For a long time, Alex Rodriguez has been singing in the key of C Minor when everyone around him sings in the key of C Major. He is so acutely focused on self that he doesn’t hear how distorted his voice sounds.
It is baffling how A-Rod can continue to live marooned on the island between his ears.
But insight is at hand, in New York, transpiring this week at Major League Baseball headquarters. There on Park Avenue, a crowd assembles daily to cheer Rodriguez as if he’s facing a full count at the plate. His supporters shake his hand and ask him to sign autographs on his way in and out of the arbitration hearing where he’s appealing his 211-game suspension for buying performance-enhancing drugs from the Biogenesis clinic in Coral Gables. They wear his Yankees jersey or T-shirts printed with No. 13. They hold up signs: “In the 90s Selig Was a Steroid Lover” and “Selective Enforcement” and “No Justice, No Peace.”
Rodriguez has inspired a protest movement. He is an athlete wronged by the powers that be, a pawn of the hypocrites, bravely standing up for his rights.
Alex Rodriguez: Victim.
You might think upon hearing the details of this scene that it could only take place in Miami, but it is happening in Manhattan, proof that the alternate universe inhabited by Rodriguez can be constructed anywhere he goes.
An organizer of the rally, Fernando Mateo, told the New York Daily News that Rodriguez’s suspension is excessive, that commissioner Bud Selig wants Rodriguez’s head as a “trophy” and that the Yankees are pushing for the ban so they don’t have to pay the $25 million Rodriguez is owed for next season or could invalidate the $86 million left on his contract.
“The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. … Don’t give him the death sentence,” Mateo told reporters. He was wearing a neck brace the day after filing a complaint with police about an MLB security guard who he said threw hot coffee on him.
It’s just as surreal inside the building, although we assume no one called to testify is wearing a neck brace. Rodriguez, 38, has hired an all-star team of lawyers to argue that he was misled by Biogenesis owner Anthony Bosch about the composition of the banned substances (perhaps borrowing Barry Bonds’ flaxseed oil defense or Roger Clemens’ vitamin B-12 defense). Or they might argue that he never really used them, or he never really bought them. They will try to discredit Bosch and baseball’s evidence and show that 211 games is unfair.
The team includes Joe Tacopina, a flashy New York attorney known for defending high-profile clients; Michael Attanasio, who helped Clemens beat perjury and obstruction charges, and David Cornwell, who helped Ryan Braun nullify a positive test on a urine collection technicality.
It comes down to this in a case pitting two dishonorable men: Which one is lying less?
Is it Miami’s Bosch, who passed himself off as a physician, and, behind the anti-aging clinic façade, allegedly sold illegal drugs — to teenagers as well as pro athletes? He’s being investigated by state and federal prosecutors and agreed to cooperate with baseball’s investigators — who have been trying to nail him since the 2009 Manny Ramirez probe — only after Selig promised to drop a lawsuit against him and indemnify him against future damages.
Or is it Miami’s Rodriguez, who passed himself off as a baseball hero? When confronted with a report in 2009, Rodriguez admitted he cheated with drugs earlier in his career. That tops the list of divisive and dumb things he has said and done, including his interference with baseball’s Biogenesis investigation and leaking of other players’ names, which he denies.
“I’m fighting for my life,” Rodriguez breathlessly said of his appeal, again sounding a false note.
A dozen players whose names appear in Bosch’s files accepted 50-game suspensions. Rodriguez, feeling that his grip on the Hall of Fame is down to the tip of one pinkie, is challenging his unprecedented punishment. He could argue that baseball’s bans are inconsistent. Braun lied on numerous occasions and made shameless accusations of anti-Semitism, but got docked only 65 games. Melky Cabrera tried to obstruct with his inane fake website ploy, but was docked only 50 games.
Selig, who was indifferent to doping when home runs sold tickets, now confronts similar spinelessness from teams. While the Giants kept Cabrera off their playoff roster last season even after he served his sentence, the Tigers are welcoming Jhonny Peralta back after his 50-game exile just in time for the postseason.
Olympic sports require a one-year ban for a first offense, lifetime ban for second. For all of baseball’s belated cleanup efforts, its enforcement remains half-hearted.
Rodriguez cries injustice. But his possible career-killing suspension doesn’t seem excessive if you figure 30 percent of it is for self-delusion. A-Rod is being used as an example because he has made himself such a perfect example. Effective anti-doping policy sends a loud warning: Don’t be a dope.