NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez's corner locker in the New York Yankees' clubhouse is filled with four cardboard boxes of bats, a dozen jerseys, a dangling athletic supporter, two baseball caps and four books.
Rodriguez, who turned 38 Saturday, is something of a cornered man these days.
The Yankees consider him a major annoyance, referring to him as Mr. Rodriguez three times in a recent news release.
That tension, however, pales when compared with what's going on in Major League Baseball. Any time now, Rodriguez is expected to be hit with a lengthy penalty that could put him out of baseball indefinitely or perhaps permanently.
And MLB's investigation to possible ties between Rodriguez and a Florida clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs isn't even the primary source of the deteriorating relationship. The Yankees owe him just under $95 million through 2017, and he's missed the entire season following hip surgery in January.
After a week's worth of high drama, second-guessing and radio interviews, it seems Rodriguez is about to be lumped with Yankees who sort of just didn't fit, failed or just faded away -- the Dave Winfield, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano wing of infamy rather than the Monument Park honour roll of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.
On the day he arrived in February 2004 after the big trade with Texas, the sign board outside old Yankee Stadium proclaimed: "A Rod, Welcome to NY."
Now the message from the Yankees is pretty much: "We don't want to see you ever again."
In a conference call with management to discuss treatment of his thigh injury, A-Rod insisted on having one of his lawyers on the phone, later saying he "just wanted to make sure that everything is documented properly."
Following his third straight post-season flameout, New York appears to be in no hurry for him to return. Each day's delay means that much more of his $153,005 daily salary is reimbursed by insurance.
For much of his career, Rodriguez has bristled at playing a supporting role to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, wondering why his teammate receives adulation and he is met with a mixture of antipathy and scorn.
Jeter strained a quadriceps and was allowed to rehabilitate with the major league team.
Rodriguez strained a quadriceps and was sent to the minor-league camp in Tampa, Fla., as if he had been a disruptive student dispatched to the principal's office for a time out. Wherever he goes, contretemps unfold.
This was supposed to be the best time of Rodriguez's career, when he made his mark in history. Fifth on the career list with 647 home runs, he was set to pass Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762) and become the all-time leader.
Only Ruth had hit more home runs than Rodriguez before turning 38.
But his life has seemed to unravel since Dec. 13, 2007, when his record $275-million, 10-year contract was finalized -- on the same day George Mitchell issued his report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
He helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series, shaking his image as an automatic October out by hitting .365 in the post-season with six homers and 18 RBI. But in the time that matters most for the Yankees, he has only six post-season RBI in 75 at-bats since, as his body has fractured with alarming frequency.
He's made six trips to the disabled list in six seasons for a strained right quadriceps (2008), right-hip surgery (2009), a strained left calf (2010), right-knee surgery (2011), a broken left hand (2012) and left-hip surgery (2013).
All the while he kept generating tabloid headlines for his divorce, for dating Madonna, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and Torrie Wilson, for participating in high-stakes celebrity poker games, for the $30-million sale of his Miami house, for buying a Manhattan condominium that came with tax abatement.
"Everyone goes through personal issues. Mine are on the front page of the papers," he said five years ago. "I'm fine with it."
He was an example once, a three-time AL MVP praised for a work ethic that included daybreak spring-training sessions with coaches when most teammates were still asleep.
But Rodriguez's reputation has never been the same since just before spring training in 2009, when he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03.
Now he is derided in headlines as "A-Roid."
"I'm very sorry and deeply regretful," he said then, adding he had been "young and stupid."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig condemned his behaviour, saying steroid users had "shamed the game."
Rodriguez agreed to work for the Taylor Hooton Foundation to combat steroids. But the controversies just kept coming.
He was investigated by MLB for ties to Anthony Galea, the Canadian doctor who pleaded guilty two years ago to a federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs into the United States from Canada. And then Miami New Times reported in January this year his name was listed in records of Biogenesis of America, sparking the MLB investigation that led to a 65-game suspension for Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun, the 2011 NL MVP.
A-Rod's 14 all-star appearances, his 1996 AL batting title, his two Gold Gloves seem to have little stature in people's minds.
-- The Associated Press