Alex Rodriguez said many years ago that he wanted to become the face of baseball.
Sadly, he’s achieved his goal.
He’s become the game’s face, all right, for all the wrong reasons.
Like many, I wish Rodriguez would just fade away. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen because we’re dealing with a megalomaniac whose lack of awareness is almost as alarming as his lack of integrity.
On Monday, in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, there was, to quote obnoxious Yankees announcer John Sterling, another “A-Bomb by A-Rod.” Portraying him as the victim of a witch hunt, Rodriguez’s team of lawyers sued Major League Baseball and the players association in a feeble attempt to persuade a federal judge to overturn his 162-game suspension for violating the game’s drug policy.
The lawsuit claims that arbitrator Fredric Horowitz showed partiality and “a manifest disregard for the law” and that the players union violated its duty of fair representation to Rodriguez. In reality, Horowitz showed a reasoned regard for the law, based on a mountain of damning evidence and testimony. He also showed a “manifest disregard” for the lame case presented by Rodriguez and his legal eagles. A-Fraud has declared his innocence to various media outlets but has yet to issue a single denial of his performance-enhancing drug use under oath. If you’ve done nothing wrong and are vigorously trying to clear your name, why wouldn’t you proclaim your innocence under oath?
This legless lawsuit appears to be the last-gasp effort of a desperate, delusional man who needs only to look in a mirror to find the person at fault in all of this. That’s unlikely to happen, of course, because this is a guy who once posed for a major magazine kissing a mirror because he’s so into himself. Given his weak grasp of reality, I’m wondering if perhaps all those PEDs Rodriguez reportedly used shrank his brain while simultaneously inflating his muscles.
Some columnists and commentators lamented that it was a sad day for baseball when Horowitz rendered his decision on Jan. 11. I beg to differ. The ruling banishing Rodriguez for the entire 2014 season and postseason was good news for the drug-riddled sport. This was a powerful decision that hopefully will have a chilling effect on those tempted to emulate A-Fraud.
There’s an old street saying where I grew up: “Money talks, BS walks.” Well, the money, in this case, spoke more loudly than a fleet of B-52s revving their engines. According to Sports Illustrated, Rodriguez will be docked about $22 million. That isn’t some slap on the wrist, even for a guy whose baseball career has earned him close to a half-billion dollars.
Federal judges are loath to overturn arbitrators’ rulings in cases like these. Both management and the players union agreed on Horowitz to make decisions in these matters. Though union reps were upset that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” just two days after the ruling, they accepted Horowitz’s decision wholeheartedly and now find themselves in the awkward position of having to defend the association against one of its own.
It appears that Rodriguez, who still will be owed $61 million by the Yankees, is about to strike out again. It also appears he has played the final game of his drug-enhanced career. The Bronx Bombers want nothing more to do with him. Neither do his previous employers in Seattle and Texas. And it’s doubtful any other team would employ a broken-down, 39-year-old third baseman with new hips and a stadium full of baggage unless, of course, they were in desperate need of a freak show.
The statistics Rodriguez posted, which include 654 home runs and 1,969 runs batted in, place him among the game’s all-time greats. But the numbers now ring as hollow as a whiffle ball bat. Given A-Fraud’s history of showing great economy with the truth, it’s hard to determine just how much of his career was enhanced and how much of it was real. For all we know, he could have been juicing since he came up as an 18-year-old in 1994.
I’m not naive enough to believe this decision will put an end to drug use once and for all. Cheating remains a huge problem in baseball and in all sports. Since the times of ancient Greece when some Olympians experimented with opiates in hopes of running faster and jumping higher, athletes have sought an edge. That’s not going to stop as a result of this ruling. Anthony Bosch, the Biogenesis founder who supplied A-Rod and ultimately turned on him to save his own carcass, is hardly the only mad scientist out there. As long as there are millions to be made, guys and girls will continue seeking that edge.
I still blame Selig and former union boss Donald Fehr for their head-in-the-sand reaction to the steroid explosion that can be traced to the early 1990s, when baseball began selling its soul to enhance home runs, ticket sales and television ratings. But thanks to the commissioner and the union, baseball has gone from doing nothing to doing more than any other sports organization regarding PEDs.
Rodriguez will still pocket enough money to buy several more mansions. But there isn’t enough money in the world to remove the stain from his reputation. He realized his dream of becoming the face of baseball, but sometimes dreams become nightmares. Sometimes the face staring back from the mirror isn’t as handsome as we had hoped it would be.
Award-winning columnist and best-selling author Scott Pitoniak’s 16th book, a collaboration with rock ’n’ roll legend Lou Gramm titled “Juke Box Hero,” is available at amazon.com and in bookstores.
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