By Tommy Keeler Jr.
I'm not going to lie, it's a tough time to be a New York Yankees fan.
The Yankees are just really, really old, and because of that the players are constantly suffering injuries. They look more like a mash unit than a team. Then of course there's the whole situation with Alex Rodriguez.
I'm not sure I've ever been more torn as a fan of one of my teams. I couldn't believe my eyes as I watched Rodriguez, or A-Roid as I like to call him, step up to the plate in Yankee pinstripes.
Do you boo him? Do you cheer for him? He is wearing a Yankee uniform, after all. Instead, I just stood there motionless, not feeling much of anything as he stepped to the plate for the first time this season.
I've never liked Rodriguez, and my feelings certainly haven't changed. But if he got a big hit or won a big game for us I would cheer -- that's what you do as a fan. Does anything change because of his latest troubles? It's a question I've pondered all week.
For those that have lived under a rock for a while, or at least this week, Rodriguez was suspended by Major League Baseball on Monday for 211 games due to his involvement with the South Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis. He was one of 13 players suspended by the league for performance-enhancing drugs, but his suspension was the heaviest, because they said they had the most evidence against him and because he tried to tamper with the investigation. He appealed the suspension, and will now be allowed to play until an arbitrator hears the case, likely not until the offseason. That means Rodriguez will be playing for the Yankees for the rest of the season. A bad season just keeps getting worse.
Rodriguez was one of the walking wounded for the Yankees all season. He hadn't played for them all year due to a hip injury, which required surgery in the offseason. He hit a bloop single in his first at-bat on Monday, kind of fitting for the whole situation. A lucky hit for a lucky player. And surprisingly I'm not talking about the fact that he dates former World Wrestling Entertainment diva Torrie Wilson.
Rodriguez, like many of the other big names before him involved with PEDs, is lucky that he wasn't caught earlier in his career when the penalty could have been much more costly.
I know MLB commissioner Bud Selig is trying to act like these suspensions are a win for baseball, but they are not. They could be a step in the right direction, especially if the players are serious about stiffer penalties, but they are definitely not a win.
There's only one way to make a professional athlete suffer -- take away their money. The reality is A-Rod already has plenty of money. Certainly he would like more, and wants the Yankees to have to pay him as much of that ridiculous contract as possible. I'm sure Rodriguez is happy to be able to play again, even if the Yankees are terrible this season. I think most of all Rodriguez is happy because he knows he's already won.
I don't think he cares about going into the Hall of Fame, or making a ton of money at this point in his career. The reality is he's 38, and doesn't have much left in the tank anyway. I don't think he cares about what the fans think, because many of them never liked him anyway. Soon enough Rodriguez will retire (maybe somewhere with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Sammy Sosa). I would include Mark McGwire in that group, but he's still around as a hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Who knows? In a few years after he's retired, Rodriguez may show up as a hitting coach somewhere. Will he still be booed? Probably. Will he care? Probably not.
I'm not saying guys should be banned for life, but there needs to be a stiffer penalty to where the risk outweighs the reward. Most of the guys that are getting caught are past their prime, and have plenty of money already. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun is serving a 65-game suspension, but do you think he really cares? The way the Brewers are playing this season, he probably sent Selig a thank you card.
To me, it's guys like Baltimore's Chris Davis that the league should be looking at. I'm not saying he's using PEDs, but the way he hit home runs in the first half of the season, it makes you wonder. Why not make him take drug tests throughout the season, or other guys who suddenly seem to be doing much better? If they have nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind taking the test.
The reality is that until MLB gets tougher with the current guys and has stiffer penalties, it will continue to go on.
I have no doubt that at some point this season, Rodriguez will have some big game-winning hits and I'll be happy that we are finally getting some production at third base. At the end of the day, I root for the Yankees and I'll be the first to admit I typically don't care how wonderful and ethical people they are.
Still, it would be nice if baseball can clean up its act and then many fans won't have to go through the 'what do you do dilemma' that most all Yankees are going through right now.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org