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On multiple occasions Rodriguez has looked directly into TV cameras and radio microphones, into the faces of fans and friends and reporters, and said things that were flatly untrue.How many pills, creams or needles he used, how much those pills, creams or needles might have enhanced his already towering gifts, and to what lengths he went to conceal it -- these and other questions will be debated forever, and will never fully be resolved, but there's no longer any debate about Rodriguez's credibility.He's a proven liar, a repeated liar, and thus, as he prepares to emerge from the longest steroid-related suspension in the history of baseball, as he readies himself physically and mentally for his 21st spring training, there's tremendous interest in his story, but there's just no point in quoting him. Take a sentence from Rodriguez, set it between two quotation marks and watch what happens; it curdles like year-old milk.The words become unstable, unusable, weirdly ironic.The two are speaking about their many successes in business, and hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs are on hand. He's once again that phenom with nothing but upside. Worn out, depressed, verging on despair and unemployed for the first time in his adulthood, he locks himself away and takes a vow of media silence, which isn't easy.At one point Magic asks the crowd to recognize a few luminaries in attendance. He looks hopeful, sounds hopeful, and while there's something stirring about such hope in the face of so much hate, it also seems uncharitable to continue hating in the face of such hope. As Henry Adams says in The Education of Henry Adams: "He never labored so hard to learn a language as he did to hold his tongue ..."Then he makes a list. Friends, owners, fellow players with whom he should shoot straight.In fact, don't even bother taking out a recorder or notebook in Rodriguez's presence. His suspension is over, but so is the public's suspension of disbelief. He looks as if the calamari suddenly isn't sitting right in his stomach. NO ONE CAN say precisely when the education of Alex Rodriguez began. Three decades of swinging a bat, of violently torquing his hulking 6-foot-3 frame, had caused a calcium buildup, and the buildup had become an impingement, and the impingement had begun to stop the rotation of the hip, not simply slowing Rodriguez's swing, causing him to look like a pigeon-specked statue at the plate in the 2012 postseason, but shutting down his lower torso.

Quoting Rodriguez is like dropping a Mento into a Diet Coke.

Torre: The great tanking experiment Analytics rankings: Just how much does your team buy in to analytics? He's pledged to fight to the death, to sue everyone, but today the fight has begun to feel doomed, futile -- wrong. He reaches out to Jim Sharp, a feared Washington litigator, a Navy man, a plain-spoken Oklahoman in his early 70s, and on the phone Sharp puts it to him real straight: You're ruining your life. He paces his apartment, as much as any man can pace after two hip surgeries.

Watch: A-Rod: A Pariah's Return Tabitha Soren: Moneyball today Tim Keown: Vivek and the Kings MLB Home Subscribe to ESPN The Magazine! Just two years ago his doctor sanded and shaved the ball joint of his left leg, to make it fit more smoothly into the hip socket.

All human happiness or misery takes the form of action, Aristotle said, and though he was speaking of storytelling, life is a never-ending story, and what holds for plot often holds for ethics. He knows he's not talking his way back from purgation. And then he's condemned to learn it again, and again. Later, at a café in the Design District, sharing a plate of grilled fish and some calamari with a friend, Rodriguez glows. But they swear it's a thing, this education, this radical home schooling he's undertaken. How do you measure the start of an evolution, a metamorphosis, an accretion of character? His inner circle tells him he's making a terrible mistake.

For instance: He drives one night from his office in Coral Gables, Florida, to a college in downtown Miami to attend a lecture by Magic Johnson and billionaire Mike Fernandez. Uplifted, emboldened by that applause, he talks about how badly he wants to get back and play, help the team, blend into the team, have it not be about him anymore, and his words are unusually cogent, his tone nakedly earnest, altruistic. Fight, fight, fight, they say -- one of them actually uses those words. He forms a new inner circle, a smaller circle, this one made up of levelheaded Midwesterners, peacemakers -- and deal makers.

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