I never thought I would say it, but let me start off with saying I agree with Alex Rodriguez. Maybe not on everything the Yankee third baseman does, but his latest outburst rings a sense of truth to it.

“Enough doctors, let’s play.”

These days, it’s easier to come across news on the latest steroid scandal to hit Major League Baseball than it is to tune into the game itself. We’ve all heard the names involved by now. Ryan Braun, Rodriguez, Biogenesis. It’s BALCO and the Mitchell Report all over again.

There’s no question these guys are guilty. Braun has already shown his true colors, letting down an entire fan base that stood behind him no more than a year ago when he failed a drug test and cried foul play. While a verdict still waits for A-Rod, I don’t think anyone is debating he is innocent by any sense of the word here either, including myself.

But that’s not my focus of this column. Trust me, I despise these cheaters as much as the next guy, probably more. I spent my childhood rooting for juiced-up sluggers belting 70 home runs because I didn’t know any better. To me, it was astonishing to see these “superstars” reach uncharted territory, surpassing records that had stood for 40 years.

Now, while I like to think I know who the cheats are in the game, I’ll never know 100 percent who did it clean and who didn’t, really leaving me numb to the fact. For me, there’s only a handful of names that would shock me if I heard their name tied to PEDs and let me say, A-Rod is not one of them.

My bone to pick here is not with the guy everyone, including his own fanbase as of late, loves to hate. Nothing Rodriguez has done this past year, as off the wall as it might have been, has surprised me. This is the same guy who posed for a picture kissing himself in a mirror, ate popcorn out of Cameron Diaz’s hand at a Cowboys game for all to see, has not one, but two paintings of himself as a Minotaur hanging over his bed, etc. The man is simply a walking disaster.

No, my issue is not with Rodriguez, but with his employer, my favorite team that I have loved from Day 1, the New York Yankees.

I really started getting into baseball after the strike in 1994. It was in ‘95 that my dad took me to my first game at Yankee Stadium and it was then, at the age of six that I fell in love with the game and the team.

Let me say, this team, more specifically this offense, is the worst team I have seen so far.

I know, say what you want, I’m a spoiled Yankees fan. I’ll admit it, I’ve become pretty used to seeing my team win.

A big reason for the fall in the Bronx this season has been injuries. Most teams don’t have five All-Stars on their roster, while the Yankees have five on their disabled list. Nevertheless, their offense has scored the fourth-least runs in the American League and finds themselves in fourth in the AL East, seven games out of first place.

With that said, they now have a chance to bring back, steroids aside, an all-time great to the lineup. Say what you want about him as a person, but Rodriguez at this point would be an upgrade to a Yankees lineup featuring the likes of Brent Lillibridge and David Adams.

Instead, New York has put the three-time MVP through the gauntlet, sending him through 20 days of rehab assignments only to balk at his return when the time came. If it was truly because Rodriguez was hurt that would be a different story, but it’s not. It’s not even about his dealings with the MLB and them saving face. The Yankees knew he was a drug user when they gave him his new contact.

Rodriguez has made it clear that he feels healthy, going as far to get a second opinion on his “quad strain” that has kept him from returning from hip surgery. A-Rod wants to play, but the Yankees won’t let him. Now, they have pushed his return back again, saying he will likely play in a rehab game again August 1.

For the first time since I’ve been a fan of the Yankees, the billion dollar empire in the Bronx, this is about money.

With A-Rod still owed $114 million, the Yankees are doing everything they can to get that contract voided by keeping him off the field and hoping for a big suspension handed down from the MLB. Sure it’s a lot of money, but one thing I have always seen from this team — until now — is winning comes first.

Rodriguez has made it clear that he wants to play. Whether it’s personally for the money or the love of the game, honestly I don’t care. For a team that brings in income by the boatloads, that shouldn’t be a worry of the Yankees either. The fact is right now, A-Rod can only help this lineup, and honestly, they kind of need him.

People tend for forget that this is a guy who has hit 647 career home runs. Sure, his current self is a shell of what we once saw, but as a player, I’m not ready to give up on him. Call it a bad contract of you’d like, but I’ll admit it, the Yankees don’t win the 2009 World Series without him — well, they’d still beat the Phillies, but probably wouldn’t get there without him that is. He’s nuts and hasn’t done much as of late, but he did a lot to help the Yanks win.

The worst case scenario is that Rodriguez comes back and doesn’t perform, something their current offense is used to right now. In that case, the organization just says, “We told you so,” and everyone moves on. Best case, he provides a spark, hits a couple homers and helps the Yanks sneak into the postseason.

I’m aware he’s a cheat, no different than Barry Bonds or Mark McGuire — guys I have come to hate for helping to ruin the game — and I’ll never root for him the same way I once did, but in baseball now, how can you really tell the difference?

Whenever his looming suspension comes, anytime that the Yanks can get out of Rodriguez now can only boost their offense. It’s time they put aside their differences, ignore any sideshow that A-Rod brings like they have in years past and let him come back to play third base.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Christopher Hopkins is a Sentinel sports reporter. His email address is chopkins@cumberlink.com


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