Alex Rodriguez apologizes to New York Yankees

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Alex Rodriguez will get a second chance. Some team, probably the New York Yankees, will have him back. He's too high profile, owed too much money, and yes, too good a player to be left out of MLB.

But he shouldn't get that second chance - not yet.

Like Lance Armstrong before him, Rodriguez was caught in a PED scandal and then tried to cover up his role by attacking his critics in the harshest possible terms - using his wealth and influence to bully opponents through the courts.

He subscribed to the old adage that caught out Armstrong before him - that the best form of defense is attack.

In case you've forgotten, in a desperate bid to keep his name clean he sued Major League Baseball and the Yankees' team doctor. He questioned the team over their role in the Biogensis case, he attacked anybody who mentioned PEDs and his name in the same breath.

But he got suspended for a record number of games.

And like Armstrong before him, the once ferocious, now humiliated, superstar was forced to grovel before his employers for a second chance. Unlike Armstrong, Rodriguez will get one.

Having met three times with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, the next stop was Yankee Stadium. As reported by ESPN, on Tuesday Rodriguez met with owner Hal Steinbrenner and team officials Randy Levine, Brian Cashman and Jean Afterman.

The joint statement read: "Alex initiated the meeting and apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years.

"There was an honest and frank discussion on all of the issues. As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training."

As simple as that.

Rodriguez has served his suspension, having sat out all last season. His apologies pave the way for a return ahead of the 2015 campaign.

But the Yankees shortstop is part of a much larger problem within MLB, an issue that has done irreparable damage to the sport.

Baseball, like cycling, has an image problem. And it's culprits like Rodriguez, who have been implicated in doping scandals and then ruthlessly attempted to suppress them, that are largely to blame.

Money talks

Not to be too cynical, but it's difficult to expect any team to take the moral high ground when there's so much money at stake.

A-Rod is due $61m over the final three years of his Yankees contract. He's also due a $6m bonus should he hit five more homers to tie Willie Mays' mark of 660 on the all-time list.

The Yankees are contesting that bonus, arguing that Rodriguez's PED suspension brings into question the legitimacy of his home run tally. Rodriguez could actually earn up to $30m extra based on clauses like that in his Yankees deal.

So the Yankees are in the strange position of welcoming back a player they are actively trying not to pay because he's cheated in the past.

What kind of message does that send to the fans?

Then you need to figure out Rodriguez's true value to the team. Approaching his 40th birthday, it's certainly not the $61m over three years he's owed - but they do need him badly. He could play DH, after all the Yanks now have Chase Headley at third base.

You could argue that Rodriguez proved valuable to the Yankees organization even in his absence, the salary they saved on his lost year helped them sign ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Larger message

Rodriguez was reportedly 'sincere' in the 90-minute meeting with Yankee higher-ups. With that kind of money on the line, would you expect anything else?

The vast majority of athletes who dope do so because the potential rewards outweigh the risks.

Gaining that competitive advantage over colleagues can be the difference between millions of dollars in contracts and millions more in endorsements. Just look at the contracts earned by the likes of Rodriguez and Armstrong.

In sports like baseball that have struggled to contain the problem, the paranoid mindset that dictates 'If I don't do it, my opponent will' quickly leads to corrupted competition.

If a player like Rodriguez can be found guilty of using PEDs, bringing into question his achievements within his sport, then attempt to sue every critical voice, and then back down and apologize for his actions, and still walk back into the sport at the first opportunity, it does little to dissuade prospects who weigh up the reputational risks against the monetary rewards.

Until these risks outweigh the rewards, this cycle will not change.

Alex Rodriguez deserves another chance in baseball, but this apology tour should not disguise the role he's played in discrediting his sport. 

By accepting him back so readily, after Rodriguez first cheated, then lied and then was so aggressive in his defense, does little to change the perception of MLB to the outside world.

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