Mark Teixeira vividly remembers life in his mid-20s, when hitting a baseball squarely was as automatic as drawing a breath. The hands were quick, the muscles fired on command and the line drives all seemed supercharged.

Being young came with other perks, too, including a robust immune system — no sick days, ever — and bones that never broke. You couldn’t blame Teixeira for feeling like it all happened a million years ago, even though he’s turning only 33 in April. Much has changed since then.

Teixeira’s average has fallen steadily since he batted a career-high .308 in 2008. He hit .251 in 2012, his third consecutive season under .260, and appeared in just 123 games due to a strained calf and chronic bronchitis. Teixeira has tried almost every remedy to re-create that state of grace – losing weight, changing his diet, tinkering with his mechanics – only to come upon an icy realization about the laws of nature:
After nearly 1,500 games in the big leagues, Teixeira’s era of all-around brilliance is probably over. As he put it, “It’s crazy to think I’ll get better towards the end of my career.”

Every athlete eventually stands at the same crossroads, having run through the Rolodex of excuses. The war on time is never won, although there are two ways to manage the decline: either focus on the skills that remain, or choose the dark side and start doping.

The temptation is as powerful as the drugs themselves. A pill, a cream, a shot and suddenly you’re strong again, never sore, never ill. Fastballs look a tick slower, the bat feels lighter, the world is your gymnasium.
Teixeira, in fact, would be the perfect PED candidate – a dose of HGH could arrest his decline just as it’s starting to accelerate.

That is, if he were wired for that kind of cheating.

“No, that’s not me, I could never do something like [PEDs]. I don’t believe in magic formulas,” Teixeira said Tuesday morning. “My whole career, I’ve been proud to do things the right way. I don’t want to be ashamed of anything I’ve done, and I want my kids to feel the same way about me, too.”

Teixeira is too smart, too politically adept,

to talk to about Alex Rodriguez’s shame. When he says, “It’s not for me to judge what others do,” it’s clear he has no sympathy for baseball’s version of Lance Armstrong.