Alex Rodriguez is a chronic liar, an admitted PED user and a celebrity whose love of money, records and fame is exceeded only by his paradoxical lack of self-confidence and the pathological behaviors it inspired.
But of all the things Rodriguez lost Saturday when an arbitrator suspended the New York Yankees' 38-year-old third baseman for the 2014 season, what will level A-Rod the most is this: He won't have the simple right to jog out every day from March to October and play the game.
His love of baseball is the most genuine thing about him, his one public posture that is definitely not a lie.
None of that makes Rodriguez a sympathetic figure. But it does explain a few things, such as why every other player caught up in the Biogenesis scandal quickly took his punishment and moved on. Rodriguez alone chose to battle Bud Selig and the MLB establishment.
"I'm fighting here for my baseball life," Rodriguez has repeatedly said -- a lament he's sure to revive if he keeps his promise to continue his quixotic fight into federal court, even though most legal analysts give him a slim-to-none chance to succeed.
In a statement released Saturday after arbitrator Frederic Horowitz announced his ruling, Rodriguez threatened to show up for spring training next month, which has left the Yankees unsure of how to proceed.
"I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship," he said.
But Rodriguez used to routinely evoke his love of the game in less momentous situations. I'm thinking in particular of a conversation we had two seasons ago. Rodriguez and I had been sitting in the Yankees' dugout before a game, just talking for about 20 minutes during batting practice, and the topic that unexpectedly most animated him was not reliving the home run he had hit two Fridays earlier to move into fifth place on baseball's all-time list. It was not the buzz over Robinson Cano replacing him in the cleanup spot in the Yanks' batting order that night.
No, the long and passionate tangent that Rodriguez embarked on was about why he missed talking baseball like he used to after he hit the big leagues as an 18-year-old phenom in 1994.
Al Leiter, a former teammate and now part-time Yankees broadcaster, provoked the nostalgia, approaching A-Rod with a question about a 2-1 pitch in sixth inning the day before. Back and forth they went, two baseball nuts debating all the permutations for 15 spirited minutes.
"You can go six years without a question like that now. I really miss that," Rodriguez said with a sigh. "When I came up, it was always like that -- 6, 7, 8, 10 guys just having a drink after the game, icing their knees, just talking shop for two hours. And now it's just like there's no baseball talk now. Which is not bad. It's just the way the game is now. The culture has changed.