Alex Rodriguez will not face punishment for his steroid use, but in the court of public opinion he can save considerable grief by telling the truth about his accusations.

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Before Saturday, Alex Rodriguez was more an annoyance than anything. He nagged you with his unapologetic greed. He irritated you with his whiny, jealous nature. He bugged you with his two-faced existence — choir boy with the cameras rolling, adulterer in the opinion of his wife.

Yet despite the many gripes, A-Rod remained the most talented player in baseball, the only man capable of chasing Madonna and Barry Bonds’ home-run record. You could criticize him for the passive way he played the game and his inability to win a championship, but rarely could you complain about his numbers. You could loathe him for eternity, but you had to respect his skills.

Until now.

Until Sports Illustrated exposed him as A-Roid.

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The magazine reported that Rodriguez tested positive for steroids six years ago, during his 2003 MVP season with Texas. It cited four sources in making the claim that Rodriguez’s name is on a supposedly sealed list of 104 major-leaguers who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during a survey that year.

Once again, baseball’s secrecy has put the league in a haunting predicament. Once again, the premier player in the sport will be ridiculed as a cheat.

Remember two years ago, after Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s dinger record, how the hope was that Rodriguez might someday break Bonds’ mark and restore some purity to the accomplishment?

Never mind.

Just when baseball thought it had swept Roger Clemens to an empty corner of the room, we’re talking steroids again. Bonds’ court appearance last week was only the undercard bout for this A-Rod shocker.

Guess Joe Torre was right in his new book. That wonderfully gifted enigma really is A-Fraud.

In a 2006 interview with Sports Illustrated, Rodriguez wondered aloud about his critics, hinting they were envious. He was at his aloof, arrogant worst.

“When people write [bad things] about me, I don’t know if it’s [because] I’m good-looking, I’m biracial, I make the most money, I play for the most popular team,” he said.

Before he became A-Roid, he was just this spoiled, clueless rich guy. He could always make a case that he was being treated unfairly. There are a lot of greedy athletes in the world. There are a lot of foolish athletes who spurn the support of a city like Seattle in pursuit of the fattest paycheck possible. There are a lot of people in general who abandon real living and pursue everything in excess, whether it’s money or lovers or even drama.

So maybe, at times, Rodriguez has had a legitimate gripe that hating him had become too fashionable. But the problem with his accusation is that he ignores how his actions stir the controversy.

Now, he can neither escape nor downplay his latest transgression. It’s on him. It’s not a matter of perception. This is real. This is clear. He damaged the game. He’s one of many to do so, but like the accused cheats before him, from Bonds to Clemens to Mark McGwire, Rodriguez must deal with the consequences.

His unquestioned Hall of Fame credentials are now in question. His claim to being a misunderstood superstar is now understood as phony baloney. His status as the best in the game is now open for debate.

This would be a good time for Rodriguez to show some rare humility and just tell the truth. Take the Andy Pettitte route to redemption. Admit the mistake and provide some clarity on whether this was a one-time sin.

Baseball can render no punishment because it happened before there were penalties for steroid use, so what’s the harm in being honest? Sports fans have shown they will accept a sincere apology.

It’s the only route to making this situation OK. Not right, but OK. Honesty would sure beat the alternative of having to listen to the whispers for the rest of his career.

After all these years, the belief that A-Rod is a con man has considerable merit to it. Now his only way out is to be a real human being. In the coming weeks, we’ll see if the gifted, polarizing Alex Rodriguez is smart enough to fall on his bat.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or

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