By Ernie Palladino
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For all his faults — and there are many — uninteresting has never been part of Alex Rodriguez’s character.
There’s always something going on with him. Even two seasons removed from a PED suspension, in the midst of a relatively controversy-free training camp, A-Rod will still generate a stir.
It’s in his DNA.
Like him or not, he puts some pizzazz in the eggshell white that covers so much of spring baseball. Without him, fans would only have the humdrum rhythms of exhibition games to ride until April. Without him, they’d be left only to ponder such heavy subjects as Masahiro Tanaka’s status as an Opening Day starter after Wednesday’s cannonading by the Nationals, or the prospects of Mark Teixeira’s continued health, or whether Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury can stay healthy enough to spark up the top of the lineup.
All interesting stuff, but pretty basic.
Then the talk finally gets to A-Rod.
He’s dating who? The ex-wife of Google’s co-founder? What happened to the models and singers and actresses? Where the heck is Madonna?
Is he still using PED’s? He says no, though he has said that before. Is he telling the truth this time?
That’s the beauty of A-Rod. In addition to the 687 homers, he has always kept things interesting off the field.
The latest bit of news should keep people buzzing for a couple of years. Rodriguez told ESPN early Wednesday that he probably would bow out of baseball once his contract expires in 2017 at age 42. A few hours later, he in effect told the local media, “Well, we’ll see.”
There he goes again, good ol’ A-Rod reversing himself, keeping everybody on their toes.
“I never used PEDs. Okay, I used them once, but no more. Okay, you got me.”
Now it’s “I’m retiring. No, not necessarily.”
See, it’s never black or white with Rodriguez. Never has been. While he has splashed all sorts of color around his team, be it the angry reds that tainted his relationship with good friend Derek Jeter, the mournful purples of a shameful suspension, or the sunshine yellow of all those home runs, A-Rod has always shrouded his own life in ambiguous gray.
One just never knows what he’s going to do. Even after the big controversies, something will always pop up to feed his appetite for attention.
This time it was his immediate flip-flop on retirement. Of course, everyone on earth reserves the right to change his mind. If there’s any doubt about that, just listen to five minutes of Trump on the campaign trail. So it’s inconceivable that Rodriguez would be any different.
He could retire. He could exit a game he genuinely loves and head into a broadcast career he might just be great at. He could start the Hall of Fame clock and hope the glacial anti-cheater voting bloc thaws in time for a first-ballot entrance.
But a couple more good years could put him in range of Barry Bonds’ record of 762. He’d probably play cheap for any willing team to have a shot at that — a lot cheaper than the $21 million he’ll make these last two contract years.
Should he go?
Should he stay?
The discussion will be an interesting one. But then, that’s nothing new. Love him or hate him, Rodriguez has never been boring.
His public will miss that once A-Rod leaves for good, whenever that happens.
It’s what he does.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino