As you may or may not have heard already, Wednesday's big story is that Alex Rodriguez is being investigated by Major League Baseball for his alleged involvement in a few high-stakes underground poker games. The allegation stems from a report posted to RadarOnline.com, and it's gotten all the way to Bud Selig's office, forcing the commissioner to state that he's taking this matter very seriously. A-Rod's currently under investigation, and it's possible that the outcome of this will be a suspension.
Why would Rodriguez be suspended? For no other reason than he's been warned about this before. Wallace Matthews writes at ESPN that Rodriguez was warned not to participate in underground poker games back in 2005, so it stands to reason that Selig wouldn't respond well to continued disobedience. If it can be proven that Rodriguez did indeed play in these games - which, of course, it probably can't, unless you have a lower standard of proof than our legal system - then the threat of a suspension becomes very real.
All right, so Alex Rodriguez might have disobeyed the commissioner of baseball and played some illegal poker. As a result, he could be punished. So what? What's the significance, here? What does this actually mean?
The more I think about it, the more I think this means next to nothing at all. Obviously, a suspension would mean something, in that it would force the Yankees to play a little while without Alex Rodriguez. Which they're already doing, since he's on the disabled list, but presumably any suspension wouldn't be handed down until he's back. That would put the Yankees at a small disadvantage.
But aside from that, what's the effect? This means nothing with regard to Alex Rodriguez as a player. This is an alleged off-the-field incident, or series of incidents, that have nothing to do with baseball. No matter what happens, Alex Rodriguez will still be a guy with more than 600 home runs, and nearly 3,000 hits. He's still a future Hall of Famer.
And as for Alex Rodriguez as a person, I think the significance is minimal as well. For one thing, it's important to understand the nature of the allegations. A-Rod is said to have participated in some underground poker games that got violent and included open drug use, but A-Rod isn't connected to any violence or drugs. He is said to have played, paid, and left. He allegedly wagered a small fraction of his income while playing illegal poker, which millions of people have done, and there's no hint that he was involved in other gambling, like gambling on baseball. Which would be way worse.
And for another thing, no matter your stance on underground poker, this pales in relation to so many other things in A-Rod's history. People's minds on A-Rod are already made up. He has a long-standing reputation for being dishonest and insincere. He denied ever having taken performance enhancers, then he admitted to having taken performance enhancers. He's had multiple run-ins with baseball's unwritten rules, from slapping at Bronson Arroyo to shouting during a pop-up to crossing Dallas Braden's mound. He's been accused of frequent infidelity. He's received treatment from a physician under federal investigation. And so on and so forth. This latest story is just another drop in the bucket.
Even the disobedience of Selig wouldn't be new. Previously, Selig and the Yankees told Rodriguez to keep his distance from his cousin, Yuri Sucart, because Sucart had transported performance-enhancing drugs. Sucart was later sighted hanging around Rodriguez and the team anyway.
This is going to be a big story. This is already a big story, that's only going to get bigger, because people love when celebrities get caught up in scandals. But as with the Barry Bonds trial last spring, I can't for the life of me figure out what effect this will actually have. A suspension would hurt the Yankees for a very short while, but besides that, what? Nobody who is pro-Rodriguez will be swayed by a poker investigation. Nobody who is anti-Rodriguez will be swayed by a poker investigation. Nobody who is on the fence - if anybody's on the fence - will be swayed by a poker investigation.
This is a story that, in the end, won't mean much of anything. We're not going to learn anything about Alex Rodriguez we didn't already know, and you can only do so much with old information.