Enough! A-Rod, MLB must settle

I’d say that cooler heads should prevail, but that phrase generally applies only to people who haven’t lost their minds.

Just about everyone has lost their minds in the case of Major League Baseball vs. Alex Rodriguez. The two sides need to settle — and settle before the announcement of suspensions Monday — or the damage to the sport will dwarf the supposed good of punishing the drug cheats.

The saber-rattling continued Saturday, when baseball reacted to Rodriguez’s latest inflammatory comments by ceasing negotiations with his camp and planning to suspend him for at least the rest of 2013 and all of ’14.

Let’s hope this is just one last round of posturing. Because if it isn’t, the legal battles between Rodriguez and baseball — and perhaps even Rodriguez and the New York Yankees — could take years to resolve.

Rodriguez seemingly stands the most to lose; if he appeals his suspension, his transgressions might be leaked faster than you can say, “Cousin Yuri Surcart.”

Even worse for A-Rod, baseball could pursue its civil lawsuit against Biogenesis — a judge in Miami-Dade Circuit Court declined to dismiss the suit on Tuesday — allowing attorneys to pursue bank records, cell-phone records and hard drives, all through discovery.

I’m sure A-Rod would come out looking great in all that.

Still, if this thing goes any further, it won’t just be about A-Rod. It will be about baseball, and the merits of baseball’s investigation into Biogenesis, and the growing sentiment that Commissioner Bud Selig is going too far.

Put it this way — baseball had better have the goods on A-Rod if it plans to suspend him for a minimum of 214 games without pay. Rodriguez has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, but never been disciplined for it under baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement.

Just cause. Precedent. Proportionality.

Do these concepts even matter to baseball anymore?

In recent days, esteemed columnists such as the New York Times’ William Rhoden and Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins have sharply criticized the sport’s anti-A-Rod campaign. Jenkins began her column Friday by writing, “The ritualistic rage at Alex Rodriguez feels less like justice than a public stoning, and it’s Exhibit A that the moral crusade against performance enhancement is as unhealthy as the thing it purports to correct.”

It seems almost impossible that baseball could turn Rodriguez into a sympathetic figure, but the sport might be on its way. Heck, the true mud-slinging has yet to even begin, and rest assured it won’t be one-sided. A-Rod’s legal team almost certainly will strike back if no settlement is reached, perhaps even revealing embarrassing information about baseball’s conduct in the investigation and the Yankees’ conduct toward Rodriguez.

Where does it end? Rodriguez, with career earnings of more than $350 million, according to baseball-reference.com, would not have much difficulty financing a lengthy legal battle. He might even relish one, based on his contrarian conduct over the last several days.

Baseball knows that odd things happen in arbitration — Ryan Braun, after testing positive, won his appeal by citing a chain-of-custody breakdown. Baseball also knows that a protracted fight against Rodriguez might ultimately backfire; most fans already have had enough of this saga, and want it to end.

Hate to say it, but we’re missing a heck of a season. Remember the harsh criticism that A-Rod received when news broke during the 2007 World Series that he was opting out of his contract? He deserved to be vilified; he had shifted the focus away from the Series. But in a sense, baseball is doing the exact same thing now, drawing attention to its anti-drug campaign at the expense of the sport.

The problem, of course, is that A-Rod makes everyone nuts.

On one hand, he talks about wanting to play and how certain “entities” — presumably, baseball and the Yankees — are conspiring to keep him off the field. On the other hand, as I reported Saturday on Fox’s pre-game show, his camp told baseball at one point that he would accept a 100-game suspension and then retire, as long as the rest of his contract was paid.

Brilliant idea! Rodriguez would receive the bulk of the $86 million that he is owed from 2014 to ’17 without doing anything to actually earn it. Not even the Yankees are willing to pay that high a price to make him go away.

In any case, the silliness needs to stop. I can’t suggest the number of games that A-Rod should get without knowing the actual evidence against him. But I do know that if both sides unload their dirty laundry, the entire sport will lose.

The best interests of the game, that’s what this is about, right? Well, for the best interests of the game, Major League Baseball vs. Alex Rodriguez shouldn’t last another day. Let’s see cooler heads prevail, if everyone hasn’t already lost their minds.