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What does Alex Rodriguez’s future have in store?

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Let’s get one thing out of the way at the outset: whatever results from the Biogenesis news, be it a lengthy suspension or otherwise, this will not “forever taint Alex Rodriguez’s legacy” or whatever words anyone chooses to author to that melodramatic effect. Alex Rodriguez’s legacy was toast years ago, rightly or wrongly.

A-Rod was transformed from a supremely-talented All-Star into a greedy mercenary when he signed his first $250 million contract with the Texas Rangers before the 2001 season and had that image solidified when he opted out of it while with the Yankees and signed another huge deal in December 2007.

He was branded a steroid cheat and effectively denied his rightful ticket to the Hall of Fame when word surfaced of his past performance enhancing drug use in early 2009 and that stain has never gone away in the public eye.

Beyond that, he has been portrayed in the media — not necessarily without reason — as a vain, image-conscious but self-consciousness-impaired prima donna for well over a decade now and has been judged as something less than a professional or a fierce competitor due to past playoff failures (never mind that he carried the Yankees on his back to the 2009 World Series title) and because he is not Derek Jeter (never mind that not even Derek Jeter is the Derek Jeter the media and his adoring fans have constructed).

So no, this is not a fall from grace. This is not a hero brought to his knees. If you hear someone talking about A-Rod and Biogenesis and they offer any sentiment suggesting that this, after all that has come before, is the final straw, you may feel free to ignore this person because they have no idea what they are talking about. A-Rod has been a widely hated and hated-on figure for far longer than he was ever considered, first and foremost, a baseball superstar and this is merely another brick in that very tall, very long and very solid wall. It’s not totally fair that he’s been made the pariah that he is, but he is a pariah among all but the most forgiving fans, no question.

So what CAN the Biogenesis scandal do to Alex Rodriguez?

It can suspend him for 50 games. One hundred games if the investigation finds out he used PEDs and lied about it. But it cannot, and I believe should not, end his career, either in its entirety or as a New York Yankee.

Alex Rodriguez is under contract with the New York Yankees through 2017 . Including this season he’s owed approximately $114 million. While the Yankees would love to be out from under than contract somehow — because, really, it’s a horrible contract — there is no mechanism for them to void it regardless of what comes out of the Biogenesis investigation. The Joint Drug Agreement provides no means to do so. Player contracts have no terms which allow for contracts being voided due to PEDs for they incorporate the Joint Drug Agreement by reference. Given that we are now nearly six years out from when the deal was signed, it would strain credulity for the Yankees to claim that there was any fraud or misrepresentation that forced them into the deal.  It’s just not going anywhere, regardless of what the Yankees front office may say off the record to the media.

At the same time, there is zero incentive for Alex Rodriguez to retire or walk away from the game. While he is coming off major surgery and while it is unclear whether he will ever be anything close to the player he once was, it is premature to say that Rodriguez will never play again for physical reasons. But even if he can’t play — even if his hip is toast, he can’t run, field or even lift a bat — the Yankees are still on the hook for that $114 million. All A-Rod would need to do is to comply with whatever rehabilitation or medical regimen the Yankees asked him to do and the checks would keep on coming. There is considerable precedent for this happening in baseball history, with Albert Belle being perhaps the most notable example. Belle signed a five-year contract with the Orioles in 1998, but due to a degenerative hip condition did not play for the final three of those five years. He was kept on the disabled list by the Orioles, fully paid, the entire time. Why? Because teams assume the financial risk of injury to a player, not the player.

But the thing is, Alex Rodriguez does appear to be able to play baseball. He has been rehabbing at the Yankees complex in Tampa for weeks now, taking ground balls, running, hitting balls off a tee and getting back into baseball shape. Just today Yankees manager Joe Girardi had this to say about his third baseman:

“My focus is not on what MLB is investigating and all of that. And I don’t want to get caught up in that just because, in a sense, they’re going to handle it. I’ll let them handle it. I’ll continue to assist our players in getting ready anyway they can.

“But he’s in Tampa getting ready and that’s what we want him to do.”

He hasn’t commented on the latest reports.  Given the state of Rodriguez’s rehab, the Yankees need for his bat back in the lineup and given the potentially lengthy timeline for any discipline if he is found culpable, I think it’s far more likely that we’ll see Alex Rodriguez playing major league baseball games this season than we’ll see him cast out of the game on either a temporary or permanent basis.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.