Monday's events make it clear that the apocalyptic pronouncements about Alex Rodriguez's career were a bit premature.
Instead, Rodriguez, suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball on Monday, will play through his appeals process. And if MLBPA president Michael Weiner is correct about the length of the process, he'll be playing through the end of the regular season (and if the longshot Yankees make it, through the playoffs as well).
But eventually, Rodriguez's time before an arbitrator will come and go. MLB will make its best case. And should they prevail, or even largely prevail, Rodriguez's 2014, and by virtue of appeal, part of his 2015 season is now in jeopardy.
Which leads to the question: What would Alex Rodriguez's options be then?
After all, if he intends to return to baseball, he'd be 40 years old in 2015, already a difficult age to play and play well. He's been through multiple hip surgeries, further compromising him. Add in an extended layoff without playing in competitive games, and that complicates his return even more.
But finding those competitive games during a MLB suspension won't be easy.
"Like any other player, a suspended player who is under reserve to a club (albeit on the restricted list while he is serving out a JDA suspension), cannot play for an independent team, Japanese team, Taiwanese team or any other team," Major League Baseball Players Association spokesman Gregory Bouris told me in an email on Monday.
So what this means, essentially: if the New York Yankees keep Rodriguez while he's suspended, the fact that he is under contract with the Yankees through 2017 means he cannot go play in Japan, or for an independent league team here, or ply his trade anywhere else, professionally.
Now, there are a pair of scenarios where that barrier to entry changes. One is if Rodriguez and the Yankees can work out an agreement to alter his contract, and get it approved by Major League Baseball, to let him play elsewhere during his suspension. It is possible to see why Rodriguez, for the reasons discussed above, would do so -- and even why the Yankees would, since they would want the best possible Rodriguez to return if they intend to try and get more on-field value from him.
But MLB? Alex Rodriguez probably shouldn't hold his breath hoping for special dispensation from the league.
However, the Yankees could elect to treat Rodriguez and his contract as a sunk cost, and release him. It would mostly be a favor to Rodriguez, so it's hard to picture the Yankees doing that. But maybe they'll decide the headache of having him under contract, and having to answer any questions at all about him, simply isn't worth it. At that point, his Yankees contract would cease to be a problem in keeping him off the field.
The suspension, though, is another matter.
Obviously, Rodriguez couldn't play for another MLB team without serving the 211 games, or whatever an arbitrator ultimately rules his suspension to be. And according to the New York Times, the Japanese, Taiwanese, and South Korean leagues all honor MLB suspensions.
So it's off to the independent leagues, right? The place where players like Dontrelle Willis go to prove themselves, stay in baseball shape, and prepare for their first opportunity to return to MLB.
Well, not so fast. The Long Island Ducks, where Willis toiled before the Angels signed him this past weekend, play in the Atlantic League. And Ducks general manager Michael Pfaff told me in an email this weekend, "The Atlantic League recognizes MLB suspensions. Any player suspended by MLB would need to serve their suspension prior to being able to sign with an Atlantic League team."
So that's no from the Ducks, no from the Atlantic League as a whole.
What about the Can-Am League, competitor with the Atlantic League for independent league talent?
According to Rockland Boulders president Ken Lehner, the Can-Am League honors MLB suspensions, too, if the player is under contract. But he adds:
"Now if ARod's contract gets voided as a result of this, then I do believe independent teams would take a look at him. In such a scenario, we would not be interested this season as we like our team and believe we have a chance of making the playoffs with our current roster."
Where does that leave us? Toiling in a meaningless game, under an assumed name, like Shoeless Joe Jackson as described by Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams? Playing the carnival circuit like The Whammer in The Natural? Worth noting: both of these are movies.
So for now, Alex Rodriguez toils for the Yankees. But if his suspension is upheld, it is going to be awfully difficult for Rodriguez to play baseball anywhere, for anyone, ever again.