A-Rod: A Liar And A Cheat

Eventually, the A-Rod circus will leave town. Eventually, the tragic clown that Alex Rodriguez has become will have to put down his bottle of seltzer water and wipe all that makeup and silly red lipstick off his face.

Eventually, he will have to go home.

With A-Rod penciled in to hit cleanup against in Chicago Monday night, that thought might be of no comfort to a Yankees management that would love to make Rodriguez and the $100 million left on his contract immediately disappear. With A-Rod sticking around indefinitely, probably for the rest of 2013 until arbitrator Fred Horowitz rules on his appeal, the thought might be of no comfort to fans sick and tired of steroid talk.

Yet when we cut through the irony that Derek Jeter — the man A-Rod wishes he was — went on the disabled list to make room for the return of A-Rod … when we cut through the irony of A-Rod getting hit with a 211-game suspension at a stadium across the street from where the Black Sox got lifetime bans for throwing the 1919 World Series … well, we can look at Bud Selig's failure to negotiate a settlement with Rodriguez in one optimistic way.

As uncomfortable as it as it to watch A-Rod as he fights the longest non-lifetime-ban suspension in baseball history, it does appear Selig did not so overstep his bounds that he jeopardized the relationship management and players have to eliminate the performance-enhancing drugs.

"I'm fighting for my life," A-Rod said. "If I don't defend myself, no one else will."

If Selig had tried to ban A-Rod for life or if he had invoked powers to try to eliminate an appeal process, he could have lost the players union that stands so much stronger against PEDs. He could have lost a union that walks on a higher moral plane than it did 10-15 years ago. In short, Selig could have made A-Rod a martyr, which would be a travesty.

"We agree with [A-Rod's] decision to fight his suspension," union boss Michael Weiner said. "We believe that the commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously."

Like it or not, it is Weiner's job to defend A-Rod. Certainly it is Weiner's right to complain about leaks of confidential information. What's more important here is that player after player in clubhouses around the major leagues no longer are looking for ways to trash drug testing and put up every obstacle to protect the cheaters. On the contrary, player after player has called for weeding out the PED users.

And that fight for the greater good is the one thing that should not — must not — be compromised by this fight over one of the greatest frauds in baseball history.

A-Rod is a liar. A-Rod is a cheat. The guy once seen as The Natural is so unnatural it makes your skin crawl.

In 2007, he sat there, in front of the national television cameras, and denied to Katie Couric that he ever used PEDs.

In 2009, he admitted that he did take PEDs, but only while playing for the Texas Rangers during a three-year period beginning in 2001.

After his celebrated mea culpa, Rodriguez spoke a number of times on behalf of the Taylor Hooton Foundation. He talked about the evils of PEDs in the memory of a young man who committed suicide as a result of steroid abuse. All the while, he stands accused of using PEDs. Just the other day, in fact, A-Rod called himself a role model. The man knows no shame.

And now, if Selig is correct, if the evidence uncovered by baseball's investigators is solid, not only was he using PEDs, he went so far as recruit other players to Biogenesis and to obstruct baseball's investigation with misleading statements and witness tampering.

In arbitration, A-Rod undoubtedly will attack the character of Biogenesis director Tony Bosch, who MLB itself called a drug dealer. Of course, none of the other 13 players, even Ryan Braun, challenged their Biogenesis-related suspensions. Like Jose Canseco, Bosch might be unsavory, but also might be telling the truth. Rodriguez, too, undoubtedly will try to go after the way Selig fiddled with the definition of first-time offender in giving him a whopping 211 games.

In a news conference in Trenton Friday that enraged both MLB and the Yankees, A-Rod talked about certain parties finding creative ways to try to cancel contracts. Monday, the Yankees called such allegations reckless and false and insisted they did not assist MLB in the direction of the investigation or fail to provide appropriate medical care for Rodriguez.

If the suspension stands, A-Rod will lose $34 million. He already has lost the respect of the American sporting public. He clearly wants his money. The arbitrator could lessen the suspension to, say, 150 games and he'd get some of the money back. He'll never get the respect back. None of his numbers have any integrity now. His Hall of Fame candidacy is up in smoke. He'll get a $6 million bonus if he hits 13 more home runs to reach Willie Mays' 660? That alone is enough to make you puke.

There is something different in the makeup of Alex Rodriguez, something beyond the extreme competitiveness of great athletes. Maybe it is in his insecurities, his inability to be comfortable in his own skin. He needed the biggest contract of all time, $252 million. He needed the attention. It's a narcotic for him. He's like a vain, stereotypical Hollywood actor in that sense.

Announce he was opting out of his contract during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series? Sending a baseball up to get the phone number of Australian models during the 2012 ALCS? Kate Hudson, Madonna, Cameron Diaz feeding him popcorn on national TV during the Super Bowl? Elliott Spitzer's madam claiming she plied A-Rod with hookers? Secret high-stakes poker games? It was always something.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus gazed into the pool at his reflection for so long that he changed into a flower. Who knows? Maybe that flower had magical powers, was ground up and used as a PED by the great narcissist named A-Rod.

Look, there always will be cheaters, small men and great frauds. The fight against PEDs will never end. Yet the majority of current players are on board to clean up the game and punish the abusers. There is nothing stronger than peer pressure in the clubhouse. It is a powerful deterrent.

Yet even if the honest players now hate that they can lose their job to a cheater, there's still the message that crime pays. Melky Cabrera, linked to Biogenesis, served his 50-game suspension and promptly signed a $16 million deal with the Blue Jays. Braun, cheated, lied, threw a poor specimen collector under the bus, yet even after his 65-game suspension, loses only $3 million of a $105 million contract.

That's where the work needs to be done, to more harshly punish the cheaters. There is a growing feeling that the players are willing adopt a tougher "two-strikes and you're out system." On other hand, the union has to be sure management will not frivolously void contracts. There's a lot of good faith involved, faith that shouldn't be lost on a fraud like Rodriguez.

A-Rod started his news conference dramatically Monday, explaining, "The last seven months have been a nightmare, probably the worst time of my life." He'd pause. Go on. He'd pause. Sometimes it seems as if there is no real Alex Rodriguez, just an actor named Alex Rodriguez playing the role of A-Rod. Asking in a number of different ways if he did PEDs, A-Rod added tap-dancing to his acting credits.

"We'll have a forum to discuss all of that," he said at one point.

The great tweet out there Monday was: A-Rod's playing third, hitting fourth and pleading the Fifth. Yet he did say one honest thing when asked if he'd be accepted by the Yankees.

"If I'm productive, I think they want me back," he said.

And with that the A-Rod circus returned to baseball, the man who was supposed to be the greatest home run hitter, the greatest player of all time, now no more than a charlatan.

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