David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City
For Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees, it's about to get real.
After months traveling through minor-league outposts such as Tampa, Charleston and finally Trenton, the A-Rod circus is coming to Chicago Monday. Brace yourselves. We've never seen anything quite like this.
Barry Bonds was the anti-hero of the early 2000s, but despite all of the PED accusations, the Giants' record-setting slugger was beloved in his own ballpark by the Bay. Rodriguez has never appeared to be more alone, operating in a solo universe, insulated from any realities that don't fit into that view.
And now that tornado (Rod-Nado?) is on the verge of spinning into U.S. Cellular Field, where the Yankees are doing all they can to stay afloat amid a growing deficit in the AL East. They have enough problems, and A-Rod -- even after all the weekend talk about missing "his brothers" in the clubhouse -- is about to become another one.
How could he not be? For those who may have been vacationing on the moon the past few days, let's get you up to date.
On Friday night, perhaps emboldened after hitting a spectacular 430-foot home run in Trenton, Rodriguez took some big hacks at the Yankees and Major League Baseball, suggesting in so many words that the two were acting as co-conspirators to keep him off the field.
Oh, and "cancel" his contract.
That's right. A-Rod, the alleged PED user, played the victim card, basically saying that Bud Selig and Hal Steinbrenner were in cahoots to rob him of his "livelihood'' and the remaining $100 million or so left on his contract, which, by the way, runs through 2017.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Better to focus on Monday, which is when, according to sources, Major League Baseball will suspend Rodriguez through the 2014 season -- only to have A-Rod bat cleanup for the Yankees roughly seven hours later.
It's a head-scratcher, but a bizarre wrinkle of all this is that MLB is essentially powerless to stop him. Rodriguez, according to a source, will appeal the suspension and be allowed to play, according to MLB's Joint Drug Agreement. Selig can't be happy about that, and neither are the Yankees, who give off the vibe that they would feel better losing without A-Rod around than winning with him. That's not the type of thing any player -- or team official, for that matter -- says publicly, but you don't need to bug the phone lines and conference rooms of Yankee Stadium to know how they truly feel.
Look at the events of the past few weeks as the relationship between A-Rod and the Yankees deteriorated seemingly beyond repair. The ugly process began picking up speed when general manager Brian Cashman, failing to check his rage, used an expletive-laced rant to essentially tell Rodriguez to, um, keep quiet about his rehab status.
Cashman apologized for his inappropriate behavior, but not to A-Rod, and he's been fuming about his rogue $275-million man ever since. Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse, Rodriguez went off the grid last week to get his own doctor, an unapproved orthopedist, to discredit the Yankees' physician by every possible means -- radio, TV and newspapers.
It was an act of insubordination rarely seen in professional sports anywhere, not just the media capital of the planet. But Rodriguez and his small squadron of lawyers have chosen to go scorched-earth policy on anyone who opposes him, never really considering the fallout.
One minute, A-Rod talks excitedly about joining the Yankees. The next, he bares his teeth at them. We understand the distinction between the players and the people running the franchise, but it's all the same organization, and he has been acting as though he doesn't trust anyone not wearing a uniform.
Can A-Rod survive in this environment, a hostile fishbowl of his own creation? "I don't think anyone has any idea how it's going to be," Andy Pettitte said.
Nope. After all the chatter, all the speculation, all the A-Rod "noise," as Cashman has referred to it, none of us knows for sure what's going to happen when he joins the Yankees.
But if A-Rod fights Monday's suspension, as he has said he will, we're about to find out.