A quick review of the good news decorating Major League Baseball’s winter landscape is enough to make your seamhead’s heart yearn for a day when we need no longer consider the twisting, twisted life of A-Roid Rodriguez.
I mean look at the wonderful things happening around baseball just this week.
First, the Chicago Cubs unveil their first official modern-era mascot, and somehow it’s not a stinkbug.
It’s a huggable Bear named Clark, as in, “you serious, Clark?”
Next, commissioner Bud “Bud” Selig says he’s really, really retiring this time, meaning early next year, and, perhaps best of all, he’s considering, according to the headline I saw, a 30-park farewell. You gotta be stoked for that, right?
Here’s hoping he starts in Yellowstone, hits South Park, North Park, Gorky Park, Palisades Park, and pretty much sticks to the back streets of the whole national park system as he frets off into the sunset.
Now despite having a 2014 calendar that looks remarkably uncluttered, A-Roid will probably be unable to accompany the commissioner on Bud’s Big Bye-Bye Tour, as that would require, at the minimum, the kind of ticklish negotiation it took to get the Eagles back out on tour.
A-Roid still plans to play for the New York Yankees in 2015, that being the far side of the unprecedented 162-game suspension (plus playoffs) an independent arbitrator slapped him with over the weekend.
The money quote there, which might never have come to public exhibit had A-Roid not leaped to sue baseball and his own union in federal court, was this:
“While the length of the suspension may be unprecedented for a MLB player,” arbitrator Fredric Horowitz wrote, “so is the misconduct he committed.”
That’s really all you need remember about Rodriguez, that of all the drug cheats who have torn at baseball’s soul for going on a quarter century now, no one in the view of this arbitration panel, not the Balco boys nor the Congressional dissemblers nor the serial buttocks injectors of Bash Brothers, Inc. nor even Manny Being (More Than) Manny, no one ever reached the depths of A-Roid’s misconduct.
Alex Rodriguez wanted to be best baseball player ever. Of that there is no doubt. He saw himself hitting 800 homers. One way or another. So let’s not misrepresent anything. He was the best.
The best at being the worst.
A-Roid is dead right that baseball was out to get him, much in the way that cops are out to get robbers.
That’s why, regardless of what your vision of Selig’s legacy on the PED issue or on anything else, you can’t have it both ways on PEDs. You can’t scream about baseball turning its back on drug use at the turn of the century, then scream about baseball investigating Rodriguez and 12 other drug cheats with the kind of robust aggression that led to A-Roid’s record-breaking suspension.
If Bud wants to do something to cement his legacy as baseball first and baddest narc, he’s got to push the union and the clubs to stop rewarding cheaters with no-risk contracts.
Melky Cabrera got whacked with a 50-game suspension in 2012, then got a two-year, $16 million contract from the Blue Jays for 2013. Bartolo Colon drew the 50-game punishment in 2012, then signed subsequent contracts with the A’s ($3 million) and the Mets ($20 million).
Message to young people: Cheating pays.
As Gabe Kapler of Fox Sports and Matt Meyers of ESPN.com pointed out over the weekend, teams are almost encouraged to sign aging PED users in the wake of the A-Roid suspension. If the player improves, through whatever means, the club benefits. If the player gets nailed again for juicing, the club benefits by clearing their salary off the books and pursuing other talent.
Bud’s last bit of arm-twisting on this should be that a club that loses a drug slug to suspension must write a check for his full salary to the home office, where the commissioner can use it for enforcement of the Joint Drug Agreement or for one of baseball’s many charity destinations.
That would let Bud go out in style just as A-Roid exits in disgrace. These are two men who truly loved baseball, but A-Roid loved himself way, way more.
He took $350 million from the game in salary alone and is still owed more than $60 million. Somehow that wasn’t enough. He wanted all the pub, all the money, all the women, all the cars, but especially he wanted to erect the grandest statistical architecture the game has ever seen.
And he wanted everyone to ignore the fact that he was cheating like hell to build it.
Sorry, baseball doesn’t do that anymore.
Good luck with that Hall of Fame thing.
Clark the Cubbie Bear has a better shot.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org.