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Happy ending unlikely for Alex Rodriguez

08/06/2013 6:12 PM ET
By Jack Curry

Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-4 in his season debut with the Yankees following the announcement of his 211-game suspension.(AP)
Alex Rodriguez had multiple opportunities to insist that he didn't use performance enhancing drugs and to say that his 211-game suspension from Major League Baseball for that alleged behavior was an outrage.

But he didn't. Rodriguez deflected those questions three different times.

Essentially, Rodriguez said he wasn't there to talk about the past. Sound familiar?

On a surreal day in the world of A-Rod, Rodriguez was suspended on Monday afternoon and then started at third base for the Yankees about five hours later. Since Rodriguez's lawyer has said he will appeal the suspension, Rodriguez can continue to play until a verdict is reached on his appeal. He can keep playing, but it's difficult for some observers to keep listening to him

As talented as Rodriguez has been in his career, he has often been the player who struggled to do or say the right thing. That routine continued on Monday as Rodriguez, whose actions created the mess that he is immersed in right now, talked about "fighting for my life." Coming from someone baseball investigators have described as a repeat cheater, those words were awkward and hollow.

Anything Rodriguez said on Monday could be used against him in the arbitration case. But, still, his refusal to say he hadn't used performance enhancers during what MLB called a period of "multiple years," was revealing. If Rodriguez could have absolved himself, he would have. But, again, he hustled away from the topic. Like Mark McGwire before Congress in 2005, Rodriguez didn't want to talk about the past.

If Rodriguez doesn't fight for himself and his career, he said that no one would fight for him. So what is A-Rod fighting for? It seems evident that Rodriguez isn't necessarily fighting the charges that he used performance enhancers. What Rodriguez is fighting for is to get the 211-game suspension reduced. While 12 other players accepted 50-game suspensions without attempting to appeal on Monday, A-Rod is fighting his heftier suspension.

In MLB's press release about Rodriguez's punishment, the league said it was for "use and possession of numerous prohibited performance-enhancing substances" and for attempting to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation. The reason Rodriguez's penalty was much harsher than the other players is because MLB is confident it has stronger evidence against him, evidence that A-Rod and his lawyer have seen.

Before and after Rodriguez went 1-for-4 during an 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday, he mentioned how he is 38 years old. Time isn't on Rodriguez's side. With a suspension of some length looming, perhaps Rodriguez viewed the rest of 2013 as his last, best chance to produce. If Rodriguez is suspended for 211 games or something close to that amount, it's reasonable to wonder how effective a player he would be after the suspension. Right now could be his final chance to do something decent.

Members of the Yankees' hierarchy have said that the team sorely needs Rodriguez's right-handed power. Without A-Rod, Yankee third basemen were hitting .215 with four homers, 32 RBIs and a .272 on-base percentage. If A-Rod has anything left, he could be a much better option for manager Joe Girardi.

Michael Weiner of the Players' Association has said the verdict in Rodriguez's appeal might not come until November or December.

At the end of Rodriguez's bizarre Monday, he was asked if things had gone as well as he could have expected. Rodriguez said there was no "well" in any of what he was experiencing and that he just hoped "there's a happy ending there somewhere." There will be an ending for A-Rod. That part is true. But a happy one seems improbable.

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