So, what does Alex Rodriguez do now?
He can fight.
He can duck.
He can pretend it never happened.
He can apologize.
Or, in the vernacular of the day, he can Clemens, he can McGwire, he can Bonds or he can Giambi.
The paths have been cleared. The big boys have wielded the machetes ahead of him and been stung by the unforeseen backlash. They've lawyered up and smiled smugly and, some of them presumably, gone on lying.
Their lives. They get to decide.
Now it's his turn.
As of Saturday evening, the day Rodriguez was identified by SI.com as a steroid user, there'd been no word from camp A-Rod.
When the headlines were screeching, "A-Roid," his Newport Beach, Calif., baseball agent, Scott Boras, was declining to comment.
When MLB.TV turned him into hours of nonstop programming, his New York flak, Richard Rubenstein, was returning neither emails nor phone calls.
The New York Yankees would not comment.
Baseball is "disturbed" by the allegations and its union simply won't say, other than to reaffirm it is "prohibited" from confirming or denying the veracity of Saturday's report, the one that said he won at least part of his first MVP award while swollen on methenolone.
This, right now, is where Alex Rodriguez's career turns. Not on the day he learned to hit a slider to right-center field. Not in the hours he worked his game and became among the greatest of his generation. Not on some silly man-crush on Derek Jeter or perceived clubhouse code-breaking by Joe Torre or after-hours crawling with Madonna. And not even on the vague accusations by an admitted steroids lout, Jose Canseco, who almost a year ago tried to lay this all out for us.
It turns here, and on what he does next, and whose course he follows.
All in recent days …
Roger Clemens became the subject of a Washington, D.C., grand jury, which soon could indict him on charges he lied to Congress. His life has become a wet tangle of dirty syringes and mouthy lawyers and attorneys' fees.
Fighting, thus far, does not seem to have worked.
Mark McGwire became the object of even more ridicule, once believed impossible, even as his Hall of Fame hopelessness sank to about one in five ballots. His estranged bodybuilding brother is shopping a proposal that says Mark's past, yes indeed, included plenty of steroids. On the bright side, he's working out this winter with Matt Holliday and Bobby Crosby, honing the minds and swings of tomorrow.
Ducking has not worked.
Barry Bonds pleaded not guilty for a third time Thursday in U.S. District Court to charges he lied to the BALCO grand jury. He may yet get off, but the damage to his career is massive, no matter the outcome. His home run record is viewed in most circles as suspicious, at best, and utterly fabricated, at worst.
Pretending is not working.
Jason Giambi just got another $5.25 million to play baseball. Hey! Oh, he'll be called before the Bonds grand jury, but it won't be about him. His MVP award is undeserved, and it's a fair bet that the Yankees feel taken because they'd intended to give that $120 million to the juiced guy, not the reformed juiced guy. But Giambi smiles a lot and keeps playing, and most fans appear to have forgiven him, even the fans in New York and Oakland.
Apologizing seems worth considering.
Rodriguez certainly has had the time to roll it around in his head, given that he has answered to these accusations in the past. It's fair to say now, perhaps, that rumors his name was on the list of positive survey tests have circulated for some time. He's been asked about it before. His agent has been asked about it before, and those are the kinds of conversations that tend to get back to a client.
A couple of years ago, he told "60 Minutes," "I've never felt overmatched on the baseball field. I've always been [in] a very strong, dominant position. And I felt that if I did my work as I've done since I was, you know, a rookie back in Seattle, I didn't have a problem competing at any level."
"So," he said about questions of steroids, "no."
The possibility exists that Sports Illustrated's sources were wrong. All four of them. And if that's the case, you'd hope the government agency holding those 104 names would discredit the report. A man's career is at stake here. More, his reputation.
Otherwise, all we have is A-Rod and his next move. His next step. All those years people have cried for the real Alexander Enmanuel Rodriguez? For the man to lower the facade and show the real him, to just be himself?
Now'd be the time.
It's his life. He gets to decide.