By Jason Keidel
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Alex Rodriguez has become the disaster du jour — an endless loop of errors off-the-field that dwarf any gaffes on the diamond. During a heralded career that will now be distilled into a twisted parable, A-Rod — the playerand the man — has morphed from a historical bookmark to a pockmark on our pastime.
Let Roger Cossack and such parse the particulars about subpoenas and warrants and leaked documents. Stripped of legalese, the simple story tells us that Alex Rodriguez has yet again been glued to performance-enhancing drugs — as recently as last year — when he swore he was off the stuff a decade earlier.
What’s so sad is that none of this is surprising. Rodriguez, at his core, is a child. His vanity borders on insanity, eager for love and attention to cloak his contempt for himself. Assuming the reports are accurate, Rodriguez was willing to risk his reputation and his legacy almost every year of his career to get an edge that he may not even have needed. Only A-Rod could usurp a Super Bowl, just as he swept the glitter from a World Series six years ago.
A-Rod cuts such a swath through any entity he occupies that he becomes a corrosive organism; an orgy of muscle, media and massive scandal. For a man who has hit over 600 homers, has a body that women crave and a body-of-work that men crave, his bio is basted with too many clashing themes. Was he known for his MVP in Texas? No, he was known for the last -place finishes and Scott Boras rebuffing the Mets while milking the Rangers for $250 million. All the while, he was shooting enough equine cocktails in his tan tush to make Secretariat blush.
How about 2007? It was an all-time season, but it failed to meet the high deeds under brown leaves that define Yankee legends. Despite tickling the Triple Crown, he was better known for slipping out the back door of his contract, declaring his newfound financial freedom during the ’07 World Series. It’s a perfect microcosm of his career — the essential and eternal “Me” moment.
Then came his coronation, his redemption. In 2009, he carried the Yankees on his broad back, proved his worth and swatted his way to World Series glory. Now we’re reminiscing with one eye open, as his alleged allegiance with a dope dealer posing as a doctor stretches back to that mystical season.
He’s known for shirtless sunning in Central Park, for flying a stripper around the globe while his wife was either pregnant with or raising his kids, for sharing a needle over a toilet in the bowels of baseball locker rooms with a player named Pudge.
And he can’t even get cheating right. A-Rod is once again exposed, back in the vortex of vulgar realities that have defined his epoch — the most visually and morally disturbing since Jackie Robinson smashed the color barrier.
You recall the somber man who made the mass apology to everyone except Jose Canseco. And we wanted him to be sincere for perhaps the first time in his life. Americans cherish a great comeback. But there’s no comeback left for A-Rod. Every bottom he hits has trap doors.
Frankly, only the most jaded, jock-sniffing, Kool-Aid guzzling patrons of the former all-world player think he will come close to matching his old production this year, next year or any year. In fact, it’s more likely that he won’t play again than he’ll hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs again.
Now, A-Rod is a variable at best and a shadow of his former transcendent self at worst. He’s a punch line whose work will soon be purged from memory. There will be no A-Rod Day at Yankee Stadium. There will be no retired jersey. There will be no bronze bust in Cooperstown. There will be no victory lap around the bridal path of history. His eternal refrain will be a man whose cleat marks blurred the line between veracity and mendacity — carrying the baton for his fellow behemoths — who took a collective eraser to some of the most sacred numbers in sports.
The Yankees, who thrive on buzz, celebrity and periphery as much as anything on the diamond these days, are paying a karmic tax for selling its soul to the dark side. Over the last decade, they flexed their wallet on endless spending sprees that produced only one World Series title since Larry Lucchino famously branded the Bombers the Evil Empire. And there’s no greater emblem of reckless, feckless spending than A-Rod.
For his part, A-Rod asserts his innocence and is now crouching behind well-heeled lawyers. Roy Black is the buffer between A-Rod and his fading, fawning public; a shield against the shield of law enforcement and even his employer. His attorney’s surname is sublimely fitting, because the future, once so bright, is now gallingly black. Not even the Yankees want him anymore. He’s lost inside the pinstriped walls of Yankee Stadium (which is a rather juiced edifice itself — at once bigger and pricier than the old place with just a fraction of its charm). It’s a perfect emblem of its biggest and priciest player.
The Yankees doubled down on a disaster under the guise of history. And they still are making history — just not the kind they expected when Hank reached around Hal and made one of the biggest, most expensive mistakes in the history of team sports. Rodriguez is a broken player and person — a man without a team or a town that has his back.
Will A-Rod ever play another game in pinstripes? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…