You can loathe Alex Rodriguez all you want.
You can support his imminent suspension—a lifetime ban even.
You can beg that he just goes away quietly.
You can even root for the New York Yankees in any potential effort to void his contract.
But if you know baseball, and you are honest with yourself, you cannot—even in the darkest recesses of your dislike for A-Rod—come away from this ordeal believing A-Rod is getting a fair shake.
And when someone famous is given a raw deal, when someone famous gets the shaft, you—like me—should be afraid of a very sad possibility to come from this uneven treatment.
That very sad possibility: turning Alex Rodriguez into a martyr.
MLB, on Monday, is expected to ban A-Rod for anywhere from 200 games to life. It's all the same, really. Who seriously thinks A-Rod is going to mount a comeback two years after a second hip surgery at 40 years old?
The suspension will cost the man who once seemed poised to break most every offensive record on the books—most importantly, the all-time home run record—at least $40 million and as much as $100 million.
MLB can couch A-Rod's suspension in all the doublespeak it wants, it can say the suspension reflects the fact that A-Rod lied to MLB, that he lied to investigators. It can say he obstructed MLB's investigation, that he intimidated witnesses.
And that may all be true.
But ask yourself this: What makes him any different than Roger Clemens?
Do you honestly believe Clemens didn't try to obstruct investigators, that he didn't try to intimidate his former trainer, Brian McNamee, leading up to his perjury trial?
Sans the obstruction and intimidation charges, you can ask yourself what makes Rodriguez any different than Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmero, et al.
MLB, no doubt, is swinging a bigger hammer when it comes to A-Rod and because of that the league runs the risk of doing what a year ago seemed impossible—turning Rodriguez into a sympathetic figure, a martyr even.
What's truly amazing is that MLB could come out of this witch hunt smelling like roses if it did several things right that it is currently doing terribly wrong:
- Stop the leaks because they're undermining the league's credibility.
- Stop speaking with the presumption that Rodriguez is guilty.
- Acknowledge that MLB has failed to consistently apply its rules to PED users in the past, and that A-Rod's suspension, and those of the other players coming down Monday, heralds a new beginning.
In other words, MLB needs to admit it screwed up in the past, that this is an imperfect process and that the game has suffered because of it.
Those actions won't satisfy everyone, but they would go a long way in avoiding the worst-case scenario for Bud Selig and the league by turning Rodriguez into a martyr.
Lou Rom covers the NFL and whatever else gets under his skin for Bleacher Report and he does so from the greatest city on the planet, right here in NYC. Follow him on Twitter at louromlive.