In what likely will be the last of the remarkable achievements of the inimitable Alex Rodriguez, this nugget can be added to his shining dossier as well as to Major League Baseball’s Doomsday Book of statistical minutiae.
Let’s call it “The All-Time Quickest Flip-Flop.”
In just a single week, this amazing fellow has accomplished the fastest descent ever from official reinstatement to permanent exile.
That’s how little time transpired between the official end of A-Rod’s one-year suspension for violating baseball’s drug laws – violations, of course, that he’d always vehemently and unequivocally denied – and the revelation that he had secretly caved meekly to the federal government’s drug bloodhounds, admitting to everything that he’s been accused of doing and actually greatly more, while providing details that can be politely termed “sordid.” I found especially interesting the anecdote about him “shooting” himself up with “stuff” in the toilet of a Miami Beach night spot.
Thus, in that single week, A-Rod sealed his own fate. It was a week that began with interesting if rather baffling speculation of how much impact he might have upon his return to the Yankees’ lineup with his battered hips and 41-year-old steroid-free body and ended with him being well advised to check out which remote sandbar in the Indonesian archipelago he might now repair to for the purpose of riding out his humiliation for the duration.
Yes, we all know that on the scale of criminality in these beastly times the petty indiscretions of a dumb ballplayer hardly nudge society’s radar a bloody blip. Rodriguez is not an ax murderer or terrorist. He has not bilked thousands of the working class of their life savings nor abused the defenseless. Nor has he bet on ballgames, let alone dump them.
But he has made a monumental fool of himself while in that process, reducing himself to craven behavior that in the context of sport with all its misty pretenses about “character” and “heroism” is seen as notably pathetic. Given his odd and complex make-up, notably featuring a hopeless vanity, the punishment he now faces – being an object of scorn and derision spread over a lifetime –should be for him, unbearable. It may not be too early to have just a little pity.
We are sentimental fools and history suggests that judgments in these matters soften in time. Run out of baseball for his alleged involvement in the fixing of a World Series, the poor and near-illiterate Joe Jackson became, in the end, a quaintly sympathetic figure. Brought down by his egregious deceptions, the redemption of Pete Rose inches forward even as he does nothing to atone for his sins and scoffs at the mere suggestion. Who would be surprised if one day Rose makes it to Cooperstown, and by that I mean into the Pantheon itself and not just out on the sidewalk peddling his silly wares.
But it’s highly doubtful that Rodriguez can expect any such slack to be cut in his behalf over time, no matter how much time he has left. So much the innocent and harmless rube, Jackson was deeply liked by his peers on the field. Even that hateful rogue, Ty Cobb, felt bad for him. If the ever fuming and feisty Rose commanded little such affection, there wasn’t a one of his colleagues who didn’t respect him on the field. And if you denied him that, you did so at your peril.
Can any such claims be made in behalf of Rodriguez? I’d bet the ranch that the answer is a resounding and defiant “No!” It’s a bit of a rash assertion, I admit. I have no proof, and no plebiscites on the issue have yet been mounted.
There’s a particular repugnance in A-Rod’s infamy, a quality of sleaze deeply alien to the athletic temperament. There are lines you don’t cross. Rodriguez has crossed all of them. The notion here holds that near everyone in the game, including, most all, his teammates, yearns for him to slink off into a deserved oblivion, as quietly as possible!
No one will ever dispute his skills, least of all those who competed both with and against him. His talent was world class, surely in need of no chemical enhancement. And that’s what makes his shame deeper and the possibilities of forgiveness dimmer. Out of excuses, and out of lies, he now becomes out of hope.
Clearly, the Yankees dearly hope that Major League Baseball will take command of this situation and banish their resident pariah so they won’t have to. That would make everything so much easier for them, including the termination of his ridiculous contract, which would save them a cool $61 million plus whatever bonuses he might have milked for piling up yet more meaningless statistics. The guess here is that MLB could so act any minute.
Why would Baseball want this situation to fester? The opportunity is golden. The grounds are indisputable. He lied, then lied more, then brazenly lied still more before secretly and sneakily rolling over for the Feds to save his butt.
For MLB, it’s an open-and-shut case. How dearly do you think outgoing Czar Selig would like to levy such a verdict against one of the banes of his existence, a major play-actor in the blighting of his precious legacy? Or how much do you think that incoming Czar Manfred might want to do the deed himself, if only to make a powerful statement of where he stands on baseball’s most pertinent contemporary issue while also making it instantly clear who’s now in charge?
On the other hand, both might prefer to dump the task on the Yankees. That would not be unreasonable. They, after all, effectively licensed the madness with that ridiculous contract, among other things, and while they can hardly be blamed for all his offenses it was they who failed to police the man properly. Still, it’s noteworthy that no team has been held responsible for having drug cheats on its payroll, and all of them have had them.
If Baseball can find a way to honor Tony LaRussa, who assiduously and lovingly mentored Bash Brothers McGwire and Canseco, with a cozy berth in the Hall of Fame, how can Baseball now come down like a ton of bricks on the Yankees for tolerating A-Rod, not wisely but too well?
The Yankees will maintain their official silence but it’s obvious they are lusting to rid themselves of this meddlesome and frightfully expensive pest. It’s the consensus opinion of New York media insiders that the Yanks crave relief from the mind-boggling headache of the mess while being wary of booting the chance to purge Rodriguez’s hideous contract from their books. Quite understandable! But nullifying contracts, no matter how indisputable the justification, is no easy task.
Would anybody – even the fringe lunatics of Red Sox Nation – get a kick out of seeing New York have to pay this slug for not playing? It could happen in these legalistically hog-tied times.
If how it’s to be done and by whom remains yet to be decided, this much is certain. One way or another and somehow, come hell or high water, he’s gone.
Nor can they let this thing linger. During the second week of next February – one week before spring training officially opens – the federal court trial of Yuri Sucart will begin. Sucart is A-Rod’s favorite nefarious cousin who is accused in a heavily loaded seven-count indictment of being the favorite drug mule who kept the ballplayer adequately supplied with all those chemical goodies that enhanced his greatness lo those many years.
And guess who will be the government’s star witness? None other than Cousin A-Rod! Won’t that be a lovely circus maximus with which to launch yet another baseball season?
As a lover of farce, I’m tempted to root for it. But that would be too cruel to devoutly be wished. Even on the Yankees.