A decade ago, Alex Rodriguez was a baby-faced wannabe megastar burdened with the championship dreams of the Yankees and their rabid fans.
That was before the soap opera plot turns, epic triumphs at bat, sensational collapses in postseason and doping drama that have made A-Rod into the most compelling — and distracting — story in New York baseball.
In 2004, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner bet that the jaw-dropping talent of the 28-year-old would bring glory to the Yankees. They probably didn't figure on the colorful and often unseemly press that would follow their star player, leading some commentators to wonder whether the cost of A-Rod's contract was worth it for both the Bronx Bombers and baseball itself.
Here is a timeline of Rodriguez's career with the Yankees, from his arrival to the unprecedented decision by Major League Baseball to suspend him for the entire 2014 season.
2004: Acquired by the Yankees
Rodriguez had just scored the American League Most Valuable Player Award with the Texas Rangers and was the highest-paid player in baseball history. Steinbrenner and the Yankees traded for A-Rod, who gave up his shortstop position to become a third baseman. Expectations were unsurprisingly high for Rodriguez — he had broken franchise home run records during the 2001 and 2002 seasons. He was introduced in pinstripes at Yankee Stadium on Feb. 17, 2004. (Credit: Getty Images/Ezra Shaw)
2005: First MVP year with the Yankees
Expectations meet reality in Rodriguez’s 2005 season with the Yankees. Rodriguez wins the American League Most Valuable Player Award for the second time, ending the season with a .321 average, 48 homers and 130 RBIs. (Credit: Getty Images/Al Bello)
2007: Pinstripe peak
Rodriguez is catapulted into the pantheon of home run kings such as Mickey Mantle and Barry Bonds when he notches his 500th career home run. The year's triumphs didn't end there. He wins his second AL MVP as a Yankee with 54 home runs and 156 RBIs. Even A-Rod would later remark to ESPN that 2007 was "the greatest year" of his career. He was dogged by bad publicity, however, when he opted out of his Yankees contract at the end of the year — only to be brought back to the team with the hook of a record $275 million, 10-year contract. (Credit: Newsday/Paul J. Bereswill)
2008: A-Rod's marriage ends
Rodriguez’s efforts on the field are overshadowed by personal drama and increasingly distracting allegations in the media that he had doped to improve his performance. His marriage to Cynthia Rodriguez comes apart in the glare of New York’s tabloid press. She claims she is tired of his extramarital affairs — the player is rumored to have a tryst with Madonna. (Credit: Getty Images/Chris McGrath)
2009: Past steroid use revealed
Rodriguez continues to be dogged by problems both on and off the field. He misses the first five weeks of the season due to hip surgery. And, following the revelation that he had failed a drug test in 2003, Rodriguez admits to using steroids from 2001-03 while playing for the Rangers. Rodriguez claims he has not used performance-enhancing drugs since 2003. By the fall, he faces further allegations of doping when journalist Selena Roberts reports in a new book that his teammates suspected Rodriguez of using steroids in 2005. Rodriguez refers to the allegations as "lies" in an interview with ESPN. On the bright side, the season ends with the Yankees winning the World Series. (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa)
2010: 600th home run
A-Rod celebrates hitting his 600th career home run. But off the field, steroid-related troubles continue. Anthony Galea, a Canadian sports medicine doctor under investigation for bringing banned performance-enhancing drugs into the U.S., is linked to Rodriguez, who faces questions from the public and federal investigators about their relationship. A-Rod denies receiving PEDs from Galea. (Credit: Newsday/Jim McIsaac)
2011: Season marked by injuries
Commentators debate, as The New York Times puts it, whether Rodriguez’s contract will become the most “ill-advised” in Major League Baseball history as injuries sideline the pricey star player. In July, he undergoes knee surgery while still recuperating from a previous operation. By the end of the year, he seeks experimental medical treatment in Germany upon the advice of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. (Credit: Newsday/David Pokress)
2012: Another playoff flame-out
A-Rod hits his 631st career home run in April to surpass former Seattle Mariners teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth on the all-time home run list. However, the postseason brings another disastrous performance for the star; so poor, in fact, that he is removed from games 3 and 4 of the American League Championship Series. (Credit: Getty Images/Elsa)
2013: Biogenesis scandal rocks A-Rod
A Miami New Times investigation reports that Rodriguez’s name was found on a client list of Biogenesis, a clinic accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes. A-Rod denies any links to the clinic. In August, the MLB announces it will suspend Rodriguez for 211 games for “use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances ... over the course of multiple years.” The MLB also accuses Rodriguez of trying to stymie the investigation into his alleged use of PEDs. A-Rod says he’ll appeal the suspension, but he walks out of an appeal hearing before an independent arbitrator in November. (Credit: Getty Images/Rich Schultz)
2014: Suspended for the entire season
After the appeal appeal process ends, an independent arbitrator decreases Rodriguez's suspension to 162 games. Rodriguez files lawsuits against the MLB, baseball commissioner Bud Selig and the players association, while vowing to show up for spring training. A-Rod drops the lawsuits in February 2014, accepting his suspension. Yankees captain Derek Jeter says the team will forge ahead without the star slugger. (Credit: Getty Images/Patrick Smith)
2015: Rodriguez issues a written apology
In a letter that avoided any mention of the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Rodriguez issued a hand-written apology "to fans" on Feb. 17, 2015. He said he took "full responsibility" for the actions that led to his suspension from the entire 2014 season. "I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be," he continued. Rodriguez is expected to play this season as the designated hitter. (Credit: Getty/Kevin C. Cox)