Baseball’s Alex Rodriguez’s suspension might dampen his future chances for election to the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire all compiled big numbers, too, but voters blocked them from Cooperstown because of the drug cloud. Though they lose part of their salaries, the stats and awards are safe for baseball players penalized in drug cases. Nothing is stripped from any record book or trophy case. That’s not always the case in other sports. Doping cost Lance Armstrong his seven Tour de France cycling titles and stripped away Olympic gold medals from sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones. –AP


Alex Rodriguez batting in 2007










But for A-Rod, it would have been a career ender.

For him to accept a 211-game ban without a fight would have been the equivalent of a lifetime ban.

Not only would it have cost him in excess of $30 million, it also would have cost him whatever remaining chance he might have had to play in the major leagues.

You tell me. What are the chances a guy heading into his 40th birthday — coming off the second of two major hip surgeries, and not having played in a major league game for more than two years — would be able to play at that level again?

Correct. Nonexistent.

In case you are wondering, A-Rod would not be able to play in another league, like say, Japan, while serving a suspension due to his contract with the Yankees.

But for now, A-Rod doesn’t have to deal with that scenario. He gets the last two months of this season to show us what he has left. Best-case scenario is he returns as a hero, the increased production at third base leading the Yankees into October, at which point, as he so rightly pointed out on Monday, all is forgiven.


Worst-case scenario is he can’t play very much anymore, which is bad for the Yankees but not necessarily for A-Rod; he still gets paid for this season, and perhaps even gets to live out what some conspiracy theorists have envisioned as his ultimate Evil Plan: to retire on a medical disability and collect his full paychecks the rest of the way.

None of this would have been possible if he had meekly taken his lumps and walked.

And by the time he gets in front of the arbitrator, who knows what might happen?

It is already acknowledged by both sides that just setting up A-Rod’s appeal is likely to take us beyond the end of the season. Aside from the scheduling problems — they need to coordinate a time convenient to the arbitrator, Fredric Horowitz, and ensure lawyers for MLB, the players’ association and Rodriguez can all be in the same room at the same time, as well as whatever witnesses will be called — there’s not a lawyer worth his hourly rate who can’t stall a hearing for two months.

And once they get to the hearing room, the burden now falls upon Bud Selig to show cause why Rodriguez, still technically a first-time offender under baseball’s drug policy, should be made to serve a suspension not only four times longer than that meted out to the other 12, but also four times longer than the stipulation for a first offense in the CBA.

My guess is that unless Selig can prove that Rodriguez was not only using PEDs, but trafficking them to other players, it’s going to be a tough case to make.

And the sad fact is, you can’t make an example out of a guy simply because you don’t like him. There’s no doubt that Selig has “a burr under his saddle,” as one baseball official put it to me, regarding PED users because of all the hits he has taken for looking the other way during the steroid-fueled McGwire-Sosa HR derby of 1998.

And it is no secret that the commissioner, and the Yankees’ front office, have had it up to here with A-Rod because of his refusal to do things the way they want.

That is in part their own fault — the guy has yet to pay a real penalty for any of his offenses since he began playing pro ball, and probably before that — and yet it’s still endlessly galling to them.

But you can’t just have disdain for a guy to run him out of a job. You’ve got to have proof.

And by fighting for his right to play, A-Rod now forces baseball to show its hand.

For that alone, you’ve got to credit him with another home run on Monday.

It may not move him any closer to Mays, and in the end, the entire gambit may ultimately fail.

But for now, it’s A-Rod 1, baseball coming to bat.




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