Alex Rodriguez denied using performance-enhancing drugs before he admitted using them in 2009, a truth he would not want printed on the back of his bubble-gum card and one that naturally challenges the credibility of his latest denial.
A-Rod can slam his hands on a table, and curse a major league executive while storming out of his arbitration hearing, and call the fight over his 211-game ban an "abusive process" and a "farce" before finally denying PED use in the Biogenesis case on a New York radio station, and he still can't delete that troubling fact from the public record.
So the diminished New York Yankees slugger can go the Bob Arum route, here -- the "yesterday I was lying, today I was telling the truth" route -- and caveat emptor to those signing up for A-Rod's approach. But in laying out his objections to baseball's penal system Wednesday, first in a statement and then in an interview with WFAN, Rodriguez made one point that was hard to contest.
Bud Selig should've shown up to face him, under oath, in that hearing.
Selig's refusal to testify -- and arbitrator Fredric Horowitz's refusal to compel the commissioner to testify -- supposedly inspired Rodriguez to scream profanities at Selig's lieutenant, Rob Manfred, and to race out of the room faster than his surgically repaired hips allow him to get down the first-base line.
"I am disgusted with this abusive process, designed to ensure that the player fails," Rodriguez said in his statement. "I have sat through 10 days of testimony by felons and liars, sitting quietly through every minute, trying to respect the league and the process."
A-Rod called his punishment for alleged multiple violations of the sport's drug program and for alleged obstruction of baseball's investigation of Biogenesis "unprecedented and totally baseless." Rodriguez said Selig's no-show, and Horowitz's call to let Manfred pinch hit for the commissioner, drove him to the point of no return.
"The absurdity and injustice just became too much," A-Rod said in the statement. "I walked out and will not participate any further in this farce."
Selig did not return a call to his office; baseball put out its own statement that read this way:
"In the entire history of the Joint Drug Agreement, the Commissioner has not testified in a single case. Major League Baseball has the burden of proof in this matter. MLB selected Rob Manfred as its witness to explain the penalty imposed in this case.
"Mr. Rodriguez and the Players Association have no right to dictate how Baseball's case is to proceed any more than Baseball has the right to dictate how their case proceeds. Today's antics are an obvious attempt to justify Mr. Rodriguez's continuing refusal to testify under oath."
Baseball believes A-Rod's walk-off was indeed an elaborate setup, his way of jumping off a sinking ship. A source familiar with the case said baseball executives believe this high drama was proof positive the slugger knew he was getting blown out on the hearing's scoreboard.
But had Selig appeared before the arbitrator and Rodriguez's lawyers to answer questions about the investigation and some of the claims made about the conduct of those who gathered evidence, baseball would've looked better here and forced A-Rod's hand.
The third baseman would've been stripped of his exit strategy and been pressed to either testify or draw up some other Hail Mary in the dirt, like, maybe, walking out in the middle of Selig's testimony (a move that would've delivered A-Rod a far more devastating PR hit than the one he took Wednesday).
More importantly, Selig's presence and worry-free testimony about the purchase of stolen Biogenesis documents, in cash, would've served to close up the one (and only?) hole in baseball's case.
"But if Bud testified here," a source familiar with the case said, "he'd be called into every drug case that followed."
Never mind that the commissioner is nearing retirement, anyway. There's no drug case like this drug case, the one that left Rodriguez staring at the complete destruction of his career.
Baseball had evidence described by a source as "damning, mountainous and overwhelming" that A-Rod had used PEDs over three seasons in New York, PEDs supplied by Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch. So Selig, Manfred and friends dealt him a suspension that runs 146 games longer than Ryan Braun's did and 161 games longer than the other chemically enhanced cheats who didn't contest Bosch's evidence or the suspensions imposed.
Baseball should've offered Rodriguez a settlement of 150 games long ago -- 50 games for each tainted season -- and dropped the obstruction charges, even if A-Rod's lawyers had no intention of accepting anything beyond a sentence of 0-50 games, with a strong preference for zero.
But there would be no settlement, and no settlement turned into this bloody backroom fight. Randy Levine, Yankees president, showed up to take his punches, and Bud Selig should've done the same.
This case is too big, too explosive, too unique for baseball to allow for even a hint of suspicion that the commissioner might have something to hide. Rodriguez had been the one hiding -- refusing to say he'd never, ever used PEDs as a Yankee -- since his first post-suspension news conference in August, when he was asked if he denied the drug allegations made against him.
"I think we'll have a forum to discuss all of that," he said, "and we'll talk about it then."
He talked about fighting for his life that day, and he's saying the same kind of overly dramatic things now. He's fighting for his life, for his daughters and for that next fabulously gifted teenager who might end up caught between baseball's crock and a hard place.
It was all a bit too much, including A-Rod's claims in his WFAN interview that Selig hates New York, hates the third baseman and only wants A-Rod's scalp as "a big trophy" for the sake of his legacy.
But, after all this time, Rodriguez did finally deny that he used PEDs. Many observers, this one included, don't believe his denial, and that's not the point.
As Selig is the senior elder accusing Alex Rodriguez of being his sport's answer to Lance Armstrong, he should've shown up for A-Rod's last tour de farce.