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 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 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 -- which of course he'd always, vehemently and unequivocally denied -- to the revelation that he's secretly caved meekly to the federal government's drug bloodhounds, admitting everything 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 his "shooting" himself up with "stuff" in the toilet of a Miami Beach night spot.
Thus in a single week, A-Rod seals 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 Yankee's lineup with his battered hips and 41 year-old steroid-free body and ends 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. He's not even bet on ballgames, let alone dumped them.
But he has made a monumental fool of himself while in that process, reducing himself to craven behavior which 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 -- which is an abject 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 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 Rodriguez can expect any such slack to be cut on his behalf over time, no matter how much of it 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? It's a bit of a rash assertion, I admit. I have no proof. No plebiscites on the issue have yet been mounted. But I'd bet the ranch that the answer is a resounding and defiant -- "No."
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 near everyone in the game, including most of all his teammates, yearn 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. That's what only 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 Major League Baseball takes command of this situation and banishes 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 MLB could so act any minute.
Why would MLB 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 out-going 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 in-coming 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, etc. and while they can hardly be blamed for all his offenses it was they who failed to police the man properly, although it's noteworthy that no team has been held responsible for having drug cheats on their 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 at 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 of New York media insiders who say 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. The second week of next February -- one week before spring training officially opens -- the federal-court trial of Yuri Sucart, A-Rod's favorite nefarious cousin who is accused in a heavily loaded seven-count indictment of being the favorite drug mule who kept him adequately supplied with all those chemical goodies that enhanced his greatness lo those many years, goes on trial in Miami.
And guess who will be the government's star witness.
None other than, Cousin A-Rod!
Now, 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 be devoutly wished. Even on the Yankees.
Clark Booth is a renowned Boston sports writer and broadcast journalist. He spent much of his long career at Bostonís WCVB-TV Chanel 5 as a correspondent specializing in sports, religion, politics and international affairs.
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