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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

How Alex Rodriguez revived his career with Yankees against all odds

Alex Rodriguez met with members of the media at spring training for the first time, on Feb. 25, 2016 in Tampa, Florida, and talked about how the Yankees can win it all and how he hopes to mentor some of the younger players this season. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A Ferrara)

TAMPA, Fla.

Bill Clinton. Robert Downey Jr. And maybe the granddaddy of them all, Donald Trump.

When it comes to resurrecting careers, Alex Rodriguez belongs near the top of that list.

A-Rod didn’t merely come back from the most severe PED suspension in baseball history last season, he created the template for it, a step-by-step instructional manual on how to win friends and influence people — many of whom were members of the Yankees’ organization who would have preferred that he never wear the pinstripes again.

Few of us, if any, saw that coming a year ago when A-Rod stood on a sidewalk outside the Himes minor-league facility for his first news conference. The Yankees didn’t even let him inside Steinbrenner Field for the occasion.

But on Thursday, Rodriguez was back in the building, sitting in front of a microphone, with a Yankees PR official directing traffic. Even A-Rod gets a Second Act, but only after conducting himself in nearly flawless fashion last season. The 33 homers, of course, didn’t hurt.

Despite all that, he still was smart enough Thursday to stay on the narrow path of contrition. Knowing we’re a society that loves apologies, to see the fallen rise from the ashes after burning them to the ground, A-Rod wasn’t about to claim victory over his PED-tainted past. He may have arrived with less baggage this February, but he is fully aware that he’s going to be carrying the weight of Biogenesis for the rest of his career and beyond.

“Look, I’ve made some big mistakes,” he said. “And that’s never going to go away. I think last year I made some great progress, both on and off the field. But I’m at first base. I have a long ways to go. And my life is not about just baseball. I have the next — hopefully — 40 years to be a father, to be a friend and to be an example for my girls. But I have a lot more work to do.”

He already has carved out the trail. He somehow won the respect of commissioner Rob Manfred, the same person who passionately served as Bud Selig’s chief prosecutor in the Biogenesis investigation. Even the Yankees felt compelled to forgive him after he sued their medical staff and blasted the front office through his legal team. What started as an ill-advised scorched-earth policy has become a field of dreams for A-Rod, who’s shown us that no hole is too deep to dig out from.

That’s got to be an encouraging sign for Aroldis Chapman, who is awaiting a likely suspension for domestic-violence allegations. While Rodriguez was following his script in the conference room, Chapman was absent from camp for the second time in four days, again for what the team called “personal reasons.” Manfred is expected to render a decision shortly on Chapman, and whatever it turns out to be, his reputation is going to need some repairing.

“I would say for one, focus on your job on the field,” Rod riguez said. “It starts there. Two, focus on building great relationships in the locker room. The clubhouse is very important, to have players to lean on. And I think No. 3, any time any of us run into a challenging situation, it gives you an opportunity to look in the mirror and make some changes.”

This coming from a player who, two years ago, was sitting home, banned from baseball, a Hall of Fame career derailed from its Cooperstown track. In some ways, he was Selig’s greatest conquest, an example that no one was above the law, that cheaters, even the big fish, could be caught. But A-Rod has graduated beyond that, both as a productive middle-of-the- order hitter for the Yankees and, at 40, the de facto captain of a team with its own flaws.

Rodriguez may be in the twilight of his career, but at least he still has one, and that’s an achievement in itself — regardless of your opinion about him.

“I know 2015 for me was a Cinderella season,” he said. “And I don’t take it for granted. I couldn’t believe it happened, to be honest with you.”

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