Commentary

The greatest (cheat and liar) ever?

If the allegations against A-Rod are true, he should take his bat and go home

Updated: January 30, 2013, 10:11 AM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

If Alex Rodriguez's primary goal in life is to be remembered forever, well, congratulations are in order.

"His contract will go down as the worst in sports history," one baseball official said Tuesday.

Rodriguez has brought $275 million worth of pain and suffering to the New York Yankees, and then some. His chance to go down as the greatest of them all -- the greatest cheat and liar the game has known -- just improved dramatically with the new allegations of performance-enhancing drug use published in the Miami New Times.

Rodriguez denied the report in a statement through a PR firm that said he'd never been treated by the man (Anthony Bosch) who ran the anti-aging clinic named by the New Times, and that the "purported documents referenced in the story -- at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez -- are not legitimate."

Alex Rodriguez
Noah K. Murray/THE STAR-LEDGER/US PresswireA-Rod swore to the public, and the Yankees, that he stopped using PEDs in 2003.

A-Rod had better hope he's somehow a victim here, because if the allegations are true he should do what Lance Armstrong did: take his bike and go home.

It's what the Yankees want in the worst way, make no mistake about that. They want Rodriguez and his alleged chemical enablers past and present to disappear faster than any ball he has sent whistling over the outfield wall.

Much as the Yankees are hoping and praying Rodriguez someday approaches them with the offer of a buyout on the five years and $114 million remaining on his 10-year deal, Rodriguez isn't likely to cut them any break. Why would he? The Yankees were the ones foolish enough to give him that $275 million contract (plus $30 million in potential bonuses for what turned out to be a farce of a home run record chase), and Rodriguez is going to hold them to it.

Brian Cashman voted against the deal five years back, voted to punish Rodriguez for opting out of his existing deal despite the team's warnings. But Cashman's bosses inside the House of Steinbrenner voted the other way. They thought Rodriguez was needed to fill the new ballpark-to-be and draw the best possible ratings and ad revenue for a YES Network brand that leaned on baseball's ultimate reality show star.

Only there was Cashman in the spring of 2009, coming up with the money quote on the broken-down money machine that was A-Rod after the slugger confessed to using PEDs in Texas from 2001-2003. "This is Humpty-Dumpty," Cashman said then. "We've got to put him back together again. We've got to put him back on the wall."

If the New Times story is true, and if the reported records of the South Florida anti-aging clinic are accurate, and if Rodriguez did purchase HGH and other PEDs from that clinic between 2009 and 2012, no general manager or surgeon could piece the shattered third baseman back together again.

"It would be game, set, match for Alex," said one person closely monitoring the case.

Rodriguez would keep playing anyway, keep forcing the Yankees to pay him an ungodly wage after he recovers from his latest surgery and after he serves a potential suspension. His employers could try to void his deal on grounds that he signed it under false pretenses, that he perpetrated a pharmacological fraud on them, but it probably would be a lost cause.

The Yankees might be stuck with him for five more years that will feel like 50. Rodriguez had already devolved into a rapidly aging non-producer who couldn't stay healthy and/or effective enough at the plate for his manager, Joe Girardi, to keep him in the postseason lineup. At 37, A-Rod was a benchwarmer reduced to flirting with women in the stands.

He has officially retired the trophy on high-maintenance acts in the Bronx. Whether it was his banned cousin/supplier showing up at the team hotel, or his time spent with Anthony Galea, the Canadian doctor who would plead guilty to bringing HGH into the U.S., or his reported involvement in high-stakes poker games, Rodriguez always reminded the Yankees there was a price beyond his salary to pay for suiting up the sport's answer to Lindsay Lohan.

"I think I created a lot of that for myself," Rodriguez told me at his locker in the spring of 2011. "I had a lot of maturing to do, and I've done that. I think a lot of the noise around me was self-imposed … and I made it easier for you guys to write about me. But what I've done now is basically eliminated a lot of that stuff and just play baseball."

The narrative sounded plausible back then. In 2009, Rodriguez copped to the steroid use reported in Sports Illustrated, experienced an epiphany or three after undergoing career-threatening hip surgery, and listened as two men (longtime friend Gui Socarras and Yankees PR man Jason Zillo) shouted at him during an intervention at a Tampa diner. Rodriguez supposedly returned to the Yankees a new man, and exorcised his postseason ghosts and goblins by leading his team to a championship.

But if it's proved Rodriguez did buy PEDs from Biogenesis, the clinic the New Times describes as "the East Coast version of BALCO," his 2009 narrative will end up sounding as real as Manti Te'o's girlfriend.

"If this story is true," said the baseball official, "how is that performance [in 2009] real? Alex had struggled in the postseason in the past and all of a sudden he performed at a superhuman level in '09. How does that happen?"

Maybe Rodriguez will come up with new answers for baseball investigators, just as Lance Armstrong came up with new answers for Oprah Winfrey. Either way, this much is clear:

The same man who once upstaged the World Series by opting out of his contract has upstaged Super Bowl week by allegedly opting out of his responsibility as a clean athlete … again.

The Yankees aren't ready to comment on the specifics of this case, but there's nobody in the organization who would dispute the fact that Rodriguez now represents the worst investment they've made, 2009 title or no 2009 title. Carl Pavano for $40 million, A.J. Burnett for $82.5 million and Kei Igawa for $20 million have nothing on Rodriguez for $275 million.

Same goes for other people in other places. Mike Hampton for $121 million with the Rockies? Eddy Curry for $60 million with the Knicks? Albert Haynesworth for $100 million with the Redskins? Oliver Perez for $36 million with the Mets? Gilbert Arenas for $111 million with the Wizards?

In the end, Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez outplayed them all. He should take a victory lap around the bases for that.

Ian O'Connor

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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