The story did not begin in Texas, but the path undoubtedly turned here at the Ballpark for one of the greatest natural baseball players ever to play this game.It is hard to think that at one time Alex Rodriguez was ours and that he won an MVP here.One year after he signed his 10-year, $252 million deal, a Rangers player bemoaned to me that he thought that signing was going to set the franchise back six years. It was more like nine.The men who run this team now would never make the same decision that haunted Tom Hicks’ tenure as the club’s owner.What is now forever lost in tales of steroids, vanity, narcissism and paranoia is the fact that when A-Rod arrived in Texas, the game mattered to him far more than what now has come to define him. Had the game remained the priority, all of the noise that has cluttered and clouded his career may never have happened.A case can be made of another visitor on Tuesday night, Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, but nothing to this extent. And Josh never hid from the fact that he wanted the biggest deal possible.I’m not sure Josh likes the game as much as A-Rod.In A-Rod’s pursuit of everything else, he will lose what mattered to him the most — baseball.According to the latest reports, A-Rod is going down for his ties to the Biogenesis Bunch, which at some point likely will nab Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz.A-Rod is a major catch for MLB, which, according to what report you believe, is going to suspend His Highness from anywhere between 50 games, 150 games or the rest of his life. That decision seems imminent.Do not buy the lifetime ban. That’s not going to happen.What will happen, however, is a long suspension, and a nasty fight between A-Rod’s handlers and the New York Yankees over the remainder of his $3 trillion contract.Technically, A-Rod’s career began in Seattle, but the part he is known for started in Texas. When he signed in December 2000 is when he became baseball’s Napoleon.It was never enough, it was never going to be enough and in the end he will have none of the things that mattered to him the most.A-Rod should have been in the discussion as one of the best players to ever play. Yet barring an unforeseen reversal, he will leave as one of its most disgraced.“If he’s open, authentic and honest, I think the baseball world will be somewhat understanding and remember him in part for his electric, jaw-dropping performance as a player,” a former A-Rod teammate with the Rangers, Gabe Kapler, told me. “If he continues on his current path, I think folks will have a difficult time seeing anything but what he’s presented thus far. And that picture hasn’t been flattering to this point.”When this latest episode is over, A-Rod will be 37 or 38, with the long swing of a slower bat and a battered reputation as a drama queen. Some team will give him a chance because that’s what teams do when talent is involved.His end will come at the conclusion of a three-game road trip in Kansas City with a crowd of 15,000 on hand unaware that one of the best baseball players ever had played his final game. It will just be over, without a news conference or a countdown to Cooperstown.What you probably have forgotten is that there was a time when this game mattered more to A-Rod than anything else. That he would have played 163 of a 162-game season.That he wanted to be the best baseball player.Despite his glibness and affected arrogance, when the game began, he played hard. When he was with the Rangers that first year in 2001, he alone was the reason that team didn’t quit on a quickly lost season.There was so much talent and ability that he was one of the few of his generation who didn’t need to ’roid to be great.Since then, we have learned he ’roided. Don’t blame his use of steroids on the Texas Rangers. As we now know, loads of these guys were doing the same thing in clubhouses all over the country.If you believe the new reports of his involvement with the Biogenesis Bunch in South Beach, he used again.It has changed how even the most sympathetic figures view him.“I’ve been extraordinarily sensitive on behalf of the men in baseball like Alex. Whenever a player like him impresses with an other-worldly performance, like he most certainly did, unfair speculation occurs,” Kapler said. “Because I’ve had unreasonable fingers pointed at me based on being muscular — and I played the game clean — I always gave guys the benefit of the doubt at that time, including Alex. That was naïve in hindsight, but I’d rather be clueless than wrongly accuse another human being.”Because he is a nice guy, Mr. Kapler is being nice.It did not have to be this way, but this is the path A-Rod chose.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof