The final chapter of Major League Baseball's Biogenesis investigation is complete, and the two men at the center of the drama will move on to the next segment of their lives.
Commissioner Bud Selig will spend next week in Arizona, monitoring votes on expanded replay and home plate collisions and tending to other baseball business far from the cold of Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez will confer with his lawyers, public relations consultants and handlers and do whatever else it is that disgraced former Hall of Fame locks with cranky hips and albatross contracts do to occupy their time.
The immediate takeaway: Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz's decision to suspend Rodriguez for the 2014 season and postseason is an enormous victory for Selig and Major League Baseball. Feel free to buy into A-Rod's argument that MLB used questionable tactics and took some shortcuts in a single-minded quest to ruin his life. But the time and money invested in the process reflect a genuine commitment by MLB to address the PED problem -- no matter how many stars are tarnished or how much the game's short-term reputation is damaged.
Selig is set to retire in January 2015, and barring a successful (and desperate) legal challenge that puts Rodriguez back on the field, the commissioner can look forward to an A-Rod-free final year in office. That's a whole lot better than a rocking chair or an oil painting to hang above the fireplace.
It's only natural to view this story emotionally because of the stakes and the principals involved. Even in the best of times, Rodriguez invited skepticism and derision because of his insecurities and seeming lack of comfort in his superstar skin. Now, after 654 home runs, 2,939 hits, three MVP awards and 14 All-Star Games, he's 38 years old and a shell of his former self. There are no farewell tours in his future, no matter how many legal avenues he pursues.
Even a hard-core A-Rod apologist would have a hard time denying that he has lost all credibility -- with fans, the media, most of his fellow players and his employers in the Bronx. There's a fine line between soiling a Cooperstown-caliber career and generating snickers when you go out in public, and A-Rod has officially crossed over into Rafael Palmeiro territory.
While a dozen other players saw the cases assembled against them and accepted the punishments incurred through their involvement with Tony Bosch's Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in South Florida, Rodriguez remained a portrait in self-delusion. He opted for the slash-and-burn approach and lost. Yet even now he insists that he'll be at spring training in Tampa, Fla., in February, ready to go. He's like a cross between Lance Armstrong and Don Quixote.
Nevertheless, A-Rod did hit on something salient in his November interview with WFAN radio's Mike Francesa -- the one he gave after slamming desks and storming out upon learning that Selig wouldn't be called to testify against him in his grievance. Along with proclaiming that Selig "hates my guts" and insisting that he shouldn't have to serve "one inning" because he never, ever touched performance enhancers, A-Rod seemed to recognize that this story isn't entirely about what takes place in the here and now.
"It's about his legacy," Rodriguez said of Selig. "To put me on his big mantel on the way out, that's a hell of a trophy."