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This always was going to be about the money, you know. Some of Alex Rodriguez's associates like to tell stories about Alex and his money, how it's at the root of this whole mess he's in now, how all this talk about his love of baseball and desire to be a role model for his children is a smokescreen for the greed that consumes him. He's made $315 million playing baseball, and that's not enough.
Some of it vanished in real-estate deals gone bad. More of it disappeared as it tends to when entourages swell and ten grand here or a hundred grand there is like the rest of us tossing a couple bucks into the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas. A-Rod is still filthy rich, in no financial danger whatsoever, but that's not the point. He wants more. He always wants more.
In this case, he wants to salvage as much as he can of the $100 million or so remaining on his contract with the New York Yankees before Major League Baseball disciplines him for using performance-enhancing drugs, lying about it and a litany of other offenses. That – not this cockamamie burning desire to come back and play baseball – is the grand imperative of his haggling sessions with MLB, two associates of Rodriguez's told Yahoo! Sports. He wants to take his money, he wants to screw the Yankees because he feels like they ditched him and he wants to become a property mogul, buying and selling, wheeling and dealing, away from the sport that turned on him despite everything he did for it.
Such myopia is only one of the variables as Rodriguez goes into the biggest weekend of his professional life, one that will help determine the prism through which the public ultimately views his career. Already he has cemented his reputation as a cheater, a narcissist and a clown, all well-earned. If he chooses to keep fighting – calls Bud Selig's bluff of a lifetime ban, takes the route of lawsuits and appeals and mass chaos, and prolongs this foul state of affairs any further – he will fall into the same category as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and the rest of the players who rage, rage against the dying of the light, only to see it go darker than they could've imagined.
Considering the reams of material MLB has on Rodriguez, his posture is curious. He might as well walk into an arbitration hearing with a needle in his ass. Text messages, notes, witness testimony – baseball has the whole kit and caboodle, and Rodriguez knows that. He knows, too, that contrition is the best defense when it comes to PEDs. Problem is, he tried that the first time, and, well, that one didn't work out so great.
It's one reason Selig has turned into a 79-year-old mob boss: All of this makes him and his sport look bad. Selig is behind the lifetime ban. Not his attack-dog lawyers who have done a brilliant job ferreting out the truth behind baseball's lurid association with the Biogenesis clinic in south Florida that peddled the PEDs. Not the Yankees and their desire to wriggle out of the money they foolishly promised to A-Rod through his 42nd birthday. This is Selig's doing, and he's dangerously close to a precipice that no commissioner should approach.
If his threats to invoke a best-interests-of-baseball clause to suspend Rodriguez are more than a bargaining chip – if Selig truly believes Rodriguez deserves banishment for activities that, though egregious, aren't so much worse than others caught using PEDs – he is making a monumental mistake. Baseball's joint drug agreement is in place to discipline players. To step around that – to subvert due process – would be an insult to every player in the union and an act of labor war.
It's dangerous beyond that. The only way Rodriguez comes out of this with even a shred of sympathy is if Selig overreaches, and booting A-Rod from the game certainly would constitute that. It's such a disturbing threat that deep down, for the sake of reminding MLB that it does not unilaterally run this game, one hopes A-Rod appeals and shoves it to someone who got even more greedy than him.
Even if the chances of a lifetime ban holding up in front of an arbitrator are slim, Rodriguez is businessman enough to know that it likely would end up reduced to around what MLB would settle at these days – somewhere in the vicinity of 150 to 200 games – and that the risk of potentially forfeiting all $100 million is not worth the reward of a fight with an indeterminate ending. So we are left with a story that features two central characters, neither of whom could be called a protagonist: the suit trying to remedy his past blindness by overcompensating with the deft touch of a jackhammer and the ballplayer who sort of wants to play ball but really wants to grab his cash and run away from this inferno of fraud that he set ablaze.
Within the next 72 hours, Alex Rodriguez will make his choice to fight or surrender. For a while now, one person close to him has suggested that his decision-making skills are so bad that they oughta let ol' Mr. Murphy off the hook and make it A-Rod's Law: whatever can go wrong will go wrong. No matter what he chooses, the truth is it already has.
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Report: Alex Rodriguez plans to fight ban
• MLB Power Rankings: Pirates bucking trend
• Rival: Lifetime ban for A-Rod would give Yankees unfair advantage