An ugly, indelible past was enough to cope with. Now the future is defiled.
Alex Rodriguez is 33 years old, maybe nearing the end of his prime. But, still, in his prime and under contract for nine more years. In New York. For the Yankees. At the center of the baseball universe.
Twenty minutes from Bud Selig's office.
There is no more emotional or statistical escape, not even for the coming generation. If he serves out his contract – and why wouldn't he? – he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2022, when he'll get his McGwire share of the vote and, presumably, regret.
So, be angry. Be frustrated. Have a good cry, not for A-Rod, but for the game.
Go ahead, you'll have plenty of time to get over it.
What you have for the moment – and it looks like it'll have to do forever – is a pathetic half-admission, half-apology, all set against red-rimmed eyes. Believe what you'd like.
All those promises, he didn't mean. All those denials, he lied. The hard work, he short-cutted. The torch he purported to carry, he lacked the legs for.
Hit away, A-Rod. It's all empty now.
Even in his explanation, what he told ESPN on Monday, he hadn't the shoulders to bear the decisions he alone made.
Because, you know, it was the climate of the day.
"It was such a loosey-goosey era," he said.
It was the clubhouse.
"It was a different culture," he said.
It was all those really long words.
"I don't know what substance I was guilty of using," he said.
It was the contract.
"I felt a tremendous pressure to play, and play really well," he said.
It was, well, sort of legal at the time.
"I started experimenting with things that, today, are not legal … that, today, are not accepted," he said.
It was just so rampant.
"There were a lot of people doing a lot of different things," he said.
He says he was stupid. He says he is sorry. As he tells it, he walked into a clubhouse he'd share with Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Randy Velarde, Ken Caminiti and Ruben Sierra and – imagine – got "loosey-goosey."
What he wants you to believe is he had so little choice. It was more than he could fight off. The expectations were massive. He was simply a man of his era, no better or worse, sorry like the rest of them, sorry he got caught.
Turns out, we were so wrong about him. There's no way he'd have run down Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds, not clean, not without the crutch. Just as well we know now. And, damn, it certainly explains why Octobers were too big for him. Without the Primobolan, April 1, 2001 – Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays – was too big for him.
So, now he'll stand at third base and break in the new Yankee Stadium on April 16. He'll be abused. He'll stand at third base at Fenway Park a little more than a week later. They know him there, too.
You wonder if it defeats him.
He's done what he had to do publicly. He kept this from becoming a nine-year hunt, at least for those who'll believe he cheated for three seasons and three seasons only. He followed most closely the paths of Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte, who, in varying degrees, threw themselves on the mercy of the sport.
Now he'll pick up the bat and glove and try to play through it. Not for a few weeks. Not for an October. For nine years. Giambi, ultimately, was strong enough to weather it. Pettitte, people forgave, because he'd always been their Andy. So many others who apologized, eh, their games were so vague, their numbers so unremarkable, they fade away. A-Rod, no way. And you wonder if he'll ever be the same player.
Then again, his world has changed.
You know, the climate is different. The culture has changed. The contract, he's done before. The drugs aren't so rampant. Today, anymore, it'll be just so much easier to be A-Rod.
You know, now that he's not the future anymore.