BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
At one time Alex Rodriquez seemed destined to break baseball's career home run record.
Destiny took a detour Monday.
After days of waiting, baseball smacked Rodriquez with a 211-game suspension.
Naturally nothing can be that clean cut. The Associated Press is reporting that Rodriquez can appeal his suspension, and the appeal won't be heard until the winter. This gives the Yankees slugger the opportunity to finish the season.
Everything about this rings hollow and brings an even bigger blight to the sports of baseball.
Instead of a immediate shutdown like the other players involved in the scandal, Rodriquez will continue to play.
Now you've got the most storied franchise in baseball's history lugging around a pariah. There's a story about Shoeless Joe Jackson coming out of the courthouse during the Black Sox scandal and being confronted by a young child. The child turned to Jackson and said the words, “Say it ain't so, Joe.”
The current sports culture in America is a bit less naïve and exponentially more unforgiving than the one about a century ago. Yankee Stadium might be a slight safe haven for Rodriquez but just allow yourself to imagine the road-game environment. How would he not be mercilessly heckled? Signs, billboards, shouts from the grandstands. All of it will be aimed at A-Rod.
He's public enemy No. 1.
Many A-Rod haters have no doubt been waiting for a day like this. He's a polarizing superstar. Maybe not as loathed as Barry Bonds, but certainly not universally beloved. No small children will be begging for a denial like in Jackson's day.
He's already admitted to using performance-enhancing substances in the past. But we were all expected to believe that it was an isolated incident, the rash mistake of a youngster desperate to live up to a big contract.
For me, the small solace in this entire situation is that he will never break the career home run record. He's about 100 homers shy of the mark right now. Even if he plays the remainder of the year and then serves his suspension he's basically got no shot.
He hasn't played a fully healthy year in about a half decade, and there's no reason to expect him to rattle off 162 games at this rate in his late 30s. His home run rate has plunged as well. He didn't touch the 20 mark in either of the past two seasons.
Once on track to stroll past Bonds, his production can be only described as a stagger. That doesn't even take into account his bloated salary. He's still owed $96 million. That's a chunk that few teams beyond the Yankees can afford. Even before the talk of a lengthy ban, New York had to be facing questions about paying a huge sum to a rapidly declining player.
Maybe, if nothing else, this at least sends a message and begins baseball's separation from a dark era in the game's history.
Paul Hines is the sports editor at the Register-News.