If Alex Rodriguez truly plans to continue his professional baseball career in 2015, he'll be up against a new adversary: fellow Major League Baseball players.
The MLB Players Association, one of the strongest and tightest unions in the country, has had enough of Rodriguez. According to a scathing report by Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, the MLBPA would kick him out of the union if they could.
During a 90-minute conference call on the day Rodriguez sued the MLBPA—in an attempt to reverse his suspension—player representatives agreed that their member isn't welcome any longer.
This revelation is shocking, but hardly surprising, considering the relationships baseball fans have watched Rodriguez burn to the ground during his headline-rich tenure atop Major League Baseball.
After receiving a 211-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use—reduced to a 162-game ban by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz—the embattled former three-time AL MVP officially alienated the powers that govern Major League Baseball.
Years prior, Rodriguez pushed away fans when signing a $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, leaving behind the Seattle Mariners, his youth and the city that watched him grow from heralded prospect to the best all-around player in the world.
Within time, New York Yankees fans, despite two American League MVP awards and a World Series championship during his reign in the Bronx, came to wish Rodriguez never arrived. When Rodriguez's first tryst with PEDs came to light during the early portion of 2009, the damage inflicted within the Yankees front office was irreparable.
Off the field, Rodriguez lost his wife, pushed away the player he called a best friend, separated from the agent that helped make him one of the wealthiest athletes in the world and, most recently, engaged in an all-out attack on his former nutrition coach—or drug dealer, if you prefer—Tony Bosch.
It's Alex Rodriguez's world, and he's the only one living in it.
Unfortunately for the embattled A-Rod, the MLBPA revelation is far from a non-story or faint hope from disgruntled union members. Instead, it's shaped like an edict from a group of fellow players that are incensed by Rodriguez's lawsuit against them in the aftermath of Horowitz's decision.
By suing the MLBPA—even if it's a reasonable legal strategy—Rodriguez turned his back on the one group that has supported him from the start.
When Rodriguez chose to fight the 211-game suspension in August, the MLBPA backed his decision.
Throughout the process, he used the MLBPA's collectively bargained rights to his advantage, manipulated the process in order to play the remainder of the 2013 season and put his teammates in an awkward position.
Now, if Rodriguez does return to the game in 2015, he'll do so without anyone on his side, supporting him or willing to give him another chance. If that wasn't enough, the anger he'll encounter may not live below the surface for very long. When his career resumes, players, led by new union chief Tony Clark, will be vocal.
If that's the worst A-Rod endures, he'll likely survive the way he has in the face of other loss, personal rejection and professional embarrassment. However, that might not be the worst the soon-to-be 39-year-old faces.
As a player on the MLBPA conference call said, per Passan and Brown's report, "When he gets up to bat, you can hit him and hit him hard. That's what I'd do. He sued us. Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz screwed up. You know what? They owned up to it. They took their medicine."
The sad part, among many depressing subplots to Rodriguez's career plight, is that he's most happy on a baseball field, in a dugout and surrounded by fellow players. As strange as it may seem, Rodriguez genuinely loves the game of baseball, talking shop and used the diamond as a sanctuary to insulate himself from the distractions of fame, fortune or the latest controversy.
Now, that controversy will invade and attempt to take away the only place Alex Rodriguez has ever seemed comfortable: the field.
If an angry lynch mob of fellow players chooses to shun Rodriguez, retaliate or make him feel unwanted—even if he has insight to share with young, rising players—it could be too much to take for a comeback to reach its potential in 2015 and beyond.
Make no mistake: Alex Rodriguez will do everything in his power to come back and play Major League Baseball in 2015.
That doesn't mean he'll be successful in his quest. If the Yankees write him a $61 million check to disappear, teams could collude to keep him away. Without the MLBPA to rally and support his cause, a comeback attempt could fall flat.
Even if Rodriguez surfaces next spring, an awkward and sad scene could eventually emerge in a baseball facility somewhere in Arizona or Florida: Alex Rodriguez, all alone, hitting off a tee and into an empty field. When he turns around to banter about the hit and run or how to attack Masahiro Tanaka's splitter, no one will entertain the conversation.
By then, the joy of the game could dissipate. If that's accompanied by a fastball to the ribs, A-Rod could ultimately opt out of the game he loves.
It's unlikely that Rodriguez is scared away from baseball forever, but if he does make it back after a one-year suspension, he'll be fighting the past, fans, media and his brethren.
Do you know anyone that still supports Alex Rodriguez?