The game is over now, and at least Alex Rodriguez can say he did not go down looking. He did not leave the bat on his shoulder. He raged against the case baseball made against him with such purpose, going all-in emotionally and financially, that he deserved to have some 9-year-old kid tell him, "Good job, good effort."
But trying wasn't enough for Rodriguez here, not even close. He had to find a way to win. And Saturday, when arbitrator Fredric Horowitz took 49 games off Rodriguez's 211-game suspension for the slugger's sins in the Biogenesis scandal, Rodriguez did not win.
He got destroyed. In fact, he was the first team eliminated on an NFL playoff day.
"It's a giant, giant victory for baseball," one source close to the situation said of the downsized, 2014-season and postseason ban. "To get a full season from a superstar player? Are you kidding me? Baseball only went for 211 because they knew there would probably be a reduction."
Remember the 50-game bans handed to the Biogenesis dirty dozen, the lower-profile cheats? Horowitz basically subtracted that entire sentence from A-Rod's penalty, and still benched him for nearly 100 games more than Ryan Braun.
Manny Ramirez got 100 for his own multiple performance-enhancing misdeeds. In a different sport for different offenses, violent offenses, Ron Artest (86 games) and Latrell Sprewell (68) got fewer games combined than A-Rod gets for a non-violent assault on his sport here.
"The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one," Rodriguez said in a statement. "This is one man's decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable.
"I have been clear that I did not use performance-enhancing drugs as alleged in the notice of discipline ... and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court."
Rodriguez will almost certainly lose that fight, too, as federal judges historically have little interest in hearing cases already settled in collectively bargained arbitration. A-Rod would likely have to prove Horowitz didn't have jurisdiction in this case, or that the process was corrupt. Good luck with that.
Horowitz's opinion in the ruling wasn't released, and ultimately Rodriguez might want to keep it that way. If A-Rod sues to overturn Horowitz's decision, a source with knowledge of the hearing said, "The opinion would be made public and it's going to be devastating for everyone to see."
Truth be told, as he was throwing his high-priced lawyers and everything else at Bud Selig and his lieutenants, A-Rod made a couple of fair points along the way. Selig should have testified in the hearing. Steroids became a plague on the commissioner's watch, and with Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds long gone, Rodriguez had become the face of that plague.