UPDATE: No booing tonight as he is out of the line-up
Alex Rodriguez returns to Safeco Field tonight. This time he returns for the first time since his admission of steroid use. He hasn't been warmly greeted in the past, and I'm certain it won't be any better tonight. He is booed and booed lustily.
A quick story about the man pictured. It's safe to say, I'm not what you call a big fan of his. I can probably list 30 reasons off the top of my head why I dislike him.
One of the reasons came back in 2000 when I was fresh-faced, wide-eyed intern for the News Tribune. It was the first time I'd come to Safeco as a member of the media and I was following around Corey Brock, who used to work for the TNT and now covers the Padres for MLB.com. Obviously, I was nervous, excited, intimidated, overwhelmed and awestruck. This was a big league clubhouse. Edgar Martinez was wandering about. Jon Olerud was at his locker. Jay Buhner never seemed to stop talking. A-Rod was simply one of the most impressive physical specimens I'd ever seen.
Anyway, Alex was hurt after getting hit in the knee on a play at second base during interleague play, if I recall correctly. He took a helmet to the knee while trying turn a double play. He'd been out for three or four days and was doing workouts on the field getting ready to come back.
Corey sent me down to the clubhouse to get an update on how he was feeling. Obviously, I was nervous. I grabbed my digital recorder and headed down there. So there I stood and waited, along with another guy, hoping to talk to Alex. And Alex basically ignored us for a good 10 minutes, telling us to wait and he would talk. Then 10 minutes turned to 20. Finally, it seemed like he was ready to talk. But before he could do that, he walked over to the clubhouse stereo and played his then horrendous walk-up music song of "Who Let the Dogs out?" by the Baja Men at ear splitting decibels.
So he stands there and is semi-dancing and grooving to this song as my ears bleed not only from the volume but because of how truly awful it was. And I thought to myself, "he actually thinks he's cool." While in my mind, he was going from superstar shortstop to overgrown dork in that time span.
So when the embarrassment to music that is that song finally ended and my ears were starting to recover, I figured the worst was behind me. I could get the interview down quickly and forget that any of this ever happened. All of the sudden "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT!!!!" came ripping through the speakers again. He'd put that damn song on repeat! More dancing and shimmying. If it was supposed to be funny, I wasn't laughing. If it was supposed to be entertaining, I was annoyed.
Finally, when I was just about to take one of his bats and start beating the stereo system into tiny pieces, he looked at us and said, "Ok, I'm ready."
So did he turn down the volume on the stereo before talking to us? Come on. Not hardly. He took three questions about his knee with the responses being, "It's fine." "I'm doing better." "I'm not sure when I'll be ready." All while that song was playing at ear-splitting decibels, rendering my recorder useless, not that I would need it for such thoughtful answers.
In all, I heard that song nine straight times in that span. Just agonizing.
I think I went to probably 20 more games that summer and the more I was around A-Rod, the less and less I liked him as a person or a player.
As one of my fellow journalists said, "He's the least genuine person I've ever met."
It seemed everything was planned. If he was friendly to you it was for a reason. If he was being thoughtful and saying interesting things it was for a reason. You wondered if he was capable of impulsive reaction or thought.
And that dislike has grown over the years. From the organizational crippling contract he signed with the Rangers and proclaiming they could win, to later begging to get out of there to go to a team that could win. Then there was the swatting of the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove in the ALCS and his look of surprise that he did something wrong. How about when he yelled at the Toronto infielder trying to catch a pop up as he was running past him.
Little things that added up to a lot.
I actually happened to be at his first game back at Safeco after he'd gone to the Rangers. As I was walking, somebody handed me some fake money with his picture on the front, and the words "In Greed he trusts" on it. I remember seeing all the fake money showering down and the viciousness of the boos when his name was first announced. I didn't boo because I was too busy watching everyone else go crazy with anger and being stunned at how passionate their dislike for him was being shown.
I know I still have one of those fake dollars somewhere.
For as much as I disliked Alex, the Mariner fans were at absolute hate levels. Because I was never a Mariners fan, I never felt betrayed by him. When he left, I think Seattle fans finally got a glimpse at the person and player I got to see up close.
And it hasn't changed. Each time I've been at Safeco Field when he returns or have watched on TV, Alex is greeted with boos. Loud, angry boos.
Alex Rodriguez will be booed tonight. He will booed loudly and angrily by Mariners fans. But at least we won't have to hear that stupid song.