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Monday, December 23, 2013
Moment No. 3: A-Rod back and banned

By Andrew Marchand

Over the next three days, Wally Matthews and I will name our top three most memorable Yankees moments of 2013. I'll have the first two, today and Tuesday, while Wally will unwrap the top moment on Christmas Day.

I remember chatting with Alex Rodriguez the day the baseball world changed. From our network to the rest of the media, there was whirlwind coverage of his 211-game drug suspension.

With his legacy in peril, what struck me in the road clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field was that A-Rod didn't seem to have a care in the world. In fact, he seemed to enjoy all the attention.

During the conversation, he was already painting himself as a victim, trying to curry martyr coverage while implying more people -- from teammates to athletes in other sports -- had his back.

While A-Rod soaked it in, his teammates watched with bemusement. A team accustomed to Hollywood-like attention had just been overcome by one controversial star. It came to a point that Vernon Wells and some others in the clubhouse took out their camera phones for prosperity to snap paparazzi-like shots of ... the media.

These scenes helped Aug. 5, 2013 -- the day A-Rod both returned from injury and was suspended -- end up as our third-most memorable Yankees moment of 2013.

Only A-Rod could be asked to say goodbye for 211 games and instead decide to say hello. Rodriguez had not played all year because of a second hip surgery.

He returned to the majors for the first time since his embarrassing 2012 postseason in which he kept striking out at the plate while attempting to score in the stands.

The game that August night in Chicago was melodramatic. A-Rod went 1-for-4. The Yankees were crushed by a spiraling White Sox team. And the fans weren't that venomous.

By that time, we had already seen so much -- from Brian Cashman telling A-Rod to shut up to Dr. Michael Gross' infamous assessment to A-Rod's conspiracy theories.

There were predictions that A-Rod would never play again, that he was trying to find an escape strategy so he did not have to return to the field. But there he was, old No. 13 in the middle of it all.

He basked in the attention. It was just another day at the park for A-Rod -- suspended for 211 games and returning for his first game of the year. It all made perfect sense.