The silence is his life sentence now. The silence and the raised eyebrows that go with it, that dogged suspicion that whatever Alex Rodriguez does on a baseball diamond, from now to forever, is as phony as Monopoly money.
In case you missed it, and you likely did, A-Rod hit his 661st career home run the other night, moving past Willie Mays into fourth on the alltime list. Think of it: In all the thunderous history of major league baseball, from the shadow of the Civil War to today, only three other players have hit more home runs. Their names are Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth.
Were it any other time or any other player, this would have been a stop-the-presses moment. ESPN would have broken into its programming for a live report. Someone would have gotten Mays and A-Rod together for a joint interview. It would have been quite the overkill deal, because overkill is what media does best now, and also because 661 home runs is, well, a hell of a lot of home runs.
No cut-ins. No joint interviews. None of the acknowledgment, outside the immediate environs of Yankee Stadium, that we've come to expect for baseball's milestone moments.
This is the price Rodriguez pays not just for turning himself into an artificially-enhanced cartoon character, but for lying about it repeatedly and with self-preservation aforethought. A-Rod has been about A-Rod for so long, and with such blithe disregard for everything and everyone around him, that now when it should be about A-Rod, it isn't. It is only about silence and the sound of backs turning, and whatever sound the aforementioned eternal suspicion makes.
There's been much chatter, for instance, about Rodriguez' blazing start this season in his comeback with the Yankees. The restored power. The rejuvenated bat speed. The seven home runs and 19 RBI in 28 games so far.
Why, it's as if he's discovered the fountain of youth, more than one radio yap has said.
To which I think, unavoidably: Yeah. I bet he's discovered a "fountain of youth."
This is not cynicism, mind you; it is simple deductive reasoning. If you've looked at Rodriguez so far this year and not thought he must have scored a new dealer, you've either not thought about him at all or not thought about him for very long.
And so I doubt seriously if I'm alone in my reaction. Yes, the silence is Alex Rodriguez' life sentence. But when someone inevitably gives voice to what we're all likely thinking right now, that will be his life sentence, too.
Indifference and suspicion, without possibility of parole.
Harsh. But fair.