Greg Cote

It is time for Alex Rodriguez to surrender

Give Alex Rodriguez this much, at least. He is up to the role of The Great Pretender. His life is on a fault line, shifting under him. His name disintegrates by degrees. His career runs away from him in scandal. But A-Rod prepared to step back into a batter’s box like business-as-usual Monday night, like everything wasn’t collapsing and the flames weren’t closing in.

Rodriguez earlier Monday had become the biggest star ever suspended by Major League Baseball for use of performance-enhancing drugs, a suspension set to commence Thursday and continue through the 2014 season, although he may continue to play until an appeal is heard. “I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal,” he said — like the Yankees aren’t enough of a traveling circus!

So his futile fight, A-Rod’s Last Gasp, has begun. It is hopeless. Even if he wins, he loses. There is no courage or nobility in this gambit, only blind desperation.

How sad that everybody can see that except the man himself.

Surrender, A-Rod.

Quit the pretense.

It is time.

You have lost.

If Rodriguez is fighting this to save his good name, it’s too late. Performance-enhancing drugs now tarnish that formerly good name for all time.

If he is fighting to save what’s left of his baseball life, well, he is 38 and coming off two hip surgeries. His career hour-glass was down to diminishing grains under the best of circumstances.

If he is fighting for his legacy, it is beyond his control now. Irretrievable. The kingdom that once seemed his destiny — Cooperstown — has changed its locks for men like him. He is not welcome anymore.

Maybe Rodriguez is appealing for a shorter suspension simply because of the money involved. That certainly would not be at odds with the character flaw that might lead someone to cheat in the first place.

A suspension that amounts to 211 games would cost A-Rod right around $32 million in lost salary. He’ll also lose a $6 million bonus if he fails to hit 13 more home runs and reach 660 for his career.

MLB suspended 12 other players en masse Monday for PEDs — the Dirty Dozen — stemming from dealings with the now-closed Biogenesis clinic in Coral Gables. They included Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz and Tigers All-Star Jhonny Peralta. All 12 accepted 50-game suspensions without appeal.

Then there was A-Rod, still full of ugly pride or obstinate denial.

Baseball suspended him later in the day for what could prove tantamount to a lifetime ban given his age, and commissioner Bud Selig was direct in the explaining, citing the player’s “use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years.” Rodriguez previously had admitted to steroid use earlier in his career. Selig also accuses A-Rod of obstruction and cover-up in the Biogenesis probe.

Monday would have been the perfect day for A-Rod to come clean, to finally be contrite and to admit his wrongdoing in the face of incriminating evidence.

Instead, he would delay the inevitable, impose his one-man carnival upon his team, and possibly even cause his own suspension to seep into the 2015 season.

Instead., the pretense continues.

Rodriguez is still playing the same card Ryan Braun tried 17 months ago, indignant at being accused, as if he were the victim. Is he delusional?

Braun last month accepted a 65-game suspension for PEDs, effectively admitting he had lied in earlier angrily proclaiming his innocence.

A-Rod now risks the same double jeopardy. It’s bad enough to cheat. It’s almost worse to then deny, and lie. You’re playing your fans for fools.

Disgraced Tour de France hero Lance Armstrong remains in denial to a large degree despite overwhelming evidence. That’s a hell of a purgatory to impose upon one’s self. Is that where A-Rod wants to be moving forward?

Guys like Braun and Rodriguez have the nerve to profess their love and respect for the very game they shamed by cheating it.

“I think we all agree that we want to get rid of PEDs,” Rodriguez had the gall to say Friday night — like he didn’t know he was about to have a hammer drop on him for PED use.

What guys like Braun and Rodriguez should be doing is publicly explaining themselves fully and asking their fans, teammates and opponents to forgive them. Not eventually. Not as a selling point to a future autobiography. NOW.

The mess A-Rod made for himself particularly hurts in South Florida because he is one of us. He is Miami. He was raised here and learned the sport here. He also sees his name on the University of Miami’s baseball stadium, thanks to a $3.9 million donation to renovate the place.

Alex Rodriguez Park, they call it.

I am not sure they should continue to, but maybe some of that should be up to A-Rod and what he does from here.

He has an opportunity now to be something he hasn’t been — honest. He has an opportunity to admit and explain mistakes, and to help others learn from them. He could become an influential and much-needed voice against PEDs, if he chose, and especially take the lead in dissuading high school ballplayers from going down that path.

If he adopted that role, he might begin to earn back some of the good name he lost and perhaps deserve to see his name continue gracing UM’s ballpark.

If not? If we never get honesty, contrition, advocacy or anything else to indicate this man cares enough to make amends, then his name should come off the park, and unceremoniously at that.

Related stories from Miami Herald