- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2009

All the news coming out of Tampa, Fla., about Alex Rodriguez’s hip surgery has been good.

The doctor who performed the arthroscopic surgery Monday said the procedure to repair a torn labrum in his right hip “went exactly as we planned. No surprises.”

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he expects A-Rod to be on the field “sometime in May.”

The question is do we believe all the good news?

Anything is possible now when it comes to A-Rod. Based on what’s happened so far this year, the least-plausible outcome is that things go as planned and that there will be no surprises.

Following a report that he tested positive for steroids in 2003, the three-time MVP orchestrated a confession to ESPN’s Peter Gammons that few who watched believed was truthful.

Then there was the news about his hip problem. The Yankees, it seemed, were as much in the dark as anyone when A-Rod’s brother told ESPNdeportes.com last week he would undergo major surgery and miss about three months.

The Yankees later that day issued a totally different statement, saying instead their star slugger would undergo treatment to avoid surgery.

That later changed to the arthroscopic surgery that A-Rod underwent Monday. But the surgery is just a stopgap measure. He will need further hip surgery in the offseason, though the Yankees say they expect him to recover and be ready to play in 2010.

Of course, the Yankees also expected him to be the jewel of the franchise when they signed him to a 10-year, $275 million contract in 2007.

Embarrassing personal episodes - Madonna, his divorce - and revelations about steroid use followed. I doubt the club expected any of that for its $275 million investment.

A cyst on the hip was removed last week before the operation, which, of course, raised all sorts of suspicions that it was connected to steroid use - possibly caused by injections. Experts, however, said that was unlikely, that wear and tear could have caused the cyst and hip problems.

Then again, steroid use produces greater wear and tear on the body, so any injuries A-Rod suffers now - particularly something like a hip problem - will raise questions. When it comes to ballplayers and steroids, injuries always are more than what they seem.

It is hard when you hear about A-Rod’s hip problems not to think of Albert Belle, whose career - one that reeks of steroid use - ended in 2000 because of an arthritic hip at the age of 34.

A-Rod will turn 34 in July.

No one has said A-Rod suffers from anything remotely like the hip problems that ended Belle’s career. But body parts like a hip - especially for someone who used performance-enhancing substances - don’t get better when you are 34 years old.

No amount of optimism - the Yankees claim A-Rod will be back on the field in May - can change that.

It is difficult to believe those same optimistic Yankees are not exploring options behind the scenes for getting out of the A-Rod business.

The club looked into getting out of Jason Giambi’s contract several times following revelations of his steroid use. But they never took steps to actually get out, in part because of the difficulty in doing so. But the stakes are much higher in the case of A-Rod, who is in just the second year of his $275 million deal.

This deal may be worth the battle.

You would have to be an eternal optimist to believe the news about A-Rod in the future is going to be good.

A book on A-Rod by Selena Roberts, who broke the positive steroid test story for SI.com, will be released next month. Another far more damaging book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Richard Ben Cramer, who exposed the myth of Joe DiMaggio, also lies ahead.

Despite what the doctor said Monday, nothing goes as planned with A-Rod.

There always are surprises - none of them good.

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