Alex Rodriguez hasn't played in a singular game for the New York Yankees this season, battling through injuries while his name continues to come up in performance-enhancing drug allegations from Major League Baseball.
He's in the news once again for a subject he promised us he was done with back in 2009, as T.J Quinn of ESPN reported on Twitter Tuesday night that A-Rod and roughly 20 other players were going to be targeted for suspension in the Biogenesis PED scandal that also includes Milwaukee Brewers star outfielder Ryan Braun:
John Buccigross of ESPN's Outside the Lines also had an earlier report as MLB continues its witch hunt on a practice that has plagued the sport since Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and others drew attention to the idea that baseball players were cheating on a regular basis:
If a suspension indeed comes down on the injured Rodriguez's head, it's time he turns in his pinstripes, cleats and glove for a permanent spot in MLB's "retired/we don't want you in our league anymore" list.
Heck, maybe he'll finally move to Miami full-time—that's the origin of his second major career PED scandal.
Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times reported back in late January that Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and others were clients of Anthony Bosch and the now-defunct Biogenesis of America clinic, a company that provided steroids and other drugs to baseball's biggest stars.
If that wasn't enough to either alter your perception of his place in the MLB history books or at least second-guess his 2009 apology to ESPN's Peter Gammons following a Sports Illustrated report linking him to steroid use during his MVP seasons with the Texas Rangers, the rest of the saga will.
Taking on maybe the biggest chunk of publicity with respect to other players reportedly linked with Biogenesis, Rodriguez made headlines again in April when a collaborative report from the New York Daily News claimed A-Rod bought back documents from the clinic linking him to taking illegal substances.
Spokesman Terry Fahn later denied the allegations from that report (as noted by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post), but the irrefutable damage has already been done to the age-old idea stated here: Once a cheater, always a cheater.
Tuesday's report from ESPN simply reminded us that even with a career .300 batting average, 647 home runs, 1950 RBI and 19 years of MLB service, there isn't really anything that can be done to believe Rodriguez felt bad about cheating back in the early 2000s.
Or that he won't do it again to keep pace with the rest of the game.
Steve Politi of the New Jersey Star-Ledger posted his public plea for the Yankees to sever ties immediately with Rodriguez should the effects of a potential suspension push through, and his column is worth a read if you follow along with this same school of thought.
There's no reason for Rodriguez to return to the Yankees this season, next season or any other season with any other franchise if MLB makes him the scapegoat for its latest purge of athletes who don't follow the rules.
Unfortunately a few road blocks stand in the way of that plea to become a reality.
One is A-Rod's massive contract, handed down as a reward by general manager Brian Cashman and the rest of New York's brass back in 2007.
It broke the record for the largest contract in baseball history, and as noted by Quinn on Twitter, it remains one of the biggest question marks for the Yankees finding a way to use his tarnished image as a failsafe to avoid paying the final few years of what could become money swirling down the black hole:
Mike Hill of ESPN also affirmed that assertion on Twitter:
ESPN's Baseball Tonight broke down the remainder of that contract here:
With Rodriguez reportedly working to get back in baseball shape and come back to the team for the remainder of the season, there's also a preemptive assumption to be made here that he would have no interest in leaving money on the table by retiring from the game.
Let's face it—A-Rod stayed clean under the steroid radar for 15 years, got caught, apologized, and is right back in the thick of it four years later. If he had any interest in "saving his reputation" by stepping away from the game he would have done it long ago.
Or he wouldn't have taken steroids again.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported in a recent expose on the A-Rod/Yankees situation that the team can recover roughly 80 percent of the remaining four years of his contract if he was to retire following the 2013 season, but again, the fact that he's attempting to return to top form suggests that we've just begun to see Rodriguez at least attempt to return to baseball soon.
That's where the suspension kicks in.
A lengthy ban from MLB might prompt the Yankees to seek legal action in the form of an unprecedented circumstance relating to the discovery of steroids in the Bosch clinic, and it could force Rodriguez to face the reality that his days in New York might be numbered.
Of course, this is all conjecture, and in no way reflects what the Yankees or A-Rod might be thinking. However, it is interesting to note that we haven't seen any Yankee press releases or statements pledging support of Rodriguez or his case at this time, rather more about venues the team could travel to void his contract in the eye of a suspension (like this January report from ESPNNewYork.com).
When it comes to Alex Rodriguez, the damage is done. As crafted by Politi in his request that the Yankees sever ties with the oft-distraction-laden star, a suspension would cement the idea that he is no different than the men who so many beg baseball to put an asterisk by any career number that winds up in the record books.
Personally, there's no telling what kind of effect, if any, this will have on A-Rod or his decision to continue to pursue a career in MLB. Once the anointed one, few have seen their stars fall so swiftly from the sky once the dreaded three-letter word (PED) slips into our minds.
Reports and media personnel everywhere have made their pleas to Rodriguez and will continue to do so until this issue is resolved via MLB, Rodriguez himself, and the Yankees.
Here's a simple one: Give it up, A-Rod. Second chances don't grow on trees, and if found guilty a second time there's no reason to bring you back for a third. It certainly won't be an easy call, but it's the right one to make—a suspension should mark the end of the career of one of the best all-around players in league history.
Even if his legacy is tainted further pending the results of this investigation.
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