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I may end up an A-Rod apologist ...

Did you see the other day that Alex Rodriguez got himself in hot water (with the Oakland A’s, anyway) because he blithely ignored a supposed bit of baseball etiquette by crossing the pitching mound as he was returning to first base after Robinson Cano fouled off a Dallas Braden pitch?


The ensuing uproar strikes me as great fun, if for no other reason than the transparent observation that folks will reach for anything they can get their hands on to grouse about the MLB multimillionaire they love to hate.

Like A-Rod (allegedly), I didn’t know that was protocol about base runners not being permitted to step foot on the pitcher’s inner sanctum, though I think it’s perfectly charming that the youngster Braden had the chutzpah to make a mini federal case out of it.

That’s still one of the things I love about baseball: after being a fan for 50-plus years, there’s still goofy stuff that can come up to inform and entertain. Not unlike the college player who leaped over the catcher to score from third. How come Ozzie Smith never engineered that maneuver in his Hall of Fame career?

Back to A-Rod. A couple of days before his deplorable breach of baseball decorum (he also started a triple play during that same game with the A’s), I got an e-mail from a reader who said he had been at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore and was all but ready to pull the trigger on buying a copy of Legendary Yankee Stadium: Memories & Memorabilia From the House That Ruth Built, when he noticed something.

A chapter on Alex Rodriguez. And just like that, the deal was cooked. He wasn’t going to buy a book that included an A-Rod chapter and seemingly intimated that the third baseman didn't belong alongside the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle in a book about Bronx Bombers.

A little disconcerted, I quickly checked A-Rod’s six-year log with the Yankees and found a good deal of reassurance that I had done the right thing. I am pretty well convinced that a variety of circumstances that have little or nothing to do with objective evaluation of a ballplayer have contributed to Rodriguez being held to a standard that defies common sense and belief.

Though I am the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Henry Aaron Fan,” I’ve pretty much reconciled myself to the idea that A-Rod is going to end up with more homers than Henry, and even more than the other guy who is so much more easily despised than admired.

But the reality is that Rodriguez is one of the greatest ballplayers in MLB history, and to have omitted him from a book like Legendary Yankee Stadium would have been incoherent and unforgivable.

I was sorry we lost the sale, but I remain convinced that we’re going to have to collectively figure out a way to embrace A-Rod for the extraordinary figure that he is. And obviously that’s also going to mean we have to develop a more mature and less hysterical stance on all of the players tainted by the steroid age.

Can anyone really imagine a Baseball Hall of Fame without Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, et. al? It’s bad enough that Selig has managed to get us accustomed to the notion of no plaque for Pete.