September 17, 2013

Steve Solloway: A-Rod's defensiveness leaves no one indifferent

By Steve Solloway

Hold on, America, Alex Rodriguez has the stay of execution you didn't want him to get. He can play for the New York Yankees while appealing the suspension Major League Baseball slapped on him Monday.

He has exited your personal dunk tank without ever splashing down. He's walked away from the public stocks in the village square.

You've waited years to condemn the biggest and richest example of baseball's steroid era, and now must wait longer.

Rodriguez is among the 13 ballplayers who were suspended Monday for their involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic in Florida, which dispensed performance-enhancing drugs to its clients.

The 12 others got slapped with 50-game suspensions beginning Monday. Guilty, they admitted in chorus, heading for their time off.

Wait a minute, said Rodriguez, who was in the Yankees lineup Monday night in Chicago, playing his first major league game this season after coming back from injury. He wants to plead his innocence. You and I aren't listening.

He is both the Babe Ruth and the Barry Bonds of our time. The home run hitter with prodigious talent. And the stink of performance-enhancing drugs.

A-Rod, the nickname turned expletive, admitted he used drugs as a much younger ballplayer, before Major League Baseball started testing. Baseball says he went back for more.

None of his fellow dopers see themselves as the biggest and brightest stars of baseball. Rodriguez does. He was a certain first-ballot selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now he's the most despised player in baseball, the man without a country.

Yankees fans didn't embrace him when he came from the Texas Rangers after the 2003 season to chase even bigger money on baseball's biggest stage, in New York. I discovered that in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.

The fans were coming to terms with their team's utter collapse. After the Yankees won the first three games of the best-of-seven series, the Boston Red Sox won the next three and were building their lead in the deciding Game 7 when I walked the concourse behind the field-level box seats, taking New York's pulse.

This was A-Rod's fault. He was selfish, I heard again and again. Not a true Yankee, the polar opposite of Derek Jeter, the team captain. The disgust was palpable that night.

Rodriguez was the highest-paid player in baseball. His first 10-year contract was for $252 million. He renegotiated a new 10-year deal worth $275 million.

All the money bought him lots of toys and playthings. It also bought him scorn. It bought the Yankees just one World Series title in the nine years Rodriguez has worn the pinstripes of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams and so many others who even Red Sox fans can respect.

Bonds, the accused steroid user, at least had the San Francisco Giants and their fans behind him when he chased Hank Aaron's career home run record. Bonds finally passed the former Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves slugger in 2006.

Four years earlier, a Super Bowl ad was created for a national investment company, showing Bonds taking batting practice in an empty stadium. A hushed voice comes out of the sky. "Barry Bonds, it's time. It's time to walk away. Why hang around to break an all-time home run record?"

Bonds steps back from the plate and yells: "Hank, will you cut it out already?" High in the stadium announcer's booth, Hank Aaron leans into the microphone. "Hank? Hank who?"

As much as I disliked Bonds, I laughed. There was humor in the spot. Humor hasn't touched Rodriguez for years.

(Continued on page 2)

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