Of all the outcomes that seemed to be unfolding in front of the sweet, innocent teenager who arrived in Seattle in 1994, who could have foreseen disgrace and shame and ridicule?
It would have been impossible to imagine that this young phenom, who impressed everyone, at least initially, with his winning personality, would today be facing rumors of a possible lifetime ban. That’s the ultimate penalty in a commissioner’s arsenal, reserved for the most egregious offenses to the integrity of the game.
In the original narrative, Alex Rodriguez was going to become the successor to teammate Ken Griffey Jr. as the face of the game. He was going to be the superstar we could believe in, after the indiscretions of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were exposed. He was going to be the clean home-run champion.
We learned long ago that A-Rod was neither as sweet, nor as innocent, as it first appeared. In fact, he wrapped himself up in so many layers of phoniness, so many facades, listened to so much bad advice and chased so many false trails he thought would lead to adulation, that somewhere along the line he lost who he really was.
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Now Rodriguez is just a desperate 38-year-old with bad hips, an aching quad and the world closing in on him. According to numerous accounts, the hammer will come down Monday on numerous players linked with the Biogenesis clinic, including possibly Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, now in Class AAA.
These eight or nine players — a list that could also include Nelson Cruz of the Rangers, Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers and Everth Cabrera of the Padres — are all rumored to be facing 50-game suspensions. Most are expected to accept them without appeal to allow the punishment to be confined to the 2013 season, so they can move on.
But what everyone is waiting to see is if Bud Selig goes nuclear on Rodriguez, against whom MLB is said to have a mountain of evidence. For Selig, that includes the option of a lifetime ban, a threat which the commissioner seems to be using as leverage to get A-Rod to agree to a suspension that includes the rest of this year and all of the 2014 season.
A-Rod’s meteoric rise and incredible fall has all the makings of a Greek tragedy. Now all he sees is the world conspired against him: the overreaching commissioner trying to compensate for his failures during the steroids era with cold-blooded vengeance; the Yankee execs conspiring with MLB to seize this golden opportunity to get out of Rodriguez’s foolishly bestowed contract; and the fans who long ago began to view him not as baseball’s Golden Boy but the personification of fake charm.
Rodriguez sees tens of millions of dollars slipping away and his legacy all but gone. He sees advancing age and failing health making it problematic that he’ll ever play again in the majors (though there’s a bizarre scenario, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out, whereby Rodriguez could be suspended Monday morning, and play for the Yankees on Monday night if he is allowed to appeal).
Some would call it schadenfreude to the max, A-Rod getting his comeuppance for all his smarmy pseudo-sincerity and calculated deceit. This is the guy who, when outed in 2009 by Sports Illustrated for failing a drug test in 2003, admitted to PED use in his past, but promised it was all behind him.
I was sitting under a tent in Tampa at his confessional news conference that February, with his Yankees teammates gathered nearby in support, when Rodriguez said: “It goes back to being young and being curious. I realized — thank God that I realized — that I was being young and silly and irresponsible, and I decided to stop. And I was a young guy.’’
Rodriguez concluded his news conference that day with these words: “I miss playing baseball. I miss simply playing baseball. Judge me from this day forward. That’s all I can ask for.”
From that day forward, Jon Heyman of CBS reports, MLB is believed to have evidence “to suggest Rodriguez bought or took steroids every year since 2009.”
Heyman and others also have written of suspicions A-Rod directed others to Biogenesis, tried to impede MLB’s investigation by trying to buy Biogenesis documents, and misled MLB about his past association with Canadian doctor Anthony Galea, convicted in 2011 of smuggling performance-enhancing drugs into the U.S.
It’s all part of Selig’s potential grounds for bypassing the joint drug agreement in meting out Rodriguez’s punishment, but rather doing so under his “best interests of baseball” powers in the CBA. That would make it much more difficult for A-Rod to keep playing by seemingly removing his appeals route, leaving only a lawsuit against MLB as a delaying tactic.
But interestingly, leaks about Selig’s heavy-handed approach is leading to some backlash against MLB, accusations that it is circumventing due process in its zeal to nail A-Rod.
Perhaps this is the only way possible to recast Rodriguez in any sort of sympathetic light, dim as it might be. For if there’s anything we as a culture love more than toppling someone from the mountain top, it is forgiving them when we’ve determined they’ve suffered enough.
On Monday, we’ll find out just how much suffering A-Rod, the savior turned pariah, is facing.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry