Regardless of how many games Alex Rodriguez gets suspended for, the only real victim is Alex Rodriguez.
Fans of the New York Yankees are already done with the superstar being linked to the now-closed Miami clinic that provided performance-enhancing drugs to professional baseball players. It is hard to imagine the chorus of boos that greeted Rodriguez when he stepped into the batter's box at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on Monday night would have been much different had the game been in Yankee Stadium.
While he was back in the Yankee line-up Monday, Rodriguez has already lost in the court of public opinion. His ongoing war of words with the Yankees has made him in unwanted man in the Big Apple - and everywhere else in baseball.
Rodriguez is the only one of 13 professional ballplayers to appeal his suspension. Major League Baseball came down hard on Rodriquez, banning him for 211 games. Rodriquez being Rodriguez is fighting the ban, feeling he is being singled out because of his name recognition.
Sure, A-Rod will take a financial hit if he is banned from baseball for the rest of this season and all of 2014. He could lose as much as $35 million, but how much does that really hurt someone who has earned an estimated $350 million thus far?
It would be nice if the Yankees were pro-active in this and benched Rodriquez until his appeal is ruled upon, but the Yankees being the Yankees won't do that. They will let Rodriguez play and perform in the hopes that he will go on an A-Rod-like tear and get them back in contention for a wild card berth. They could take the high road like the New England Patriots did with murder suspect Aaron Hernandez, releasing him even before formal charges were filed against him. Benching Rodriguez would be the right move, sending the message that "we as an organization won't condone cheating." But for a team with a moral compass just north of the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Raiders, don't look for the Yankees to go anywhere near that high road.
Major League Baseball can pound its chest all it wants and say it is cleaning up the game. But until it makes teams pay, teams will turn a blind eye and let the individual pay the consequences.
Rodriguez had earlier admitted that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03 while part of the Texas Rangers. It is hard to imagine that the huge contract that the Yankees gave Rodriguez in 2004 caused him to go clean right then and there.
If any of the evidence shows that Rodriguez took performance enhancing drugs as a member of the New York Yankees, then take away the Yankees' 2009 World Championship. It is time to bring an NCAA mentality to the issue. Punish the team, not just the individual. While the stripping of USC's 2004 national championship rang a little hollow, especially because it came seven years after the fact, the stripping of baseball championships will carry weight with an organization and its fans - even if it comes years after the fact. It may take time to strip away the titles, but take them away nonetheless. Let it be known that teams, not just individuals, will pay.
Were any of Rodriguez's 30 homers in the Yankees' 2009 title run performance enhanced? If it is proven so, then take away their title. Were any of Ryan Braun's 33 homers in 2011 performance enhanced? Then take away the Brewers' National League Central crown for 2011. Start hitting teams, not just individuals, in the pocketbook
Plus, what long-suffering Mets fan would not take joy in seeing a Yankee title stripped away. The same holds true for Chicago baseball fans, although it is hard right now to imagine either the Cubs or White Sox winning a title this decade. Same for the Bay area. Ohio. Etc. Etc.
Take away a Major League Baseball team's titles and it takes away the team's marketing, endorsements and swagger. It is time for team to pay, not just individuals.