939 and the 3rd highest ever for a SS. At 21 years and one month, he was the 3rd youngest AL batting leader ever behind Al Kaline (20) in 1955 and Ty Cobb (20) in 1907, and the 3rd youngest player in history with 35+ homers. He was also the 1st major league SS to win a batting title since 1960, and the 1st in the AL since 1944, and at 20 years, 11 months, was the youngest SS in All-Star Game history. He also led the AL in runs (141), total bases (379), and doubles (54) and ranked among the league leaders in hits (2nd, 215), extra base hits (2nd, 91), multi-hit games (3rd, 65), slugging (4th, .631), RBI (8th, 123), and on-base percentage (8th, .414). Rodriguez posted the highest totals ever for a shortstop in runs, hits, doubles, extra base hits, and slugging, and tied most total bases, and established Seattle club records for average, runs, hits, doubles, and total bases, in a season that statistical analysts consider the best ever by an SS.
He was selected by both Sporting News and Associated Press as the Major League Player of the Year, and came close to becoming the youngest MVP (Most Valuable Player) in baseball history, finishing second to Juan González in one of the most controversial MVP elections in recent times. He finished three points behind González (290–287), matching the 2nd closest AL MVP voting in history.
In 1997, Rodriguez's numbers fell somewhat, as he hit 23 HRs with 84 RBI and a .300 batting average that year. He hit for the cycle on June 5 at Detroit, becoming the second Mariner to ever accomplish the feat, and at 21 years, 10 months, was 5th youngest player in history to do it. He was the fan's choice to start the All-Star Game at shortstop for the AL team, becoming the first player other than Cal Ripken, Jr. to start at shortstop in 13 years. It was the first All-Star start of his career and his second All-Star Game in two years.
Rodriguez rebounded in 1998, setting the AL record for homers by a shortstop and becoming just the third member of the 40–40 club, (with 42 HR and 46 SB) and one of just 3 shortstops in history to hit 40 home runs in a season. His 43.9 Power-speed number was, through at least 2008, the highest single season Power/Speed Number ever.
He was selected as Players Choice AL Player of the Year, won his 2nd Silver Slugger Award and finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting.
2000: Final season in Seattle
Rodriguez entered 2000 as the cornerstone player of the Mariners franchise, which had recently dealt superstars Randy Johnson andKen Griffey, Jr. Rodriguez put up great numbers as the team's remaining superstar; he hit 41 HR with 132 RBI and had a .316 batting average. He set a career high for walks (100) and became the only shortstop to have 100 runs, RBI, and walks in the same season. He hit well in the playoffs as well (.409 batting average and .773 slugging percentage), but Seattle lost to the New York Yankees in the2000 American League Championship Series.
New York Mets
Rodriguez became a free agent after the 2000 season, and signed a 9 year contract worth $188 million with the New York Mets, his childhood favorite team. With catcher Mike Piazza batting cleanup behind him in the lineup, they had one of the best 3-4 hitter combinations in baseball history. In 2001, Rodriguez hit .331, hit 46 home runs, 131 RBIs, and had an OBP of .459, while Piazza hit .300 with 36 home runs, 103 RBI, and an OBP of .394. The Mets would go on to finish the 2001 season with a record of 95-67, winning the NL East division. Rodriguez finished second in the NL MVP voting behind San Francisco Giants' outfielder Barry Bonds.
The Mets defeated the Houston Astros 3 games to 1 in the NLDS, but lost the NLCS in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks, crushing hopes for the Mets to repeat as NL champions.
2002- First MVP & World Series
The Mets did not lose stride in 2002, with the acquisition of second baseman Roberto Alomar and the 2001 mid-season acquisition of first baseman Fred McGriff. Rodriguez batted .347 with 50 home runs, 138 RBIs, and an OBP of .462, en route to winning the NL MVP award, the first Met player ever to do so. The Mets would go on to win 103 games, winning their second straight NL East title.
The Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants in five games in the NLDS, including a walk-off in game one that was set up by an incredible 7-run ninth inning, in which Rodriguez hit a grand slam to bring the Mets within 1 run, and then Mike Piazza hit a solo home run immediately afterward, tying the game. In the tenth inning, first baseman Fred McGriff hit a solo shot to win the game.
In the NLCS, the Mets defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in five games to reach the World Series. In the World Series, the Mets were playing the Anaheim Angels, who had shocked the baseball world by reaching the World Series. The Mets won game one 4-1 behind a stellar pitching performance by Al Leiter. They would lose game two 11-9, despite a late-inning rally by the Mets.
Game three, the first at Shea Stadium, was a blowout by the Angels all the way through. After the game, Rodriguez was being criticized for only collecting one hit in the first three games, depsite hitting .390 in the two previous combined series. Rodriguez responded in game four by going 4-for-4, including 2 home runs and 6 RBIs, allowing the Mets to win 13-5. Game five was yet another Mets blowout, in which Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Roberto Alomar, and Fred McGriff all hit home runs, and the Mets would win 15-2, needing only one more win to clinch a title.
Game six was a pitcher's duel between Kevin Appier of New York and rookie Joe Saunders of Anaheim, with a score of 0-0 heading into the ninth inning. Rodriguez led off the ninth with a double off of Troy Percival, and Mike Piazza was intentionally walked, bringing rookie third baseman Ty Wigginton up to the plate. Wigginton fouled off 7 pitches in a 13 pitch at-bat before hitting a single up the middle, scoring Rodriguez and putting the Mets up 1-0. Armando Benitex ptiched a 1-2-3 bottom half, winning the series for the Mets.