Red Sox

An Open-Letter to Alex Rodriguez, Penmanship Specialist and Master of the Phony Apology

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Bravo, A-Rod. Bravo. This latest edition of your Dear-Suckers-Fans-I’m-Sorry-I’m-A-Slippery-Cheatin’-Weasel-Please-Love-Me apology was your best yet. Goes without saying that you’ve had a lot of practice.

And wow! The apology was handwritten! What a genuine touch, presuming you didn’t have a cousin/toadie do the whole thing with an autopen. Not that we’re accusing. Just, you know, there’s a history here that suggests authenticity isn’t always your thing.

Speaking of which, can’t wait to see what you come up with for your next apology.

Will you write “I’m Sorry I’m An Inept, Cartoon-Villain Fraud” 100 times on the chalkboard, Bart Simpson-style?

Maybe you’ll draw a picture of your favorite imaginary beast (other than yourself) with this message: “Centaur Sez Alex is Sorry!”

Or perhaps you will send out a letter written in Comic Sans that says “I’m Sorry I Took The Last Shreds of My Remaining Talents to South Beach For Chemical Enhancement?”

No offense, but your apologies have become almost as fun as your hapless crimes and resulting punishments. Which is why it pains us to tell you the truth: They aren’t necessary.

Stop apologizing for all of the stupid and shady stuff that you do. It’s a waste of time unless the point is merely to show off your mad cursive skills.

Nobody believed you the first time you — or your crack P.R. team, which has a winning percentage rivaling the ’62 Mets — felt the need — to apologize for something.

We don’t even remember when that might have been or what it was about, though the hunch is that it had something to do with tactless but true statements about your then-friend Derek Jeter.

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No one is going to believe you now, either. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this — your skull does seem to be thicker than any plaque in Monument Park — but it has become more evident than ever this week that the long-term perception of performance-enhancing drug users is largely dependent on one thing above all else:

How likable you are.

So yeah, you’re totally screwed there — even the vast majority of Yankees fans would prefer to see you in prison stripes rather than pinstripes, if only to get your calloused 40-year-old carcass out of the lineup and off their television screens once and for all.

Frankly, you should have figured that out a long time ago. But the closest you’ve ever come to Mensa was during that much-publicized walking tour of Harvard a few years back, and it does not seem like you were aware that being in Cambridge is not equal to being of Cambridge, and so here we are, explaining a simple concept once again.

Fans will never like you. Never. In your youth, you seemed like a smug natural who was above it all. Turned out you were a smug phony who kept sinking and slithering, lower and lower. The lack of sincerity is comic, the desperation to dodge true accountability pathetic.

And the catch is that it takes only a decent-sized dose of both to earn the fans back. The headlines this week confirmed that. While everyone was mocking you again, Jason Giambi retired from baseball at age 44, drawing such praise from his teammates and peers that you wondered whether they might throw him the parade he never got to have in New York. Giambi, who once looked like this…

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…appeared to gain huge benefits from chemical enhancement, won an MVP award in Oakland and a fat contract from the Yankees, got tangled up in the BALCO scandal, admitted PED use in 2007 and apologized profusely.

From that point on, there were no missteps. He’s stepping away from baseball for the time being, but when the day comes when he wants to return, he’ll have several suitors to sort through. Giambi was a hell of a hitter. He was even better at orchestrating redemption.

Then there is Andy Pettitte, who will be honored with a monument at Expensive Replica Yankee Stadium sometime this summer, eight years after his name showed up in the Mitchell Report. Pettitte, who acknowledged using HGH to recover from an elbow injury — which sounds more like a partial truth than a whole truth — essentially pulled his cap down over his eyes and got away scot-free after that. He was humble, seemed accountable, and never acted like a $*@(@#. And now he has the coveted True Yankee status.

That’s how you do it. For all of your chances through the years to get it right…

…you never did. Because you weren’t trying to get it right. You were trying to get away with it.

I get the sense from afar and through this medley of apologies that you may be in denial about this. Denial of the obvious is one of your few remaining tools. It’s going to be fascinating to see what becomes of you if reality ever sets in.

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You’re fifth all-time in home runs (654), 17th in baseball-reference’s version of WAR (116.2), and you have absolutely zero shot of getting into the Hall of Fame. It’s true. Even if Major League Baseball and the Hall finally work together to create guidelines for how to address players associated with PEDs, it’s not going to save you. There have been too many empty, pathetic, apologize/inject/get busted/apologize cycles.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and the other tainted superstars who have been defiant about their alleged PED use have allowed Hall of Fame voters to get on soap boxes of varying heights to keep them out of Cooperstown. But they have some hope of getting in someday, even if it is via the Expansion Era committee a decade from now.

We’ll know more then about who did what, and the magnitude of the PED culture will be clearer. David Ortiz is considered borderline now. By the time he’s eligible, I bet he’s considered as sure a bet as a big performance from Big Papi in October.

Time, hopefully, will allow us to recognize the utter lack of thoroughness of the Mitchell Report , which isolated a very small segment of players. Then there are the selective and agenda-addled revelations from the supposedly anonymous testing in 2003 in which four of 104 players who tested positive saw their names leaked: Manny Ramirez, Ortiz, Sammy Sosa, and you.

That wasn’t fair. The 100 unrevealed names on that list, should they have become known, would have changed the perception of so much. But, in a sense, they accomplished something you could not. They got away with it.

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And the notion of someone getting away with it is going to be hard to swallow for a great ballplayer who is shunned. I’ve always figured that it will be a player whose Hall of Fame case was destroyed by PEDs who will spill the beans on those already enshrined who were not clean.

We all know they exist. It will take someone who shared something more than a B-12 shot with one of them — another Jose Canseco — to reveal it, and then all hell will break loose. The hypocrisy of the whole process will be magnified to the point that it must change.

Wouldn’t it be something if that player were you? The ultimate hypocrite exposing the ultimate hypocrisy? It’ll take a few years beyond retirement for you to go full rat, though. Right now, you still seem to believe you have a reputation and a legacy to protect.

Now if you’ll excuse us, A-Rod, we’ve got to go write a thank-you note to Aaron Boone. Sure, he was once a nemesis. He made Tim Wakefield cry. But it’s been obvious for years now we owe him a salute.

If he hadn’t blown his knee out playing basketball in the winter of 2003, you probably would have ended up in Boston, and we’d have been the ones suffering through and pretending to justify your stupid apologies for the last decade. To us, you’re the truest Yankee of them all.

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