Many people have asked me recently, as a Yankees fan, how I feel about embattled slugger Alex Rodriguez.

The short answer: my feelings are mixed.

However, since last Sunday—when Boston Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster plunked A-Rod in the second inning of a critical Sunday Night Baseball matchup at Fenway—my assessment of the situation has become even more convoluted.

I have never been one to support alleged or admittedly PED use, but A-Rod is an interesting case, with no paucity of mystery and intrigue. Once seen as the eventual inevitable legitimate heir to the all-time home-run title—destined to restore sanctity to the record Barry Bonds spuriously wrested from Hank Aaron in 2007—the A-Rod story line shifted irreparably in 2009.

A-Rod was forced to undergo hip surgery prior to training camp and meanwhile became the focus of a media frenzy when it was revealed that he had tested positive for a variety of performance enhancing drugs and supplements in 2003—before the Major Leagues instituted an official testing and penalty program. A-Rod admitted to using certain substances within a narrow period of time after signing an historically large contract with the Texas Rangers, before it was officially illegal per MLB rules.

While the larger integrity of his overall career numbers had undoubtedly been called into question, many still felt he was a more palatable home run king than Bonds. A-Rod at least partially redeemed himself among Yankee fans and general detractors (myself included) after returning to action in 2009—boasting a very strong second half and finally reversing his personal history of disappointing postseason play in leading the Yankees to their 27th World Series Title to properly christen New Yankee Stadium.

History seemed to repeat itself in the spring of 2013.

After once again struggling mightily through the 2012 postseason (most notably being benched by Joe Girardi  in the ALCS) A-Rod once again found himself in the unenviable position of facing another hip surgery while simultaneously being the center of huge performance enhancing drug investigation. This time, A-Rod was tabbed as the ring leader in the Biogenesis Clinic scandal, accused of obtaining Human Growth Hormone and other substances and recruiting teammates and other Major Leaguers to do the same, then attempting to cover-up his actions and interfere with MLB investigation proceedings.

A-Rod was absent from the lineup, but central in the headlines throughout the beginning of the 2013 season, as Major League Baseball eventually suspended 13 players for their alleged involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic. A-rod’s was the last and most severe of the penalties, totaling 211 games plus any potential postseason contests. Meanwhile, A-Rod and his lawyer and media relations team concocted a severely bizarre, soap-opera-worthy drama of insinuations and accusations which implied the existence of a vast conspiracy between the Yankees and MLB to keep him off the field and void his contract.

Sympathy for A-rod was at an all-time low.

Despite an incredible rash of injuries to key stars—keeping the likes of Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, newcomer Kevin Youkilis, and other key role players out of the lineup for much of the first half of the season—even most Yankee fans were reticent to see A-Rod rejoin the team.

Things changed drastically on 18 August 2013, early in a critical game against the arch-rival and then-division-leading Red Sox.

Starter Ryan Dempster threw inside on A-Rod on four consecutive pitches, ultimately hitting him in the ribs on a 3-0 pitch. The umpire immediately warned the pitcher, the Red Sox dugout, AND the Yankees dugout, and threw out Yankees manager Joe Girardi before he could even make his way out of the dugout to argue. Dempster was not ejected and ultimately only suspended five games. He and his manager would both shamelessly claim on multiple occasions that the hit-by-pitch was unintentional.

It is difficult to accurately gage the magnitude of what A-Rod may or may not have done with respect to use of banned substances. He never tested positive for any banned substance in relation to the Biogenesis scandal. Even if he did attempt to foil MLB investigators, any tactful defense lawyer would claim that he likely feared he would not be treated fairly in light of discovery of even moderate evidence against him. His actions in underhandedly blaming the Yankees and MLB for conspiring against him are certainly questionable, but one thing is certain: the way MLB handled the Dempster situation was deplorable.

Whatever your views on A-Rod, MLB has only its own due process to blame for him being able to continue playing during his appeal. Why then should he be penalized for exercising his given rights under the collective bargaining agreement? Suspending a bottom-of-the-rotation starter a paltry five games is less than a slap on the wrist for taking a very blatantly intentional pot shot at a defenseless player.

Half-measures are the curse of the Bud Selig era.

Use of performance enhancing drugs was all-but encouraged by MLB due to Selig’s refusal to act on the issue when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and other obvious violators were boosting the game’s popularity. Now he is setting a disgusting double standard by essentially allowing open season on A-Rod who is only exercising his rights under the due process of the game’s rules. Unlike Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro, A-Rod never vehemently denied his use of banned substances to the media, much less a Congressional committee. Yet while the preceding list was essentially encouraged for its transgressions, A-Rod is being hung out to dry. Even David Ortiz came to his support.

Whether A-Rod’s role as a newly sympathetic figure can help the Yankees overcome the adversity of this season remains to be seen, but leading them to the postseason would certainly be an intriguing twist in an already-spellbinding tome.

Perhaps it’s time to redefine our understanding of the word “justice.”