If you were Alex Rodriguez, what would you do? Some very fine current and former players, on and off the record, have suggested that he just come clean. Look at his recently retired friend Andy Pettite. He admitted to his transgressions, paid a price, and now retires with semi-dignity. Yes, his record still is blemished, and he will never receive the love that fellow retiree Mariano Rivera most deservedly got and will get (no doubt being a first time inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame), but Pettite goes out knowing he told the truth and the millions of kids who look up to baseball players can learn something from him about accountability.
Not A-Rod. Now, it’s A-Rod in the fight of his life. Consider these words – fighting is the key one here. His life? No, what he is really doing is being in complete denial about the situation. He is fighting for some kind of honor, some kind of ledge to grab onto as he hangs above a volcano. In a movie he would find a way to pull himself up, but this is not a film. This is real life, and as I always say, “The kids are watching.” But who of the many players involved in this situation cares about that?
Now we get to the real A-Rod. We can recall the famous picture in Details of him gazing lovingly at himself. If you know the story of Narcissus, you can picture A-Rod enjoying that image until turning into a wilted flower. But A-Rod, facing age and injury, didn’t want to wilt. So in love was he with that image, the superstar who would be king, who would overtake all records, especially Babe Ruth and then on to Hank Aaron, and he would do it in New York Yankees pinstripes to compound his greatness. He would not just be the greatest player that ever lived – he would be the greatest Yankee! Oh, Narcissus, you never aspired to such heights as he.
Now we have A-Rod singing his unique version of “Runaround Sue.” He is going to “sue” everybody in Major League Baseball. Most especially his target is not just MLB as an organization, but commissioner Bud Selig in particular. Selig, the guy who wanted to clean up baseball, is now being accused of turning a blind eye to the McGwire and Sosa spectacle. A-Rod knows all the dirt, of course, because when you play in the mud you most certainly get your hands dirty.
MLB and Selig are just the tip of the iceberg. A-Rod is ready to bring lawsuits against the New York Yankees, the hospital and doctors who treated him, and possibly the Major League Baseball Players Association, and MLBPA’s head Michael Weiner for comments he made about the case. We shouldn’t be surprised if a partridge in a pair tree gets added to the growing list by the time we get to the Christmas season.
Frederic Horowitz chairs a three-person panel that includes someone from management and a representative of the union. If there is no settlement, a decision may not be reached for months. As this drags on things could get decidedly worse. A-Rod is claiming that there is a “witch hunt” that was meant to remove him from the playing field forever (a 211-game suspension basically would end his career).
As for now the plot seems a bit of a stretch, sort of like something out of the Da Vinci Code. Can we imagine that the New York Yankees and MLB colluded to rid baseball of A-Rod? I am not a fan of Selig, and things were decidedly different when a bloated McGwire and Sosa were pounding all those homers. It was good for baseball – great for baseball and put fannies in the seats. It was seen as a way to bring the game back after it went to the brink after a players strike left people across America disenchanted. There is nothing like the glorious home run to excite the fans and bring them back, right?
Well, A-Rod saw that and deemed it was good. He had his eyes on the distant prize, one McGwire and Sosa never achieved. If he could keep socking homeruns and passing the greats (Willie Mays, perhaps the best all-around baseball player ever, is next on the list), he would reach the pinnacle of the sport. Now all of this is an illusion, and if this suspension is held he could very well see it was all for nothing. Not only will he not be baseball’s all-time home run king; he will be a pariah. There will be no accolades, no glory, and certainly no Hall of Fame.
If there is evidence that the Yankees and MLB colluded, if we get some kind of smoking gun and A-Rod is right, then we should all apologize to him and get him back on the field as soon as possible. Sadly, I think it is more smoke and mirrors. Maybe it’s a calculated way to get a settlement – especially for much fewer games. If that happens, and then A-Rod comes back, everyone should leave him alone. But if it goes the other way, and the 211-game suspension is upheld, A-Rod should take a page from Ryan Braun’s book, but I am afraid that will never happen.
As always, A-Rod and all the other players in this muddled drama forget the most important factor of all – the kids are watching. I am sure that MLB is not doing this because of all the kids who are wondering, “Hey, if A-Rod can get away with it, maybe I can too.” I am sure that A-Rod is not thinking, “Hey, if I just take this suspension and talk about it like Braun did, then I can help stop kids from doing it.” No one in this production has any high ground at this point until the truth is revealed, and that probably will take an ugly and prolonged trial.
My feeling is that none of this is good for baseball. All the players saying “I’m sorry” is just like putting a bandage on gunshot wound. The damage is done, and Selig, worried about his legacy as sure as A-Rod is, must be thinking that there has to be an end to it. Sadly, as long as the juice is out there, as long as there are unscrupulous trainers and clinics, and as long as there are players who want to get a jump on the competition, this will continue despite testing and all the measures that MLB can put in place.
One could look at this thing like Prohibition – banning liquor never worked; it only made for a vast criminal enterprise and drinking became more popular. Perhaps we’re all wrong and A-Rod, Braun, and company are all right. All sports will have to face this inevitably, and either they set up regulations and make steroids and PEDs available to “all,” or they face the fact that even the most Draconian practices probably won’t stop everyone. There is even the possibility that it will create a new industry – one that cooks up substances that are undetectable and maybe even more powerful. Think of it as baseball’s version of Breaking Bad.
For now I wish this was all over. Perhaps, if A-Rod were not so arrogant all along, more people would be willing to listen to his story. For now we will have to wait and see, but A-Rod is putting up his dukes and not backing down. And the one consolation prize he always has is the mirror. He can go home and look at himself and it seems he’ll be quite happy with what he sees, whether it’s through rose-colored glasses or not. A-Rod thinks he will be forever known as the guy who took on the baseball world. Whether he wins or loses, chances are MLB (and we) may never be the same.
Photo credits: A-Rod – newsday and details; mays – metsblog.com