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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Taking a hard look at Alex Rodriguez’s tainted numbers

A cameraman composes his video as New York

A cameraman composes his video as New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez is honored before his final game as a player with the team, against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium in New York, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

If Friday night actually was Alex Rodriguez’s last major-league game, then the question of whether he will make it to the Hall of Fame won’t begin to be settled until his first appearance on the ballot.

Under the current rules, that will take place in December 2021 and the results will be announced in January 2022.

The voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have been wrestling with what to do with proven and suspected PED users since tainted players first started appearing on the ballot.

The writers have never voted in a player with proven ties to performance-enhancing drugs, such as a failed drug test.

The most prominent example is Rafael Palmeiro, who would have walked into the Hall with his career numbers (3,020 hits, 569 home runs).

Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in 2005 for failing a PED test. He was on the BBWAA ballot for four years and his highest vote percentage was 12.6 in 2012. Palmeiro fell off the ballot after getting only 4.4 percent in 2014.

The voters also have rejected all-time greats Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are overwhelmingly believed to have used PEDs. Neither player has ever admitted to the charges or failed a drug test. Testing with penalties was instituted in 2004. Bonds and Clemens ended their careers in 2007.

It will be against this backdrop that Rodriguez’s Hall worthiness will be judged.

Some voters who are not interested in weighing the moral questions of PED use will say stuff like, “Well, he would have been a Hall of Famer even if he didn’t use them.”

But how do you know exactly when a player did steroids and for how much of his career? How many of A-Rod’s 696 home runs and 3,115 hits can be clearly labeled as tainted?

The answer is 204 home runs and 838 hits.

Those totals come from what can be proved about A-Rod’s PED use.

What are our sources? One is A-Rod’s suspension in the Biogenesis case. The second are A-Rod’s own public admissions. The third is A-Rod’s reported testimony under oath to agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Let’s do away with the rumors and speculation and look at the facts as we know them:

*In 2009, Sports Illustrated reported that Rodriguez tested positive for testosterone and Primobolan during his 2003 American League MVP season. Rodriguez eventually admitted to using PEDs from 2001-03.

Rodriguez led the American League in home runs in all three of those seasons with 52, 57 and 47. That’s a total of 156. Throw ’em in the trash.

He also loses 569 hits, his 2003 AL MVP, three All-Star Game selections, three Silver Slugger awards and his only two Gold Gloves.

*In 2013, A-Rod was implicated in the Biogenesis scandal. After a long stretch of denying, suing and flat-out lying, he eventually admitted the charges were true. But what exactly did he admit to?

In public, nothing more specific than making “a mistake.” But when he was interviewed by federal DEA agents as part of the criminal investigation, Rodriguez admitted to using PEDs supplied by Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch from “late summer 2010 to October 2012,” according to the Miami Herald.

Bosch told “60 Minutes” he first met Rodriguez on July 31, 2010, four days before A-Rod hit his 600th home run. From Aug. 1 to the end of that season, Rodriguez hit 14 of his 30 home runs, including nine in September.

If you start penalizing Rodriguez from Aug. 1 until the end of the 2012 season, he loses 48 home runs, 269 hits and his All-Star selection in 2011.

So A-Rod’s “untainted” totals — at least as can be proved today — are 492 home runs, 2,277 hits, two MVP awards, 10 All-Star selections, one batting title, seven Silver Sluggers and one World Series ring.

A total of 2,277 hits would place Rodriguez between Gary Gaetti (2,280) and Tony Fernandez (2,276) for 147th place on the all-time list.

A total of 492 home runs would place Rodriguez between Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff (493 each) and Stan Musial and Willie Stargell (475 each) for 30th place on the all-time list.

If there are no further revelations . . . is that the resume of a Hall of Famer? A-Rod says it’s not up to him. The voters have to wait five years. But you can decide now.

A-Rod’s ‘untainted’ numbers

Alex Rodriguez has 696 home runs and 3,115 hits, but if you subtract numbers from his “tainted” seasons, here’s what his Hall of Fame resume would look like:

492 Home Runs

2,277 Hits

2 MVP Awards

10 All-Star Games

1 World Series

*Totals a result of what can be proved about A-Rod’s PED use, from his Biogenesis suspension, his own public admissions and his reported testimony to the DEA.

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