If you're an Orioles fan, and who can resist those lovable lunks right now, you might want to catch up on your rest over the next couple of days because you're going to have to be on your game this weekend even if your favorite team isn't.
The Yankees are coming and there's a pretty good chance they're bringing Alex Rodriguez with them, so you're going to want your lungs to be in tip-top shape. It's not as if you're going to be able to just sit around waiting for Mark Teixeira to come to bat anymore.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi tipped his hand a little Monday. He created a theoretical timetable that seemed to target Friday at Camden Yards as the most likely date for A-Roid to return from the disabled list after a couple of months on the sideline recovering from hip surgery.
"Is Friday the day? I can't tell you," Girardi said Monday in New York. "So much of it just depends on how he feels and when he believes that he's ready to go. I have not really put a date on it, because I want to see how he bounces back on Wednesday or even tomorrow. ... When he feels that he's ready, we're probably going to take him back."
Rodriguez, who went 3-for-6 with two home runs in an extended spring training game Tuesday, is ahead of schedule. He originally figured to return in late May, but his rehabilitation program at the Yankees' camp has been going well - certainly a lot better than the image makeover he's going to need in the wake of the new book about him by Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts that was released Monday.
The book, A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, portrays Rodriguez as a guy who was taking steroids as far back as high school and includes the bombshell accusation that he tipped pitches to opposing hitters during his years with the Texas Rangers in exchange for reciprocal treatment when he was at the plate.
The tipping charges have been disputed by many of his former teammates - and, frankly, it's hard to imagine that he could have masterminded such a conspiracy without it leaking out a lot sooner than this - but A-Rod's recent admission to steroid abuse during the Rangers years and the many apparent inconsistencies in his public attempt to control the damage from Roberts' revelation of his positive steroid test have made it pretty easy to believe just about anything about him.
It's my job to be fair, so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt about the tipping allegations for the moment and let Major League Baseball sort that out. If you're an Orioles fan, you are under no such obligation, though I don't think you really need that last ethical straw to bellow at Rodriguez with all your might if he makes his 2009 regular-season debut at Oriole Park this weekend.
The guy sold his soul a long time ago for the chance to be the highest-paid player in the history of baseball. He has admitted to using illegal performance-enhancing drugs for several seasons to assure that he would be able to live up to that ridiculous contract.
He has become the symbol of all that's wrong with professional sports, and to think that he claimed to be a kid who idolized Cal Ripken Jr. and always wanted to be just like him.
Somewhere along the line, he decided that statistics and money were more important than character, or maybe we just gave him a little too much credit when he burst onto the scene in the mid-1990s as the young player with a chance to be the greatest of the greats. Maybe he was always a little deficient in the integrity department and that's why some people think it's important to trumpet his alleged steroid use in high school even though we already knew he was a steroid cheat.
Again, I don't know any of that for sure.
Again, not your problem.
It's not as if you need an excuse to boo the Yankees, who already represented a lot of what has gone haywire in pro sports. I'm just remembering the enthusiasm with which Orioles fans blasted Teixeira, whose only real sin was not wanting to accept less money to play for a losing team near his boyhood home. It'll be interesting to see whether the anti-A-Rod sentiment that bubbles up in the stands will match the provincial passion that created so much energy at Camden Yards during the first series of the regular season.
I'm also wondering, at a time when a lot of fans are experiencing some serious Orioles fatigue, whether there will be enough energy and anti-pinstripe sentiment in the stands for both A-Rod and Tex at what would figure to be a time of maximum anti-Yankee motivation.
Better get your rest.
Listen to Peter Schmuck every weeknight at six on WBAL (1090 AM) and check out his blog, The Schmuck Stops Here, at baltimoresun.com /schmuckblog.