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Keidel: End Of The A-Rod Era, Or Error?

By Jason Keidel

So it ends for A-Rod.

On August 12. Why? Because some suit thought it was a good idea. He also thought we should have this weeklong preamble, for no reason we mere mortals can fathom. And, of course, it has been typically turbulent, a perfect microcosm of A-Rod's conflicted career.

None of it has gone well, from the arbitrary date to the botched and bewildering curtain call. Joe Girardi declared he would do all he could to get A-Rod some action then sarcastically asserted his job description doesn't include farewell tours.

A-Rod's final Fenway at-bat was a 15-foot dribbler toward third base, which actually nudged home a run. Perfect.

He was supposed to sign with Boston, of course, until the union thwarted the move. It was supposed to extend the Yankee hex over New England, but instead spawned a Boston dynasty.

So it ends for A-Rod.

Now it's up to us to piece together his legacy. Was he the young athletic savant who appeared from the baseball mist at 18 years old? Long, strong, lean and lightning fast, he was our Natural, the freak who could play myriad sports but picked baseball, if only to add to the mythology. Right.

Read 'Alex Rodriguez Could've Been So Much More.'

Is he the gracious teammate who schools youngsters on navigating fame? Or is he the dark side of it? A supreme narcissist who saw life as one, long photo shoot? From sunning shirtless in Central Park to smooching his reflection in the mirror to Cameron Diaz hand-feeding him popcorn at a Cowboys game, A-Rod doesn't do clandestine, even at his worst.

Is he a Hall-of Famer? Or the fourth face on the steroid Mt. Rushmore, next to Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa? With some players, particularly Bonds, Roger Clemens and A-Rod, we try to partition their careers, asserting they were Hall of Famers before the juice.

Then why take it? Why enter the dim room of PEDs if you don't need them? Why would you shoot equine potions into your bulging buttocks, knowing you're disgracing the game that made you so celebrated?

Then lie about it. And lie about it. Rinse and repeat. Sue baseball and call out the commissioner, storm into Mike Francesa's studio demanding due process, then solemnly accept a season-long suspension.

A-Rod has either the worst advisors or the worst impulses in the history of athletics. Name one time when his life or career has followed the script. Now, instead of needing his own wing in Cooperstown, his career ends with karmic and cosmic asterisk beaming from his stat sheet.

So it ends for A-Rod.

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Or does it? Is he bowing out as gracefully (and awkwardly) as he knows how? Or is he auditioning for another team that hasn't had to endure the 12 or so twisted years he's given the Yankees?

Rumors swirl like buzzards around the man. Is he headed to Miami to play for former Yankee icon Don Mattingly, to be coached by -- yes! -- Barry Bonds?

Is he heading back to Seattle, to the place of his baseball birth? He would at least have former teammate Robinson Cano, who knows where the bodies are buried.

So it ends for A-Rod.

How will it end? Will he be universally cheered? Certainly he's as loathed as loved, even if the former won't be so throaty tonight, when he tips his cap for the final time at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are still contending... sort of. Just as he's retiring... sort of.

Fittingly, there are odds on his final plate appearance: 10-to-1 for a homer, 2-to-1 for a strikeout. It's all cosmetic. The narrative has been written, to do with as you wish.

Perhaps the most interesting question is... what happens to Alex? He's been A-Rod, an avatar, a brand, for so long he finally has to face himself as a human. How will he scratch the eternal itch that only a bat could reach?

So it ends for A-Rod. So it begins for Alex Rodriguez.

Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there's a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.

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