What do you do with a Major League Baseball player that has been suspended for 211 games for violating drug policy? If you are the New York Yankees, you have your manager Joe Girardi bat him cleanup and put him in at third base. If this seems incongruous to most anyone else but a Yankees fan (and many of them are grumbling too), you are not alone. When Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez went to the plate for the first time in the game against the Chicago White Sox, those fans booed him with such vehemence but he stood there like a statue, seemingly emotionless (and dare I say clueless?). I’m sure if they could have found a rail large enough for his ego, the fans would have run A-Rod out of Chicago on it.
The problem (as I have mentioned before) is that the children are watching and watching this unfold. 12 other players, including big names like Nelson Cruz (Texas Rangers) and Jhonny Peralta (Detroit Tigers), took their suspensions like men. They had been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and they faced the penalties as they should have on a road to some kind of redemption. But no, not A-Rod, for he, though facing the longest suspension ever lodged against any MLB player for using PEDs, chose to contest the ruling. Because he is appealing the decision, A-Rod got to put on the pinstripes and stride onto the field – how thoroughly disappointing for anyone who is a Yankees fan, any guy who ever wore the same uniform, or for any player on any team who played the game the right way.
No, the Wizard of Rod, even when exposed for the sham he has always been, refuses to come out from behind the curtains and speak the truth. No, the great and powerful wizard wants you to believe in his smoke and mirrors. He wants you to forget that he came in on the hot air (and A-Rod is full of it) balloon from the State of Texas with lots of baggage already attached. Back in those days the Yankees didn’t care about that baggage; hey, they helped him carry it right into the emerald palace known as Yankees Stadium.
Let’s make no mistake – the Yankees knew exactly what they were getting with the Wizard of A-Rod. They hoped the fans would all be good little munchkins and just buy and lick their expensive lollipops from the concession stands and watch as the wizard passed Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds on his way to be homer king. I recall seeing an old photo of Babe Ruth with a crown on his head, and I imagine that last night as the wizard stepped to the plate, King Babe, Lou Gehrig, and any other Yankee who has passed on all groaned so loudly and collectively that surely an enormous thunderclap must have rumbled over US Cellular Field. I am sure it barely registered on the wizard’s mind; he is too busy thinking that nobody is going to get him. Not nobody; not no how!
On the field Rodriguez helped his team do nothing. Perhaps the poor offense is indicative of just how poor this Yankees team is, or maybe it is just that the players who are on his team have had enough. You know, being around toxicity long enough is dangerous for anyone’s health, and having the Wizard of A-Rod in the clubhouse has to be debilitating to anyone within distance of the noxious cloud that follows the wizard everywhere.
If you saw the expression on Derek Jeter’s face last night, you could tell that he has had his fill and then some. Jeter – make no mistake one of the good guys and a true class baseball act – has had to suffer the slings and arrows of being the wizard’s teammate far too long. Although the Yankees players are all publicly supporting Wiz (what else can they do mired in the miasma of Wicked Warlock Steinbrenner’s den of inequity?) you can bet they all wish the wizard would get back in that balloon and go anywhere else fast.
This all kind of makes you wonder about the storied Yankeeography (the history of the most successful MLB team ever) and how it will be recorded. Will Warlock Hal find a way to find a magic powder and make it all go away? Will the arbitrator (Frederic Horowitz – newly appointed deer in the headlights) find the ruling of 211 days excessive? A-Rod’s attorney and the Players Association are indicating that A-Rod’s appeal will take place, meaning there is a 20-day window for the appeal and an additional 25-day window for a ruling. Add that all up, and the Wizard of A-Rod may be able to play the rest of this season and into the playoffs (if this tepid Yankees team can somehow get its act together).
I hate to keep repeating it, but the danger here is the kids are watching. The other 12 players got punished and are out, but the Wizard of A-Rod continues to trot onto the field, as proud as a pinstripe peacock. Children are not into details and, even if he is suspended later on, it will seem to the kids like the wizard was spared the rod. Another player behaving badly seems to get away with it. The message for all of us is very clear – if this continues A-Rod got away with something, continued to get paid, and shame on anyone for saying that he did something nefarious behind that curtain. If ever a wiz there was; if ever, oh ever a wiz there was, the Wizard of A-Rod is one because, because, because….of all the wonderful…. (you fill in the blanks; it makes me sick).
Players on other teams were not silent. Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tweeted that “Today is a sad day for MLB.” Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler wrote, “”I personally have little sympathy for those who act selfishly and scar the game we love.” And perhaps former MLB player Jermaine Dye tweeted it best: “U cheat & U will get caught.”
Yes, the Wizard of A-Rod did get caught behind the PED curtain, but he has tried to talk his way out of it yet again. While we know he has no brains, no heart, and little courage to give, he dares to put on the uniform and play the game that is sacred to most people in America. He has broken the rules, lied, and now expects to be treated differently because he is A-Rod; therefore, what is good for everyone else just does not apply to him.
All we can do is hope Horowitz gets it right, upholds the suspension, and gets A-Rod off the field for the 211 game suspension he deserves. Keep in mind, Mr. Horowitz, the kids are watching and waiting to see what happens. Will A-Rod get justice or will the kids believe he got away with something (inspiring more people to think that “Hey, I can get away with it if A-Rod did”).
If we are lucky, the Wizard of A-Rod will get booted from the game he never loved because he was too busy being in love with himself. He will climb into that balloon and get swept away on the winds of infamy to parts unknown, and the kids and the fans will click their heels together three times and be able to go home – to their respective ballparks to see the game they love played pure and clean and true.
This will only come to pass if the Wizard of A-Rod is gone and forgotten and remembered only for what he truly was – an aberration, a blip on the radar screen, a part of baseball history seldom mentioned. That would the fitting result for the guy who aspired to be the all-time homer king, and then justice will truly be served because kids of the future will not aspire to be like him because they will have never heard of his name.
Photo credits: A-Rod-gp2sports.com; Oz-smartfellowpress.com; Babe-brentjackson52.com