Hats off to Alex Rodriguez.
The New York Yankees' starting third basemen pulled out of the World Baseball Classic citing an unknown injury to his hip.
Now, the future Hall of Famer and admitted steroid-abusers' troubled hip requires surgery, which could force the performance-enhanced slugger to miss the first 6-8 weeks of the 2009 season.
In other words, one of the most recognizable players in Major League Baseball now becomes the poster child for baseball's steroid era.
With this being his first steroid suspension, Rodriguez serves the mandatory 50 games and misses all of spring training and the WBC. But he may return in four months, mid-way through an inter-league home series with the league's defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, followed by a three-game road trip to Texas.
Oh, the pressure.
Upon his return from hip injury surgery to remove an overdeveloped cyst caused from years of steroid abuse, Rodriguez will undoubtedly have the weight of the world on his shoulders. Not only has A-Rod been annoited the best player ever to use steroids in the history of MLB, but he's also supposed to surpass Barry Bonds' home run record of 762 before he retires.
Toss in the bright lights of New York City with real pressure to perform, and A-Rod will be lucky to make it out of the batters' box before hearing a battering of boos echoing inside his ball cap.
Will his years in New York and Seattle be tainted with his recent admission to steroid use, or are we to believe steroids were either not in the game at that point or has already been eradicated?
According to Rodriguez, he experimented with steroids back in 2001 when as the enormously high expectations of the Texas Rangers became too much for him to handle. By this time, we were well into the steroid culture in professional sports, with MLB serving as the new age pioneers since the 1998 Home run Chase, maybe earlier.
So, this revelation from Rodriguez pegs A-Rod a drug-user no time before six years ago, and at no time after. Since then, A-Rod contends he'd given up the performance-enhancing drugs for the more natural herbal remedies known as hard work, raw talent, and intense dedication.
Good thing, A-Rod's hefty $252 million contract, the richest in MLB at the time (2003) it was signed, allowed him to don the pin stripes to become the most revered player in New York, not named Derek Jeter and most hated man in Boston, not named George Steinbrenner.
No pressure on him there. No pressure on him to perform in the clutch, hit in October and lead the most storied sports franchise to its 27th World Series championship, the teams' first since 2000.
The fans won't ridicule him if he strikes out with runners in scoring position, nor will Yankees' brass question his loyalty when he fails to win in October once again. The media, specifically the New York media, won't analyze every ounce of his record-breaking stats to see how exactly steroids impacted his now tainted, Hall of Fame career.
Nope, none of that will happen to Alex Rodriguez when he finally returns to the diamond. Not because he doesn't deserve the scrutiny, but because everyone's grown tired of their baseball heroes cheating the game, cheating the fans, and most importantly, cheating themselves.