When Alex Rodriguez hangs up the cleats after Friday’s game, the New York Yankees should immediately insert Monument Park into the equation.

Alex Rodriguez’s track record, stature, and public perception will remain constant whenever his name is uttered. The words “steroids”, “cheater”, and “fraud” will be forever attached to his legacy.

Despite any attempts to make things right, his image will always be a slippery slope.

However, that is completely beside the point. As his career comes to an abrupt close, it is time to really take his overall performance for what it is: pure greatness.

That greatness is exactly what the New York Yankees must take into account when they discuss which name should be the next one planted in the infamous Monument Park.

Do they side with a notorious villain yet an all-time great? Or do they simply use another cop-out whose achievements entail mediocrity?

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Let’s not forget where A-Rod stacks up among Yankee greats. His 351 homers with the organization put him at sixth all-time, his 1,094 RBIs leave him in 11th place, and his .523 slugging percentage ranks sixth.

Keep in mind, eight full years of Rodriguez’s playing career were spent with different franchises. Had those come with the Yanks as well, the likelihood of this being a remotely relevant conversation would be slim. Add nearly a decade of dominant baseball and A-Rod quite possibly ranks among the top three franchise players in all offensive categories.

With the Hall of Fame — the national landscape of baseball — being a separate argument, does this at least warrant a place with the Yankee greats, or not-so-greats, currently featured beyond the center field wall?

Yes, it certainly does.

If interpreted otherwise, the Yankees would only further the recent foolishness of the monument barrage.

With all due respect to Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill, they are not Yankee immortals by any means. If the front office needs confirmation on eligibility for a permanent plaque, they should definitely be ensured.

Martinez and O’Neill, while clutch players partaking in a collective dynasty, do not stack up with the predecessors which make the landmark what it is.

They rank 18th and 19th on the all-time franchise home run list, respectively. Moreover, they rank 16th and 20th in slugging percentage. Unless the organization wants to push its luck, which they have, you do not place those names with not only Yankee greats but baseball icons as well.

Not to mention some of the other less qualified additions. Yes, that being less qualified than the aforementioned names.

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My sincerest apologies, but a man with a .276 lifetime average and a mere 54 career home runs simply cannot be given a plaque. Willie Randolph was a nice player, but his nod basically equates to a participation trophy.

He never won an MVP award, won one silver slugger over an 18-year career, and hit over .300 twice. Let’s compare that with a guy who has won three silver sluggers, claimed two MVP awards, and bolsters a .901 OPS over a 12-year Bronx tenure.

Who earns the spot?

It appears as if everyone has been smothered in Yankee glory.

How about Mel Stottlemyre? Despite his numerous contributions to the franchise in his post-playing days, they cannot outweigh a playing career which does not get it done.

The man had five winning seasons in his career and never won a Cy Young award. Are we ready to favor him over an everyday player with the fourth most home runs in baseball history?

Sure, merit does, in fact, play a role in handing out honorary plaques, holding ceremonies, and showcasing a man in front of your loyal fans. So, with that said, let’s get into it.

The 21st century has seen numerous cheaters, frauds, and PED-driven players as a whole. The record books were forever tarnished, integrity was lost, and games were decided based on a medical advantage.

Let’s think of it this way: someone is taking a math test with a calculator and the person sitting at the opposite desk has the same exact calculator, utilized with the same functions, buttons, and unique abilities. That is a controlling factor. Whoever performs better on the test effectively maximized their ability.

Flip it over to baseball. If Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez both took steroids, at one point or another, and gained an unfair advantage. As raw power hitters, A-Rod blasts 696 career homers and Sosa slugs his way to 609. Who had the better career?

Yes, the numbers are unfairly inflated. However, steroids were the controlling factor of that era. If you do not think of it that way, there is no way to somewhat grasp the greatness of the best players of that time period.

A-Rod was a freak of nature, an absurdly talented player, and had the pure ability to propel himself over the other steroid-aided stars.

If his 696 long balls were reduced to 500, which everyone truly knows he was capable of, and you still add in his heroic 2009 postseason performance, he is in monument park by a landslide.

With an evaluation such as this requiring a basis for comparison, Alex Rodriguez’s accomplishments absolutely diminish the majority of players who have gracefully entered the area.

When young Yankee fans take a stroll behind the center field wall five years from now, they should see a nicely polished plaque along with a graphic of the number 13 complemented with pinstripes.

In an ideal world, they will then read the content and learn more about a baseball legend.

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