Leading Off

Alex Rodriguez has become baseball’s leper

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez rounds first base on his solo home run during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Saturday, July 11, 2015.
New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez rounds first base on his solo home run during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Saturday, July 11, 2015. AP

Major League Baseball needs Alex Rodriguez.

It needs A-Rod so it can point its almighty finger in his direction and say, “That’s the bad guy.”

Careful, Little Leaguers, look and take pictures but don’t touch him. You don’t want to start using performance-enhancing drugs, lie to Katie Couric about your baseball sins and start dating Madonna.

You don’t want to be “the bad guy.”

But in the eyes of baseball and many of its fans, Rodriguez has spiraled from first-ballot Hall of Famer and baseball legend to a leper in pinstripes.

After a one-year suspension stemming from the Biogenesis scandal, A-Rod understood his return this season would come without fanfare. The Yankees didn’t send out the welcome wagon. They only made threats to withhold his $30 million in bonuses for milestone home runs.

So it’s no surprise that A-Rod, who is hitting .278 with 18 homers and 51 RBIs in a remarkable comeback season, is not in tonight’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati. Most 39-year-old veterans with 672 home runs, 2,020 RBIs and 3,020 hits would have been celebrated.

But baseball wants Rodriguez at its midsummer classic as much as it wants Pete Rose in a Reds uniform sitting in the National League dugout filling out a parlay slip.

Baseball wants to cast its shining light upon its rising stars, like the Giants’ Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford and the A’s Stephen Vogt, who played eight years in the minor leagues before his major-league dreams came true.

Nelson Cruz of the Mariners and Jhonny Peralta of the Cardinals will be in Cincinnati, even though both were suspended in 2013 for their involvement with Biogenesis.

But their sins somehow have been swept underneath the plate and forgiven by baseball. While Cruz and Peralta will be celebrated, as they should, Rodriguez will sit this one out – just as he did all of 2014.

There’s no room in Cincinnati for “the bad guy.”

Victor Contreras: 916-326-5527, @sacbeevictor

Playbook

  • WHAT TO WATCH: All-Star Game, National League vs. American League, 5 p.m., Ch. 40: The winning league gets World Series home-field advantage.
  • TWITTER CHATTER: “Maybe his secret is strength of character and determination to prevail against adversity. Those are the true traits of an All-Star, to be sure.” – Alex Beam, Boston Globe, @imalexbeamyrnot, on Rodriguez
  • ON THIS DATE: On July 14, 1985, the Baltimore Stars defeat the Oakland Invaders 28-24 for the United States Football League championship.
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