NEW YORK — Don't count on Alex Rodriguez giving up his Yankees pinstripes any time soon.
Vilified by fans for his poor performance in the playoffs. Pursued by Major League Baseball in yet another case involving performance-enhancing drugs. Called out by his employer for not behaving like a Yankee should.
A Lightning Rod for all the wrong reasons, none of the off-field distractions — and there have been plenty — have seemed to have had any effect on A-Rod in the past.
It shouldn't be any different this time.
As MLB ramps up its investigation into the Florida anti-aging clinic linked to the sale of performance-enhancing drugs to Rodriguez and more than a dozen major league players, the three-time AL MVP quietly rehabs his surgically repaired hip at the Yankees' minor league facility in Tampa, Fla., with plans to return in the second half of the season with "a lot of unfinished business."
Even as a solitary figure on a field in Florida, Rodriguez is a bother in the Bronx.
Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN he didn't think the 14-time All-Star third basemen could live up to his record $275 million, 10-year contract that runs through 2017. A day later managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner piled on, saying "there have no doubt been times when we've been disappointed in him and we've conveyed that to him and he understands that."
There's been plenty to be disappointed about.
After winning his second MVP and earning his fourth of seven All-Star nods with the Yankees in 2007, Rodriguez opted out of his contract during the World Series, rankling baseball executives. Two years later he admitted using steroids while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. He's also been investigated for participating in illegal poker games.
Rodriguez is as careless as Yankees captain Derek Jeter is discreet. A-Rod has been repeatedly splashed on the gossip pages with Madonna, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and Torrie Wilson. He caused a stir when he was seen with a stripper in Toronto and at a swingers' club in Dallas. For a magazine spread, he was photographed kissing his reflection in a full-length mirror — no one loves Alex more than Alex.
And that's just off the field.
Last October, he was benched in three of nine games and pinch-hit for in three others — after being removed from Game 1 of the AL championship series, he was caught flirting with fans in the stands. His next hit against a right-handed pitcher will be his first in 19 at-bats. He was 0 for 18 in the postseason against righties. With each of his outs, fans booed more loudly and were more decisively convinced that he was done as a player.
But there is no end with A-Rod.
And there's little the Yankees can do about it — and the remaining $104 million of Rodriguez's contract.
There was a time when Rodriguez was touted as the star who would restore credibility to the record book. Now MLB wants to throw the book at him.
And the Yankees might prefer it if he just goes away.
Even if MLB suspends Rodriguez for 50 or 100 games for his connection to Biogenesis of America and its founder Anthony Bosch, the Yankees can't use that to void his contract because of language in baseball's drug agreement.
Yankees ace CC Sabathia said he and his teammates are behind Rodriguez no matter what comes out of the investigation.
"There'll be nothing but love and support in here," he said.
But the drug agreement does allow for a team to void a contract if it is proven that a player's injury was a direct result of his use of performance enhancers.
The physician who performed Rodriguez's surgery in January, Dr. Bryan Kelly of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, debunked that theory. He said the condition, known as femoral acetabular impingement, was caused by genes, not by steroids.
"This is a developmental, genetic predisposition to a certain shape of the hip joint that occurs during the first 15 years of development," Kelly said. "Steroids don't change the shape of your bones, of your hip joint."
That leaves the Yankees in the position of hoping the soon-to-be 38-year-old Rodriguez will retire — a big money saver for the team — or can have a resurgence similar to the one he had in 2009, when he returned from his first hip surgery and nearly single-handedly led the team to its first World Series title since 2000.
Of course, that New York love-in for Rodriguez didn't last long. The following spring he was tied to Anthony Galea, the Canadian doctor who was indicted in part for illegal possession of human growth hormone with intent to distribute. The team made it known they never authorized Rodriguez to be treated by Galea.