TORONTO -- Alex Rodriguez already won his comeback tour. After breaking the PED rules and acting dishonorably in his fight to skirt judgment, Rodriguez returned from his season-long timeout last year and was perceived as a pariah. You know the rest.
A-Rod hit so much and acted so contrite that he ended up the face of the World Series pregame show. All was basically forgiven. If his baseball life followed a tidy script, he would have ridden off into retirement.
But A-Rod's career is defined by a bunch of things, one of which is money -- a lot of money. Of course, he had two more years and $42 million to collect.
The New York Yankees entered this season over reliant on Rodriguez, which created a situation ripe for issues. Seeing as he only DHs and has hit .180 in his past 75 games, he should be, at most, a four- or five-day-a-week player.
The past two nights, he has been benched, and manager Joe Girardi was taking a wait-and-see approach to starting Rodriguez on Wednesday, which left us to wonder: Does Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez have a last act?
His manager, for one, seemed a bit unsure.
“If I don’t play him, then everyone thinks he is done, and I don’t necessarily think that,” Girardi said. “I still think that he can still be productive for us."
To borrow a little political jargon, Girardi will vote for A-Rod, but he won't endorse him. Girardi didn't feel compelled to even tell Rodriguez he wasn't playing for a second consecutive game.
"I don't feel the need to," Girardi said when asked if he spoke to A-Rod about his decision. "He's going to play. I looked at a matchup today."
A-Rod was 0-for-14 against Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ. None of the Yankees (24-27) can hit, as they scored just one run in a 4-1 loss to Toronto. They have scored only five runs in the past three games.
Besides the fact that he is one of the greatest baseball players ever, there is little evidence to suggest Rodriguez has a lot left, except his exceptional baseball IQ and incredible work ethic. Unfortunately, old age is undefeated and is even stronger with PEDs being a lesser force in the current game.
The Yankees have played better without A-Rod in the lineup. Although it might be coincidental, the Yankees are 9-15 with A-Rod playing and 15-12 without him. The fact that he has struck out in nine of his 16 at-bats, with one hit (granted, a home run), since he returned from the disabled list last week doesn't help his cause.
When high-level Yankees sources spoke about A-Rod's return prior to last season, after all the bitterness, they said his status would depend on if he hit. A-Rod did. He mashed the ball at a .278/18 HR/51 RBIs/.798 clip in the first half. There was talk of him being an All-Star.
Since then, though, the bat has been largely silent, and at least on Tuesday, so was Rodriguez's mouth. He did not make himself available to talk during the pregame player availability, and when a reporter approached him following batting practice, he shook his head and moved spritely for a 40-year-old with two bad hips.
It might not become as ugly between the Yankees and Rodriguez as it did during Biogenesis, but it could be uncomfortable. A-Rod is a prideful athlete. Although he has more public embarrassments than any other player at his level, he has been a star since he was a child. He is not used to being on the bench.
He is dealing with some extended failure, and once again, Girardi has to face up to the challenge. One of the hardest aspects of his job is managing an aging star.
Girardi noted that he got some practice the past few years with Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and others. Girardi showed some deference to Jeter, but will the Yankees -- especially with management having a long memory -- do the same for A-Rod? The fact that Girardi didn't feel the need to explain himself Tuesday might be a sign.
The Yankees opened up to Rodriguez after they reluctantly took him back because he hit. He was a huge reason the Yankees earned a wild-card spot last season.
He is also a big reason the fight this season is to stay out of the basement. At some point -- if there is no final act -- the Yankees might have to ask if a spot on the 25-man roster would be more wisely spent on someone else other than A-Rod.