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Questions surround A-Rod's latest controversy

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Bob Klapisch

Bob Klapisch covers baseball for The Record in New Jersey and worked at the New York Post and New York Daily News. The author of five books, he was recently voted a top-five columnist in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

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Today doesn’t quite qualify as the apocalypse in Alex Rodriguez’s life, but don’t underestimate the importance of his meeting with federal investigators in Buffalo. This is a centerpiece of a probe against accused HGH smuggler, Dr. Tony Galea, whose list of clients include Tiger Woods, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and, the one who most concerns the Yankees, A-Rod himself.
Fantasy Baseball 2010

Although Galea remains the focus of the investigation, Yankee officials will be paying close attention. They want an answer to a disturbing question: was A-Rod using HGH prescribed to him by the Canadian-based doctor?

There’s a limit to how much information can be gleaned; it’ll be A-Rod’s word against Galea’s. But the Yankees are nevertheless irritated that Rodriguez may have lied to them in December about his relationship with Galea. A-Rod told the team he’d had no dealings with the controversial physician. That has since been proven false.

Here’s a five-question primer that covers A-Rod’s latest controversy.

Why does this investigation matter to the Yankee hierarchy?

Because they want to know if their $32 million a year superstar is clean. Any employer would seek the same assurance. The Bombers thought A-Rod was finally beyond performance-enhancing drugs after he was outed by Sports Illustrated last year. Rodriguez should’ve suffered enough embarrassment to last a lifetime. But the brush with Galea has resurrected the same feelings of distrust.

How so?

One member of the organization said, “This doesn’t pass the smell test.” Indeed, if A-Rod simply needed post-surgery rehabilitation on his hip, as Galea told authorities, why did he require the services of a foreign doctor who trafficked in HGH?

Galea told the Associated Press earlier this month, “(Rodriguez) had a damaged hip. Inflamed. It was damaged. He needed anti-inflammatories for his hip. I was basically helping in the rehab.”

But if that were so, why did Rodriguez feel compelled to hide these treatments from the Yankees?

Galea is also known for using a blood-spinning therapy called PRP -- a technique which is legal in the United States. The fact that Beltran and Reyes were treated by Galea piqued the interest of the feds, who had the same curiosity as Yankee officials. If these visits were routine (and legal), why  didn’t the ballplayers consult one of the thousands of American doctors who offer it in their offices?

What if Galea eventually breaks down and says he prescribed HGH to A-Rod?

The Yankees wouldn’t be in a position to punish the third baseman; that would fall under Bud Selig’s domain. But even in that scenario, it’s unlikely the commissioner could take any action against A-Rod. He could (and would) deny ever using HGH, putting the onus on MLB to prove otherwise. Currently, there is no testing for HGH in the Basic Agreement, which means Rodriguez is home-free.

POLL

  • Are you suspicious of Alex Rodriguez's connection to Tony Galea?
    • Yes
    • No

What’s A-Rod’s state of mind these days, given that he’s about to come face-to-face with federal agents?

Surprisingly calm. Rodriguez has had a productive spring, hitting .333, concentrating on his workout routines and conditioning. The slugger has generally avoided long interviews, figuring the less he talks about the HGH investigation the better the chances of this crisis blowing over.

One person close to Rodriguez says the apparent calm he effects is genuine. “It doesn’t seem like (Galea’s arrest) bothers him too much, because he believes he's not the one being targeted,” the friend said.

But what if it’s somehow proven that A-Rod was using HGH?

The Yankees won’t go there; the ramifications are just too dark. They’re annoyed that Rodriguez didn’t come clean about his relationship with Galea, but they’re hoping that’s the extent of his transgressions -- just a white lie about rehab.

If Rodriguez were found to actually have cheated, it would mean a replay of last year’s steroids scandal. His integrity would be compromised, his pursuit of the all-time HR record would be deemed worthless, if it isn’t already, and good will Rodriguez generated last year during the playoffs would turn to vapor.

Just remember, though, it would be almost impossible to make this charge stick. Galea could produce documents -- times, places, exact dosages -- and Rodriguez would still be able to effectively refute the allegation. But that near-guarantee doesn’t mean the Yankees are happy about it.

HUGHES NAMED NO. 5 STARTER

Was anyone even remotely surprised? Hughes would’ve had to fail utterly and unconditionally this spring to blow his chance at the final rotation spot. Similarly, Joba Chamberlain would’ve had to be nearly perfect in his starting assignments this spring.

Neither scenario unfolded, and the Yankees are a better team for it. Hughes has added an effective change-up to his arsenal, making him a more complete pitcher than Chamberlain. The diversity of his weapons figures to translate over 100 pitches per outing.

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Need to catch up on all the offseason happenings? Check out our spring training buzz.

Chamberlain, on the other hand, will be allowed to do what he does best: maximize that 94-mph fastball in 15 and 20-pitch outings in the eighth inning. Clearly, he won’t be happy as Mariano Rivera’s set-up man; being a reliever will cost him millions of dollars over the course of his career. But it’s where Chamberlain is most likely to succeed.

GOODEN ARRESTED

Wasn’t it just the other day we were talking to Doc about Stephen Strasburg? Gooden was crisp and alert during the telephone interview -- clearly sober. Yet, less than 24 hours later, he was involved in a traffic accident in northern New Jersey, rear-ending another car with his 5-year-old son in the back seat, unharnessed according to police.

Among the charges that have been referred to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office: Under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. Endangering the welfare of a child.

Driving while under the influence of drugs. DWI with a child passenger. Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident.

Reached by phone after the his arrest, Gooden said, “I’m not going to let one day of bad judgment ruin four good years (of sobriety).” But he knows wiping the slate clean won’t be that easy, especially since his child was involved in his latest relapse.

The irony is that Gooden moved to New Jersey last year to get away from the bad influences in Tampa. Turns out the bad influences stuck with him during the 1,000-mile journey north.

The problem wasn’t the dealers, the lowlifes and so-called friends. It was Gooden himself who, sadly, has yet to beat the monster of his own addiction.
Tagged: Yankees, Mets, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes

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