Alex Rodriguez's determination to fight his suspension is about more than the $100 million left on his Yankees contract. It's personal and it's about his reputation, experts said today.
Rodriguez said before tonight's game this evening in Chicago that he was returning to "prove to the Yankees and fans that I still have a shot to play the game at a high level. And I will do my best."
"I am fighting for my life," he said. "If I don't defend myself, no one will."
He added, "I am thrilled and humbled to put on this uniform again."
The former superstar was suspended today for 211 games, which would mean, if he loses his appeal, he would not be allowed to play the rest of this year and all of next year, a blow for a declining and increasingly injured player.
Rodriguez, 38, was the only player today to contest his suspension, although the 12 other players received milder disciplines of 50 games.
Although there is $100 million at risk in Rodriguez's punishment, he has already earned $187 million since signing with the Yankees according to an analysis of data on Spotrac, plus tens of millions more with the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners.
Despite the obvious wealth, he battled the league to return to the field tonight against the Chicago White Sox, even though he can expect boos for every time he swings and misses. The New York Post's front page showed a picture of Rodriquez's face today with the headline "Just Go."
In his first at bat Monday night, Rodriguez was roundly booed by Chicago White Sox fans before hitting a bloop single.
TJ Quinn, an investigative reporter with ESPN, told ABC News today that Rodriguez's "shot at the Hall of Fame is gone."
"His legacy is going to be shot. It was crumbling and today was just going to be one more blow and who knows if he can ever recover from it," Quinn said.
"He's going to fight for his reputation, for his money and for any chance he's got to stay in the field," he said.
Quinn said Rodriguez still has "his die hards. There are still the same people out there with the number 13 on their back and they will continue to support him to the end."
For Robert Tuchman, president of sports marketing company Goviva, the player's insistence on fighting his way back on to the field is to prove that "A-Rod isn't A-Fraud."
"It's completely about reputation and not so much about dollars," Tuchman said. "It's about trying to make sure he clears his name, which I don't think is possible at this point."
Rodriguez signed the two biggest contracts in baseball history -- $252 million with the Texas Rangers in 2000 and $275 million with the Yankees in 2007.
At least one Yankee expert believes Rodriguez is "someone who is so insulated from any kind of reality that I think he's almost similar to what's going on with Anthony Weiner. These are guys who are missing a shame gene," said Alex Belth, who blogs about the Yankees at Bronx Banter.
Weiner, a New York City mayoral candidate, has fallen hard in the polls and has refused to quit, despite being embroiled in a sexting scandal.
"I don't think I've ever seen a Yankee player so consistently disliked by Yankee fans," Belth said.
Belth said he expects the greeting A-Rod will receive at tonight's game to be especially brutal.
"I don't know if Rodriguez is an evil guy. He's just an incredibly narcissistic guy," Belth said. "He's a symbol of a time that [MLB commissioner] Bud Selig would like to move past."