Drug cheats in baseball spur 'what-ifs' from opposing players

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Fuentes was, indeed, sharp. He immediately went to 0-2.

Then he made a mistake that still haunts Angels fans and management. His next pitch was up, just in the strike zone, and Rodriguez hit it into the porch in right field, barely clearing Bobby Abreu's glove. Score tied, 3-3. Fuentes would retire the next three Yankees, but the damage was done. In the 13th, the Yankees scratched out a run on a throwing error by Maicer Izturis to win.

Here is the straight line: The Angels lost the series in six games, and they haven't been even remotely close to the playoffs since.

Can you put all that on A-Rod, on one homer in 2009? No.

Can you wonder a lot? Yes.

"There are lots of what-ifs, could-bes and should-have-beens," Fuentes says now.

He is happily retired in Merced, enjoying family time he never had.

"Nineteen summers of pro baseball," he says. "I didn't even know what it was like to have a barbecue or go on a boat."

He says he hasn't thought much about the new A-Rod drug allegations.

"I just threw one bad pitch," he says.

But he says his friends were all over him about the recent A-Rod news, saying of that homer in 2009: "See, we told ya."

He also says he heard about it every time he took the mound in Angel Stadium in recent years as a member of the Oakland A's.

"Angels fans never forgot it," he says.

Fuentes is no different from many players, current and past, in his building anger over what cheaters do to the game.

"I don't dislike Rodriguez as a person," he says, "but I definitely lose respect. This stuff needs to be stopped. Penalties need to be harsher. Fifty games, at the salary of some of these guys? That's a steal."

Fuentes remembers that night in Yankee Stadium all too well.

"It was absolutely disappointing," he says. "I don't think I realized the impact it would have until later."

One more straight line, this one a delivery from Fuentes that is not the least bit funky:

"There are a lot of guys, sitting at home, not playing, because a cheater took their job."

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