BOSTON -- The way Major League Baseball is going about its business these days is almost bad enough to make you root for steroids.
It is almost ugly enough to make you feel sorry for Alex Rodriguez.
And it is certainly clumsy enough to make you believe that there is a good chance MLB could botch what should have been a slam-dunk case when it finally presents what it has to arbitrator Fredric Horowitz sometime this fall.
MLB's latest gambit, having Matt Lauer present Joe Tacopina, Rodriguez's attorney, with a waiver of the confidentiality agreement between baseball and A-Rod, was as obviously staged and sleazy as anything seen on "Big Brother" or "The Bachelorette."
No lawyer in his right mind would fall for such a move, and in a perfect world Tacopina would have rolled the piece of paper into a ball and flung it right back into Lauer's face.
My feeling is that would have drawn cheers, not jeers, from a public that I sense is beginning to see this for what it is becoming: a witch hunt. That is the level to which this sordid little reality show has sunk, and it leads me to only one conclusion: Major League Baseball, and the Yankees, better be squeaky clean in all of this.
Because both of those hallowed institutions now have a hell of a lot more to lose in this thing than Alex Rodriguez.
We already know that A-Rod has been a liar, an adulterer and more than likely, a serial performance-enhancing drug cheat. And no matter what baseball has on him in its thousands of pages of documentary evidence, it is highly unlikely it has anything that could damage his reputation more than it has already been damaged.
Really, what could baseball possibly tell us about Alex Rodriguez that we either don't already know or haven't already assumed?
But MLB and the Yankees are another story.
If in fact they have the goods on A-Rod, why can't they wait to present them in the proper forum, at a formal hearing before their designated arbitrator, Fredric Horowitz?
Why stoop to leaks to favored reporters and pliable TV newsreaders?
If their case is so strong, why do they feel the need to reveal it in daily dribs and drabs?
We already know Alex Rodriguez is guilty of something. He hasn't even bothered to deny his PED use. His sole focus seems to be the reduction of the unprecedented 211-game suspension, which for a player of his age and physical condition is the same as the death penalty for his career.
But what if, in fact, baseball and the Yankees are guilty of something as well?
What if it is true that baseball paid Anthony Bosch hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell its investigators what they wanted to hear? How different is that from A-Rod allegedly trying to pay Bosch not to talk?
They're both dirty tactics and should cancel out the weight of anything the drug dealer who masqueraded as a doctor should have to say.
And as for the Yankees, what if those private emails between A-Rod and Randy Levine aren't quite what the team claims they are? What if they do reveal, as A-Rod's side alleges, an unsavory or bullying side to the president of the most revered professional sports team on earth?
What if A-Rod's medical records do show that he was suffering from a hip injury during the playoffs last year? What if Dr. Bryan Kelly testifies under oath that Levine did in fact say to him, "I don't ever want to see [A-Rod] on the field again"?
None of that, of course, will have any effect on whether or not A-Rod violated baseball's Joint Drug Agreement with its players, or whether he should be punished for those violations.
But it could tear back the curtain on the way this business is still conducted, four decades after the game's onerous reserve clause was finally struck down.
Is it really worth it to baseball to expose its dark side in order to make an example out of Alex Rodriguez? Is it really worth it to the Yankees, a franchise worth more than $2 billion, to try to get out of paying him $86 million?
We know that lawyers bluster all the time. It is what they do for a living. But what if Rodriguez's side does have even a fraction of the evidence it claims to have against MLB and the Yankees?
That evidence likely will not exonerate A-Rod, and in reality, his exoneration is no longer possible. By his own actions, he is already tarnished beyond repair.
But for MLB and the Yankees, who are supposed to be the good guys here, the damage might only be beginning.