MLB All-Stars And Alex Rodriguez's Ban: The Week In Sports

Alex Rodriguez has accepted his season-long ban from baseball and dropped his lawsuits against the MLB and the Players Association. NPR's Scott Simon talks with Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine about one of baseball's greatest and most infamous players.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And it's time now for the toy department of our program, and that's sports. In addition to the Winter Olympics, A-Rod says uncle, the All-Star Game's ahead, and what a season Kevin Durant's having. And "Hammerin' Hank" turns 80. We're joined now in our studios, for a change - live - by our friend Howard Bryant, of ESPN. com and ESPN The Magazine. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Oh, in person. Love the building. New!

SIMON: Yes, and we hope people will make a contribution to their local public station - even more.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Alex Rodriguez's attorneys said yesterday they're withdrawing the lawsuit against Major League Baseball and the Players Union to fight that 162-game suspension he got last year for violating baseball's drug policy. Is it over now?

BRYANT: Oh it's over, and I think what it tells you is that Alex doesn't want it to be over, and the it being his entire baseball career; not just playing, but the future. When you think about the great baseball players, even the great good citizens - whether you're talking about Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson - there was no future for them when the game was over. And they did not anger Major League Baseball the way Alex Rodriguez has and I think that right now, what Alex is doing is he's saying, I want to come back and I want to be a part of Major League Baseball.

There's no way that it was going to happen if he's suing the commissioner, if it's suing the game, if he's suing his own union and in addition, not making friends with the Yankees, either. It's obvious that he's realizing that, you know, if you want a career in broadcasting, you want anything in this game, you'd better make friends with people right now and take your suspension.

SIMON: We're approaching the NBA All-Star break. The Indiana Pacers have been on a tear. And Kevin Durant, of the Oklahoma City Thunder - I believe - 17 games, 25 points or more.

BRYANT: Phenomenal pace, and I think he made it clear last year that the losing was bothering him even though his team has been to the finals, and even though he's obviously the second best player in the league. But the losing the last game of the season, not being a champion, he's on a terrific tear right now. I think what's going to be really interesting to see is can he or anybody else beat the Miami Heat four times, or maybe even the Indiana Pacers?

But he is playing right now with that kind of purpose that you see from championship players, and it's a really great thing to watch as we get so cynical about players not caring. He really cares, and he really wants to win.

SIMON: Yeah. And we are graced to have you in the studio today 'cause you're in the nation's capital. Hammerin' Hank, Henry Aaron, turned 80 this week. You've written a beautiful biography of him, "The Last Hero." He earned a fraction of what A-Rod will just leave on the table over the next year. What should we appreciate about Henry Aaron as he reaches this milestone?

BRYANT: Well, I think last night when we were at the Hay Adams Hotel, even the great - you're surrounded by peers: Jim Rice, Ricky Henderson, Ozzie Smith, Frank Robinson and Robin Yount. And even they look at him, not just for being a baseball player, and I think that was one of the reasons why I gravitated toward him was because he's the kind of person who goes beyond baseball.

And you want to talk about a life - for me, he is the epitome of the American dream, where you think about he came from to simply accomplishing what he's done right now, by having talent and making the most of his ability throughout everything that has happened in this country. It's just a remarkable story, and he's a remarkable man. Eighty years old - it's a pretty good run.

SIMON: And when you take a look at some of the current stars - I just don't mean to particularize, if you please, on Alex Rodriquez - what are they not picking up in the Henry Aaron story, do you think?

BRYANT: Well, I think the one thing that you pick up from the Henry Aaron story - that you should pick up - is the humility that the game brings you, and the humility that you should bring to the game and into your life. I think that the reason why people have so much respect for Henry is because the job comes first and being a citizen comes first, and all of that is the most important thing that he takes. He does not take himself seriously. He does not do the things that we talk about, in terms of kind of the prima donna lifestyle, the celebrity lifestyle. He's just a good man.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, what a pleasure to have you with us. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

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