It's about Bud Selig preserving how the history books will view the way he shepherded the Office of Commissioner during a tumultuous time in the game's history. It's about how the new-age cooperation of the players' union will be perceived, especially as beloved executive director Michael Weiner gamely battles through his final days with brain cancer.
And it's about Alex Rodriguez. Everything is about A-Rod, of course. His presence is always large, and so is his state of denial.
That's the way it always is with him.
There were 13 players suspended Monday by MLB for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, the defunct anti-aging clinic in suburban Miami accused of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs. Twelve players, including standout Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz and Detroit shortstop and former Buffalo Bisons star Jhonny Peralta, accepted a 50-game ban and did not appeal.
Rodriguez, the 38-year-old New York Yankees third baseman on a slow road back from hip surgery, is the only one appealing. No shock.
A-Rod got nailed for an eye-popping 211 games, the equivalent of the rest of this season and all of 2014, for repeated use of testosterone and human growth hormone. The most notable part of his ban was for what MLB said was his attempts to “cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation.”
By appealing, Rodriguez was able to make his season debut Monday night in Chicago. It was a surreal scene. Suspended at 2 p.m. Central time, taking the field for a game that began shortly after 7, at the plate by 7:35 to bloop a single to left in his first at-bat after getting greeted by a chorus of boos at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field. It was as bizarre as anything in recent baseball history.
During his pregame meeting with the media Monday, Rodriguez didn't say much. He talked plenty about “due process” and about making his case at a later time. Reporters gave him multiple chances to say he was not a PED user, and he did not take them up on it. Because he can't.
There were some dramatic pauses, and it looked like he was trying to induce a tear or two. It was sickening.
“The last seven months has been a nightmare, probably the worst time of my life for sure,” he said. “I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to put on this uniform again and to play Major League Baseball again.”
In 2009, Rodriguez admitted PED use while with Texas from 2001 to 2003, before testing began. He said he was clean and would stay clean, and even signed up to support the Taylor Hooten Foundation, a Texas organization named for a teenage steroid user who committed suicide.
The foundation unceremoniously dropped A-Rod on Monday afternoon. Good. He is a pariah, plain and simple.
At best, A-Rod is a parody. At worst, he is a flat-out habitual liar.
This is a guy who kissed his reflection in a mirror for a Details magazine shoot in 2009. A guy who one former fling alleged had a picture of a centaur hung above his bed – featuring A-Rod's torso and head.
This is a guy who has tried to step outside of baseball and be some sort of pseudo-celebrity. After all, he dated Madonna. I remember seeing another former A-Rod squeeze, actress Kate Hudson, prance through the bowels of Yankee Stadium during the 2009 World Series and enter the clubhouse during the clinching celebration like she was some sort of latter-day Marilyn Monroe looking for her Joe DiMaggio.
Selig, according to multiple reports, flipped his lid after A-Rod's presser following his injury rehab game Friday night in Trenton, N.J. His ire was raised because A-Rod went on the attack, saying MLB and the Yankees would be happy to get rid of the final $100 million left on his deal. “I think that's the pink elephant in the room,” Rodriguez said. “When all this stuff is going on in the background and people are finding creative ways to cancel your contract, that's concerning for present players, and I think it should be concerning for future players as well.”
That was the end of any negotiation. This is personal for Selig, much like it was 24 years ago for former Commissioner Bart Giamatti with Pete Rose. Selig clearly intends to win.
In addition to Biogenesis, let's not forget A-Rod was also involved in the caper with Anthony Galea, the Toronto doctor who entered a guilty plea in 2011 after bringing unapproved drugs, including HGH, into the United States to treat pro athletes.
Evidence in that case remains sealed in U.S. District Court in downtown Buffalo, where Galea's case was heard. If A-Rod's appeal falls on deaf ears and he files litigation to get a suspension dropped, multiple New York City outlets reported over the weekend that Selig & Co. would move to come here and get those records unsealed as part of its case.
So many days and nights of Yankees games I've covered where he was the center of attention, and not always in a good way (think the ALCS against Boston in 2004). And even other games where he was nowhere around. Such was the night in Denver in 2007 when news that he was opting out of his $252 million contract with the Yankees came out right during the middle of a Red Sox-Rockies World Series clinching game.
The Coors Field press box was abuzz, and you could see the steam coming out of the ears of MLB officials as they stormed around. The game's signature moment had been upstaged by its biggest me-first guy.
An appeal of this suspension is supposed to happen within 25 days, but there's some chatter it could take well into November. A-Rod thus could be back for the rest of the season. He needs only 13 home runs to push his career total to 660 and tie the legendary Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list.
Mays, of course, is in the Hall of Fame, which is a place A-Rod will never get into without buying a ticket. But what does A-Rod's contract call for when he gets to 660? A cool $6 million. Disgusting.
In this case, Selig has it right. The union, which is working in concert with the commissioner in unprecedented fashion, knows getting rid of PED must happen for the good of the game. As for A-Rod?
Again, it's all about him. Ridiculous.