Alex Rodriguez is a walking identity crisis. He is perpetually looking for something new because he never has found himself. He is the Howard Hughes of baseball, rich and famous beyond belief and still searching, seeking, yearning.
Right now, he is dabbling in a new religion, dating 50-year-old Madonna after divorcing his wife and trying to reaffirm his status as the best baseball player in the world instead of a $300 million nightmare. And now, in the latest chapter of his early midlife autopsy, Rodriguez is planning on dissecting his heritage.
Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz told Yahoo! Sports on Thursday that Rodriguez plans to play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Rodriguez played for the United States last time around, though the decision, as is de rigueur with A-Rod, came with all sorts of consternation.
Before the inaugural WBC in 2006, he first leaned toward playing for the Dominican. Then he wouldn't dare choose between his native country (the United States) and his family's homeland (the Dominican). Eventually, he bowed to the wishes of Major League Baseball, which needed his star power for the U.S. team.
Whatever the current motive of Rodriguez's decision – to honor his family, to win the tournament or to rehabilitate an image tarnished like dull silver – it reeks of calculation, as do many of his actions. However brilliant Rodriguez looks on the field – and at his best, he is without peer – he continuously sports a dunce cap with his other antics. He gets caught by cameras with a stripper fling, disses Derek Jeter, apologizes and says he misses having sleepovers with the Yankees captain, opts out of his richest-ever contract during the World Series so he can get one even more lucrative, spends his money on apartment complexes that The New York Times exposes him running like a slumlord and, if that wasn't enough, dumps his wife for the world's biggest tabloid magnet and finds himself strewn in the pages of glossy magazines here and across the pond.
Rodriguez needs, like, a prayer. Because the confusion that consumes him isn't all self-induced.
He joined Seattle as an 18-year-old, thrust into the life of a ballplayer that is so different from reality. Adoration was a birthright, attention a drug, and it took a place like New York, where a person's true self is always exposed, to show that Rodriguez's actions weren't guided by narcissism or stupidity as much as immaturity and the indecision that accompanies it.
He is a kid, or at least his actions say he is, and Rodriguez is either acting out or on the path toward an adulthood filled with contentment and peace. If he is self-aware enough to understand that decisions about religion and marriage and ethnicity are not ones made willy-nilly – that all of these things comprise a person and should not be dictated by others – then he's well on his way to the latter.
Though everything points toward this being another in a long line of A-Rod decisions made for the wrong reason. He was born in New York, lived in Santo Domingo for about four years and moved to Miami as an 8-year-old. Even though the WBC allows a player whose family comes from a country to play for it, that rule exists primarily so teams such as Italy aren't filled with no-names.
Without A-Rod, the Dominican is loaded. That makes him look like even more of a carpetbagger.
Rehabilitating his public image at this point is like cleaning up the Exxon Valdez, so the best Rodriguez can hope for is little victories. Leading the Dominican to the WBC championship after it struggled as the favorite last time would help. And if he hits for the Dominican like he has for the Yankees in the postseason – well, it's tough to get beaten up much more than Rodriguez already has.
Before any of the public reconciliation starts, Rodriguez needs to start by figuring out himself. Never will he be Joe DiMaggio, the New York Yankee who handled his tabloid life with the world's most famous blonde with grace and style. A-Rod hasn't even officially confirmed he's dating Madonna and the whole thing is already a disaster.
The best he can hope for is to be Alex Rodriguez, the best baseball player in the world, who after years of looking found his identity and realized he no longer needed to search, seek, yearn.