Question of the day: Have we seen the last of A-Rod?


No, the real question now is whether A-Rod will be physically and psychologically equipped to play baseball when he’s determined fit enough to return in the middle of the year, when he’s 38, or later. If you believe the New Times story, his usage may border on addiction, a bad fit for a sport that now has this country’s most extensive drug-testing program. Would he even dare try to beat the system again? Could he?

If you believe the story -- and the New Times says it corroborated the drug ledger that allegedly mentions A-Rod 16 times in interviews with former employees and customers of the boarded-up Biogenesis clinic -- Rodriguez has been beating the system for years, doping throughout his Yankees years, right through the last season, his 18th in the big leagues, with nary a suspension.

While he’s offended us before -- and this would be the daddy of all first-time offenses -- even if proven true by MLB’s investigators technically it’s still only one official offense. A-Rod’s failed survey test in 2003 doesn’t count, and he got a pass on any possible link to Dr. Anthony Galea, a previous doctor of his linked to HGH.

So this may be it: 16 mentions in the ledger of Tony Bosch’s Miami anti-aging clinic tying A-Rod to HGH, testosterone and other performance enhancers. One entry is from February, 2009, the very month A-Rod emotionally admitted using PEDs from 2001-2003, but only then. Way back in the “loosy goosy’’ days in Texas, as he put it, when he was a naïve kid, as he also put it.

If you believe the new allegations, the truth is that he believed we were the naïve ones all along. And why shouldn’t he?

He got only a slap the last time, back in 2009, when his teammates joined him for that embarrassing press conference at spring training in Tampa where he admitted he slipped up back in ’01 to ’03. That was eight months before he was celebrated again, this time for leading the Yankees to their first World Series championship in nine years -- and his first ever -- by putting on one of the more impressive offensive slugging displays in October history.

Now it looks like it all could be a sham. The admission, the apology, the October power surge, all of it.

The Yankees might consider voiding the contract, sure, but it’s the longest of long shots. And it’s a long way from even a consideration. There’s been talk of voiding contracts before, years ago with Jason Giambi and back in ’09 with A-Rod. But no team has ever gotten to void a contract for drugs, and certainly not as a first punishment.

The Yankees might want to know whether the drugs he purchased were illegal. And maybe also whether he lied about his drug usage to his legit doctors who treated him for an assortment of injuries in his Yankees days, perhaps affecting or delaying his healing. They’ll want to know every last detail if they have a chance to finally hear the truth. But drugging and lying have never been used to void a baseball contract, and it’s hard to imagine they can be now.

The real chance the Yankees have to recover much of the $114 million he’s due depends on the possibility that his ability has simply expired. As one high-ranking baseball official, not with the Yankees, opined, “I believe this is the last we see of him.’’

Any prediction about his future is nothing more than mere speculation, of course. But between his age, his health, his pathetic 2012 finish and baseball’s toughened drug rules, you do have to wonder.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman didn’t rule out Rodriguez missing the entire 2013 season in an interview with WFAN in New York this week.  And that was very reasonably based only on the age and injury, not on the craziness to come. A-Rod already looked like the worst player on the field in his final few appearances in 2012. It’s easy to wonder whether a missed 2013 season and this latest drug episode, which could get ugly, might sap him of whatever strength he has left.

He’s a competitor and a worker to be sure. “He wants to be Alex. He wants to be the star,’’ said someone who knows him well.

But is it even possible? He is breaking apart physically. And mentally, who knows where he is?

The Yankees look at A-Rod, and see sunk costs. But if signing him to that record deal was far from their finest decision, the Yankees did have a moment of clarity at the time. Teams don’t insure a lot of position players but the Yankees wisely insured A-Rod’s record $275-million pact, and word is significant missed time could result in the Yankees recovering 80 percent of the bucks due A-Rod, provided the insurer doesn’t put up its own stink.

Retirement triggered by injury might not be the worst result for A-Rod or the Yankees. He could leave quietly (or as quietly as possible for him) and New York could pull off paying only one year out of five.

MLB was already pursuing the Miami drug scene, and while baseball’s investigators hit roadblocks at the wellness clinics, the New Times has laid out a road map for usage, with dates and times and pharmaceuticals listed next to Rodriguez, who was alternately referred to as “Alex Rodriguez,’’ “Alex Rod,’’ and “Cacique,’’ their nickname for him that means a pre-Columbian Caribbean chief, according to the New Times.

A-Rod’s cousin, Yuri Sucart, the one Rodriguez himself noted was his personal drug mule back in his ’09 spring press conference, also makes a cameo appearance on the ledger, a very bad sign for A-Rod, unless this logbook involves one of the cleverest fabricators ever. Sucart was long-ago banned by the Yankees but the ledger suggests he may remain at A-Rod’s side.

A-Rod issued a denial through his new high-powered Miami lawyer Roy Black, saying he was never advised by nor did business with Bosch and claiming the records published by the New Times are falsifications.

The exact wording on Rodriguez’s statement was that he “was not Mr. Bosch’s patient, was never treated by him and he was never advised by him.’’ Technically, A-Rod’s denial has to be right; since Bosch isn’t a medical doctor, A-Rod, as the story goes, would be a client or customer, not a patient. And no one said anything about advice.

A-Rod’s statement also claimed the documents that are purported to relate to him “are not legitimate.’’ This is something MLB will determine as it begins its own investigation.

Of course, after listening to years of denials by A-Rod, maybe we are just looking for the lie. The story and logbook look impressive. MLB will need real proof to act, and it doesn’t have it yet.

In light of the fact Rodriguez testified multiple times to the league, professing his innocence save for those three “loosy goosy’’ years in Texas, each and every time, MLB could try to press for a somewhat longer penalty than 50 games if baseball’s bigs are convinced the documents and witnesses prove the case against him. But while a slightly longer ban could be a consideration if he is deemed by baseball an inveterate liar, there is neither precedent nor reason MLB powers could justify a lifetime expulsion.

If the charges have merit, A-Rod’s legacy is shot, as Danny Knobler opined, the Hall of Fame a pipedream. And now his future on the field has to be considered very much in doubt. 

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