A-Rod needs knocks, not notes

Alex Rodriguez took his case directly to the fans, and no, it was not quite as moving as Derek Jeter's Facebook farewell to the same crowd. Rodriguez said he accepts full responsibility for the mistakes that led to his season-long suspension, mistakes he declined to identify, and for the fact that many people will never again believe a single word he says.

"That's on me," was the way A-Rod put it in his handwritten note.

It was a cute touch, the handwritten part -- even Captain Jeter didn't think of that one when he announced his retirement through his social media forum of choice. Rodriguez realized he can't win in the media, so he decided against the Yankee Stadium news conference offered up by his employer and spoke directly to the beer-and-pretzel guys and gals who would be spending a little less on those beers and pretzels if the Yanks hadn't guaranteed $275 million to their hopelessly flawed slugger way back when.

On the very day the baron of Biogenesis, Anthony Bosch, was sentenced to four years in federal prison for providing performance-enhancing drugs to big leaguers including Rodriguez, and to high school athletes less than half his age, A-Rod said he was apologizing to MLB, the Yanks, the owning Steinbrenners, the players' union and the fans for, you know, being A-Rod all this time.

But here's the thing: Everyone knows who and what Alex Rodriguez is now. There's no mystery anymore. Even the die-hards who believed A-Rod was the victim of a conspiracy that Oliver Stone would've laughed off, and who carried signs calling Yankees president Randy Levine the devil, now see their guy exposed as a serial liar and cheat who thought he needed underground pharmacology to become one of the all-time greats.

Rodriguez is done fooling those around him. In his unfortunate 2009 news conference and PED confessional, he asked "the American people" to "judge me from this day forward." That judgment is in, and deep down Rodriguez knows there's nothing he can say to alter it. He knows fans assume he'll go back to the dark side if he finds an undetectable drug and a more creative chemist to supply it.

So how does Rodriguez navigate this final act of his infamous career? How does he make good on even a fraction of the $61 million his team is forced to pay him over the next three years?

Just hit the damn ball. Really, that's all he can do. Shock the world by being one of the game's more reliable designated hitters and leading the Yankees back to the postseason for the first time since 2012, when Joe Girardi was moved to pinch hit for A-Rod and ultimately bench him.

People forget how long it's been since Rodriguez was a force dynamic enough to make a pitcher sweat. He hasn't batted .290 or better since 2008. He hasn't driven in at least 65 runs or hit at least 20 homers since 2010.

If there used to be a time when A-Rod was worth all the trouble he caused, those days are in the distant past. He hasn't played since September 2013, he's working with two surgically repaired hips and he turns 40 in July. Chances are his athleticism is much like his credibility -- going, going, gone.

Some people in Yankeedom still wonder if Rodriguez can make it through spring training without suffering another significant injury. But then again, A-Rod wouldn't be the first beaten-down athlete at age 40 to suddenly perform at a high level. Brett Favre threw for 33 touchdowns and 4,202 yards in leading the 2009 Minnesota Vikings to within one wayward pass of the Super Bowl.

No, Rodriguez isn't going to have that kind of year. In fact, when asked Tuesday if he would sign up for a season of A-Rod batting .279 with 18 homers and 79 RBIs, someone who's been around the fallen star a long time said, "I'd be ecstatic with that."

The Yankees aren't ecstatic about Rodriguez's decision to go without a full-throttle news conference before this week's opening of spring training; they wanted to minimize distractions for the rest of their players, especially those who have never lived a day under the A-Rod carnival tent, including Jeter's replacement, Didi Gregorius. When the Yanks offered the Stadium for Rodriguez to say what he needed to say, it wasn't a small gesture. In 2013, after the Miami New Times linked A-Rod to Biogenesis, the team wouldn't even allow him to be interviewed in front of a hallway banner carrying the Yankee logo.

But Rodriguez knows how his 2009 presser went down, and he figures nothing good would come out of a repeat performance. He's right, too. So A-Rod chose to write to the fans after granting some interviews about his PED use and 2014 suspension to J.R. Moehringer for ESPN The Magazine, even suggesting to the author that Bosch might've given him a placebo instead of the real deal.

"Only a dope like me," Rodriguez told Moehringer, "would do that stuff and have the two worst statistical seasons of my career."

The dope shouldn't have doped -- they'll be saying that about Rodriguez every year he's kept out of the Hall of Fame, and he'll carry that regret to his grave. What's next? Now that he's done raging against all authority figures and competing against Lance Armstrong for the world record of bogus lawsuits threatened and filed, Rodriguez can settle down and confront the last great challenge of his career: live pitching.

If he can actually hit it, many will logically conclude Rodriguez has found himself another Bosch and another superhuman potion or pill.

And like he said in his letter, that's on him. A-Rod has nuked his own benefit of the doubt.

Apologies only matter if the offending party is sorry for something other than getting caught. In that context, Alex Rodriguez has only one genuine way of connecting with fans who want to win a whole lot more than they want to read his handwritten B.S.

See the ball. Hit the ball.

Hit the ball over the wall.