There used to be a time when New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was a top-notch performer on the baseball diamond. That was when he played for the Seattle Mariners -- and even his time as a Texas Ranger, which is when he apparently first used performance-enhancing drugs.
But, that time is now in the past, and Rodriguez is no more than an overpaid circus clown who puts on a show now and then. Whether it was dating Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson or Madonna -- Rodriguez could bring a smile to your face.
Then there was that time during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series that Rodriguez and his then agent, Scott Boras, leaked word that Rodriguez was opting out of the remaining three years and $81 million of his contract. That was on the original 10-year, $252 million deal the Yankees had taken over from the Rangers upon acquiring Rodriguez before the 2004 season. Both Boras and Rodriguez received negative blowback for their timing in disrupting the World Series.
After the World Series, Rodriguez insisted Boras finish up a new 10-year deal with the Yankees for $275 million. That deal was to take A-Rod through 2017, and also pay him an unusual bonus of up to $30 million based on his career home run totals -- if he tied Willie Mays', Babe Ruth's, Hank Aaron's or Barry Bonds' home run totals, he'd get $6 million each time, plus an additional $6 million if he surpassed Bonds' mark. If A-Rod had surpassed all of them, the $275 million contract could have risen to $305 million.
That aforementioned contract was to run past A-Rod's 42nd birthday. That's ambitious, but it led to a promotional windfall for the Yankees, as they retained a player people assumed would become the greatest home run hitter in the history of the game.
Keep in mind that when Rodriguez and Boras negotiated that monstrous extension, A-Rod was coming off of a 2007 season during which he hit 54 home runs and knocked in 156 runs. He was also coming off of his 10th consecutive season knocking in 100-plus runs (1,275 total).
It wasn't as if A-Rod's production immediately fell off the charts. In fact, his first three seasons under the new deal, he drove in 328 total runs, averaging 109 per season, and his average number of games played fell to 133.
Of course, it's the past three seasons that have been a disaster for Rodriguez. He played in 265 games total from 2011-13. His three-year home run and RBI totals have fallen as well -- 45 home runs and 128 RBIs.
After a 2009 admission that he had used PEDs from 2001-03 in Texas, Rodriguez became attached to the Biogenesis scandal and its founder, Anthony Bosch. This scandal has led to several 50-game suspensions without pay for players such as Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta, Phillies pitcher Antonio Bastardo and Padres infielder Everth Cabrera.
Two other players of note, A's pitcher Bartolo Colon and Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, had previously served 50-game suspensions for their role in Biogenesis, and were not suspended any further time.
Before MLB's battle with Rodriguez, these aforementioned names and one more big name, 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun, had accepted punishment without the actual use of a failed drug test. In Braun's case, he had successfully used the arbitration process. Rodriguez is bad-mouthing to beat a prior failed drug test, arguing that the sample used to incriminate him had not followed the exact protocol prescribed by MLB and the Players Association.
But as Braun's name showed up later on during the Biogenesis investigation, he accepted a 65-game penalty in midsummer 2013, and is now fully reinstated for the 2014 season.
That brings us back to the highest-profile case MLB has left, this arbitration hearing about Rodriguez's record 211-game suspension, Remember this factoid as you process A-Rod's latest tantrum/PR tour professing his total innocence of all the charges of PED use -- he was suspended that many games because, unlike other players, he has refused to say, "Yep, guilty as charged." With the evidence that MLB commissioner Bud Selig and other league officials have, Rodriguez could have negotiated a more palatable number of games for his suspension -- say 100-125.
Had he admitted his guilt and taken the 50 games in 2013, he'd more than likely have been able to return after the 2014 All-Star Game. But rather than admit his guilt, and have been forced to sit out all of the 2013 season plus the first half of 2014, Rodriguez probably needed to prove to himself that he could still play at a high level.
Remember, Rodriguez had a second hip surgery during the fall of 2012, and the player in Rodriguez's uniform during the 2012 season's second half and playoffs bore little resemblance to the player so many had admired for so long.
In fact, some of the biggest news about Rodriguez during those 2012 playoffs came between the strikeouts, when he successfully got the phone number of a woman in the stands.
Rodriguez's game is now in the glooming. The sun has pretty much set on the active playing career of one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Whether he ever gets back on the field really isn't the point.
Near the end of a player's career, he should be able to dictate how his legacy will be remembered. By making poor choices, Rodriguez sacrificed that power and ceded it to not just Selig, but the larger powers of the game.