It Turns Out Rodriguez Not Only Wore A Helmet, But Also A Mask

By Jason Keidel
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So it is written.

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A-Rod has lost, despite the fact that he’ll now appeal.

Not just in the court of public opinion. Not just in a court of law. Not just in the clubhouse, filled with newfound cynics who can’t believe a word he says anymore. Not just in his bulging bank account, which he cherishes above all. And not just in the record books, where his name will be glazed in a rainbow of provisos and dotted with a galaxy of asterisks.

Alex Rodriguez has lost his platform and prerogative to advise, to surmise, to sermonize on any matter that requires a modicum of nobility. He has lost his line of credit with mankind.

It feels odd to call him A-Rod anymore. Once it was a handle of endearment and accomplishment and recognition he has since forfeited, like the cash and cachet he earned under a fraudulent premise. And maybe stripping his campy moniker, as much as anything, frames his tattered legacy.

It turns out Rodriguez not only wore a helmet, but also a mask. And stripped of the gaudy numbers and bronze body and swollen wallet, it appears that Rodriguez has very few friends — just the henchmen, yes men, and sycophants who helped him grow too large for his now crumbling body and the sport that made him so superficially rich and so spiritually bankrupt.

So instead of the emblem of decency, he was the avatar of deception. Instead of bringing clean veins to the game he adored, he stained it beyond our most vivid nightmares.

Instead of being the quintessence of the American Dream, he was trampled by it. Rodriguez is, in every profound sense of the word, a junkie. Not in the simple sense you learned in school or at home of some poor mope selling silverware for a hit, but someone who got a hit of stratospheric fortune and it wasn’t enough. He needed more to get the same high, the same false euphoria that landed him in the world’s doghouse.

Rodriguez had more than enough talent but too much temerity to become the ambassador of our pastime. Rather than climb the ladder of history’s mistakes, he is lost in the forest of his malfeasance.

We judge things by the response of our senses, which are molded by nature and nurture and wisdom. And for too long we never really knew the difference between the blue-collar grit of Derek Jeter and the comic-book musculature of Rodriguez. We thought it was a matter of biology, a roll of the corporeal dice. Rodriguez hit the genetic jackpot. Well, not so much, it seems.

It wasn’t about the money, at least not for us. The cash was abstract, dots in a galaxy of digits. We never collected baseball cards to chart their paychecks to juxtapose salary and statistics. We were looking for heroes. Role models aren’t just for children.

Rodriguez has a pathological disdain for the truth. It wasn’t the poker games. It wasn’t smooching his reflection in the mirror. It wasn’t sunning in Central Park after notifying the Paparazzi. It wasn’t even allegedly flying a stripper around the country while his wife was either pregnant with or caring for his kids. We understand, on some level, that with cartoonish excess comes a pliable view of the rules.

It was all those times you told us you worshiped the game we grew up on, and would do nothing to disrespect it, or us. You asked us to trust you, at least on the field, the diamond that doubled as your personal ATM, where you would build and leave your legacy.

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You knew we were sick of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds and the rest of the juiced-up golems who synthesized the record books. You signed another distorted contract with the Yankees, including a $6 million bonus for breaking every home-run mark in front of you, based on the assumption that you, unlike Bonds, were doing this in the spirit of fairness.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American life. We now know that’s not true. But we don’t allow a third act, and Rodriguez told us to judge him after his anemic apology in 2009, freckled with abstract cousins and conduits and “boli” and B.S. Well, if MLB is to be believed, you took drugs every year after your first fall from grace.

It had to end, because it always does. But it also had to end ugly; because he always was, even at his most elegant, when he was a young colt galloping around the bases with a linebacker’s body and a shortstop’s alacrity. At some point he went from boy to beauty to beast, and now we know it was more than a chef and a gym and all the scientific toys of the aristocracy.

Whether it ends in jail, in divorce or on the business end of Bud Selig’s pen, it had to end before it was supposed to. Whether it ends now or a year from now or two, it’s over.

It wasn’t enough to cheat. You had to lie about it. Then you had to lure other players to it. Then you tried to buy documents and witnesses. Then you join the board of the Taylor Hooton Foundation. Then you say you weren’t negotiating a plea agreement when a conga line of lawyers were with Selig doing exactly that. The issue isn’t whether Rodriguez lies; it’s whether he ever tells the truth.

Whether you view Rodriguez as a parable, a metaphor, a symbol, an allegory or just a cautionary tale, it ends not in the record book but rather the scrapbook of disgraced and discarded cheats. A-Rod will join his shamed peers and predecessors in some sporting purgatory, among the furious chants of duped fans and former players who will slam the trap door to his personal Hades,

His life is so swathed in irony that he’s devolved from character to caricature. He recently said we need to rid sports of PEDs, yet he took them for a decade, or decades. He spoke on behalf of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, knowing the young man committed suicide as a result of steroid abuse, knowing he himself was taking the same stuff.

The irony of this is that Rodriguez, by all accounts, just wants to be liked, yet did so much to make sure that never happened. He was supposed to be the white knight of a new era, yet he did so much to make sure that won’t happen. He signed another bloated contract to broach the billions, yet he did so much to make sure that won’t happen.

He is suspended, yet he will be in the lineup, another incongruity in a lifetime of contradictions.

Rodriguez wants to be back with his “brothers” on the diamond, knowing they aren’t his family, that his employer has a phalanx of lawyers brooding over every permutation to peel him off the payroll. He will be back and booed in New York, his home in name only. He has no home, no haven, no respite, only a voracious machine churning against him, the forest of his malfeasance, and a broken moral compass.

Maybe it’s better that he spends his first night on foreign soil, in Chicago, standing all alone on the hot corner, a place he will occupy until he dies.

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