Nine more years. Nine long, bold-headlined years. That is how much longer the Yankees are contractually obligated to put up with always-something Alex Rodriguez. With his celebrity distractions, his need to be noticed, his clubhouse-integration issues, his Derek Jeter envy and, yes, his prime-time failures, newyorktimes reported.
Nine years, and now, it appears, without the authentic historic payoff that Hank Steinbrenner and the Yankees were so seduced by, they couldn't wait to sign A-Rod to a deal that would carry him well past his 40th birthday and could cost them $300 million.
Even after Rodriguez's agent Scott Boras pulled his shameless 2007 World Series stunt - claiming his man wanted out of New York before the Red Sox could pop a Champagne cork in Denver - the Yankees were ready to retie the knot the minute A-Rod picked up the telephone to say, Just kidding. He had Hank at hello, and soon after, it was till 2018 do they part because somewhere along the way, the Yankees would dress the next great baseball moment in pinstripes, delivering a clean-as-a-whistle home run champ.
A Yankee would be the one to strike Barry Bonds from the record book, wash away the testimonies and memories of Mark McGwire and all the other sultans of steroids.
And now, in the aftermath of the A-Fraud uproar from Joe Torre's book, on the eve of spring training, they have on their hands a report that originated Saturday morning on the Web site of Sports Illustrated linking A-Rod to a positive test for anabolic steroids in 2003, a 47-home run M.V.P. season. That was when baseball granted players immunity while it conducted survey testing with the hope that the number of cheats would be infinitesimal and that the whole sordid performance-enhancement problem would go away.
Instead, there was a list of 104 players who were sloppy enough to be caught or who didn't care enough if they were because the union geniuses guaranteed them that the results would be confidential forever, if not destroyed. Then came José Canseco's second book, the Balco revelations, a Congressional backlash and big-name hunting via government raids.
Based on the report, add another. Add A-Rod, who was held up as the hope and the heir 20 minutes after belief in Bonds was something that only partisans and the pathetically naïve could sustain.