The spring of 2001 must seem like another life for Alex Rodriguez. He had just signed a stunning 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers -- a deal that rocked baseball -- and a mass of reporters gathered at the Rangers' Port Charlotte, Fla., spring training complex for a news conference to celebrate baseball's great young star.
He charmed reporters with stories about how he and his mother, a waitress in Miami, used to count her change from tips together when he was growing up and how this was a dream come true for him. The Rangers talked about a new era for the franchise and the excitement about A-Rod throughout the organization and the fan base.
"There hasn't been this much excitement and interest around here since Nolan Ryan was here," said the late Rangers manager Johnny Oates, referring to the pitching icon who would wind up becoming part owner and team president of the Rangers, though that position may be in doubt now.
Fast forward to 2013 at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla., the spring training home of the New York Yankees. Back in 2001, it would have seemed like the perfect future home for Alex Rodriguez -- a 21st century version of Babe Ruth.
Instead, A-Rod is invisible at Legends Field -- and the Yankees and Major League Baseball like it that way.
In fact, it is reasonable to conclude that the Yankees and Major League Baseball would just as soon never see A-Rod on a baseball field again. A courtroom, yes. But not a baseball field.
Rodriguez is recovering from hip surgery in January. That followed yet another season of injuries and diminishing performance that ended with his embarrassing display against the Detroit Tigers in the playoffs last year. According to reports, Yankees officials told A-Rod not to show up in Tampa for rehabilitation work -- to do it somewhere in seclusion.
An already admitted steroid user, A-Rod is in the sights of Major League Baseball investigators looking into the probe of the Biogenesis clinic that reportedly gave performance-enhancing drugs to players, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are the primary targets because they reportedly lied to baseball officials about the use of performance-enhancing drugs -- even after A-Rod admitted to using steroids from 2001 through 2003. The Biogenesis probe revolves around alleged substance use from 2009 through last season.
The Yankees still owe A-Rod $114 million and publicly have said they will welcome him back. But his career is all but over, and it's just as likely that the soon-to-be 38-year old -- whose body is breaking down year-by-year (he hasn't played a full season since 2008) -- never plays a game again as it is he is back in the Yankees' lineup sometime this season.
No one predicted this outcome on that spring 2001 day in Florida when A-Rod and his historic contract were celebrated. Now everyone would just like him to disappear.