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Roger I. Abrams

Roger I. Abrams

Posted May 8, 2009 | 06:56 PM (EST)

The Return of the Prodigal Third Baseman


All Yankee fans have anticipated the return to the lineup of future Hall of Fame third baseman Alex Rodriquez. Although A-Rod was the first to take advantage of my proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission on performance enhancing drugs, there is some real question now whether he came clean - or even whether he ever became "clean." The media has been saturated with leaks of Selena Roberts' new book about his A-Rodship. Did Rodriquez use steroids in high school and continue to use them during his current tenure with the Yankees of New York? Are you bored yet with this stuff?

The Yankees can certainly use some fresh controversy. Where's Billy Martin when we need him? Babe Ruth, now there was a soap opera. Bigger than life, the Bambino took excess to excessive lengths. The current roster of Yankees is just a dull collection of overpaid players and dreadful relievers who win just about as many games as they lose. The return of the prodigal third baseman could bring them to life before another season is wasted.

The National Game needs at least one of the New York City franchises to win, and the Mets seem to be incapable of finishing the job over a full 162-game season. The Yankees were the consensus pick to win their division in the American League, and most observers had them prevailing in the league championship as well. A-Rod's hip surgery forced the Yankees to bring up to the Majors a rotating group of not-ready-for-prime-time infielders. A-Rod would have made a difference, because he plays extremely well -- at least before October.

Just when you thought you might get a respite from drug-related stories, the Manny Ramirez saga hits the front pages. Manny is a unique baseball player in so many ways. Gifted with great reflexes, powerful legs and splendid eye-hand coordination, Manny is one of the game's great natural hitters. He is also one of the game's great characters. His shenanigans in Boston led him to the bright lights and palm trees of Los Angeles, where he would feel simpatico with the LaLaLand culture. He was and is a dazzling entertainer.

Now Manny's run-in with a banned substance has changed the projectory of his career. The 50-day suspension he earned based on what he says was a doctor's prescribed medication jolts the image he cultivated with the Dodgers' faithful as a carefree, goofy, happy-go-lucky outfielder. While Manny was always Manny, that never connoted anything sinister. This changes the bidding.

Baseball's Steroid Era seems to be ending with a bang and not a whimper. Too many of the game's stars have been victims of the apparently irresistible impulse to take pharmaceutical shortcuts. It is impossible to understand how men who make their living based on how their bodies perform athletic feats of skill can knowingly ingest something that places all their successes at risk.

It would certainly be welcome if after Mr. Rodriquez gets back into the swing of things and Manny returns from the sin bin, we can begin to worry about baseball issues. Is Boston's Big Papi finally pooped? Can the Kansas City Royals and the Florida Marlins continue in first place through next week, next month, the All Star Break? Who is the next phenom to command the public's attention?

Even when we are finally back to thinking about baseball and not A-Rod's hip surgery or Manny's fertility drugs, the public scrutiny will continue. Good thing that Commissioner Selig, the trusted steward of game, is vigilant. That should put everyone at ease.