In one of the stranger series of events in sports history, Alex Rodriguez was handed a 211-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal on Monday afternoon, then later that night made his 2013 season debut hitting cleanup and playing third base for the Yankees.
Rodriguez's suspension will begin on Thursday and span through the end of the 2014 season, but he has already indicated that he will appeal the suspension, and should be able to play during the appellate process.
While Major League Baseball would no doubt like to put this whole ugly situation behind them, it appears that the appeals process will stretch on through the end of this season. According to a tweet from Danny Knobler of CBSSports, MLBPA head Michael Weiner expects the appeal process to stretch on into the offseason.
While they are currently 57-54 on the season and trail four teams for the second Wild Card spot, the Yankees are just five games out of a postseason spot and still have a legitimate shot at making the postseason.
It will be an uphill battle, but 25 of the Yankees' remaining 51 games are against teams with losing records, and another 23 are against the three teams ahead of them in the AL East in Tampa Bay, Boston and Baltimore so it's not out of the realm of possibility.
As unlikely as it may seem right now, if they can get hot and string together some wins, they could very well find themselves playing in October.
So what if the Yankees were to win it all this season and Alex Rodriguez were to play a key role in them getting there?
How would the 2013 Yankees go down in the annals of baseball history?
One the one hand, A-Rod is not going to be able to do it himself, and the Yankees have had holes up and down their roster all season.
If the Yankees were to turn things around and go on a late-season tear, it would be the result of a collective team effort and rank as one of the better late-season surges in recent history.
Pitching wins championships, and if they were to not only reach the postseason but make a run through the playoffs to a title, improved starting pitching would no doubt be a big reason why.
A Yankees title this season would be one of the most unlikely in baseball history, and even with the A-Rod controversy hanging over their season, would be an impressive accomplishment for the franchise.
While baseball and its fans would no doubt like to put the Biogenesis scandal behind them, Rodriguez does still have every right to appeal his suspension and to play while doing so.
Players play during suspension appeals all the time, often following bench-clearing incidents or intentionally beaned hitters, and while this is on a much larger scale, the same rules do apply.
On the other hand, the Yankees would have a player who has not only been suspended but has been suspended for use of performance enhancing drugs, playing a role in their playoff push.
Granted Rodriguez is already 38 years old, and coming back from hip surgery, so he's not going to be the dynamic player he once was. Still, as an everyday player he'll no doubt impact the outcome of a number of games.
If his suspension is upheld following the appeals process, that will mean a player who should have been sitting on the sidelines for breaking the rules of the game was instead actively participating in helping his team win.
You can point to Roger Clemens pitching for the Yankees during four separate World Series or Barry Bonds leading the Giants to the 2002 NL pennant as past examples of suspected cheaters playing a big role in their team's success.
However, neither of those guys was facing suspension while playing. This is a case unlike anything we've ever seen, and if the Yankees were to win it all, it's hard to say it would be fair to the other 29 teams, even with A-Rod getting his due process.
Fifty years from now, a 2013 Yankees title may very well still remembered for Alex Rodriguez's involvement in playing while appealing suspension, and for that reason an asterisk would certainly be a fitting addition alongside their name in the record books.
This may all wind up being moot, as the Yankees' World Series odds sat at 30/1 on July 25, according to Vegas.com. However, these are the sort of questions that arise in the aftermath of something like this and help illustrate how the integrity of the game is compromised when players cheat.
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