Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A-Rod goes from 24-and-one to 103-and-one

I'll bet Alex Rodriguez misses the days when the worst thing said about him was Steve Phillips claiming A-Rod wanted so much special treatment it would create a 24-and-one culture on whatever team he signed with after 2000. Now A-Rod finds himself getting special treatment of a very different kind - the only one of 104 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003 to be outed.

I think A-Rod is being singled out. And I give him credit for admitting guilt and apologizing directly and without conditions.

But after watching the whole interview with Peter Gammons, I just don't find a lot of it to be credible.

As I wrote earlier, I find it hard to believe that A-Rod felt under so much pressure to perform when he went to Texas that he started using steroids, but did not feel the same pressure when he went to the slightly larger media market of New York.

When you admit to taking steroids because you felt under pressure to live up to expectations, it calls into question future situations. In 2004, A-Rod's new team choked in the playoffs, losing to the arch-rival team he nearly signed with. A-Rod was blamed for not hitting in the clutch and attacked for the "slap" play. Presumably, A-Rod felt under great pressure to succeed the following year - and responded with an MVP season. Coincidence? Who knows.

By the end of the 2006 season, A-Rod was again under attack for playoff failures, even being moved to the eighth spot in the batting order by his manager. Presumably, A-Rod felt under great pressure to succeed the following year - and again responded with an MVP season. Coincidence? Who knows.

It's possible that, with the advent of testing, A-Rod did stop his use of PEDs when he came to the Yankees. But, as I wrote before, when Gammons asked if his period of use was 2001, 2002 and 2003, why did A-Rod say that was "pretty accurate"?

Actually, it would probably be worse for A-Rod if it turned out he was using steroids before Texas, when he played with Seattle, than if he used them with the Yankees. Steroid use in Seattle would place his whole career in question. At least Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens built up superstar credentials before the steroid era.

A-Rod's claim that he did not start taking steroids until he arrived in "loosey-goosey" Texas is believable, even if I'm not sure if I believe it. But his claim that he did not know what he was taking remains harder to accept. In the full interview, it became even more sketchy, with A-Rod muddying the issue with statements like: "back then you could walk in GNC and get four or five different products that today would probably trigger a positive test" when the substances A-Rod tested positive for were not the sort of things one could get at GNC.

In the full interview, when Gammons asked A-Rod about when Katie Couric interviewed him, A-Rod responded:

At the time, Peter, I wasn't even being truthful with myself. How am I going to be truthful with Katie or CBS? Today, I'm here to tell the truth, and I feel good about that.

I've read the first two sentences several times and am still not sure exactly what he means. Is A-Rod saying he was in denial during the Couric interview? Or that he wasn't there to tell the truth at that time?

After the topic of Couric was raised, here's the very next exchange:

Gammons: So from 2004 on, you have been completely clean?
A-Rod: Yes.

So Gammons asks a question along the lines of what Couric was asking, and A-Rod responds in exactly the same way as he did during the Couric interview.

Last time, most people were inclined to take A-Rod at his word. But once you've lied on national TV, it's hard to know what to believe.

Overall, I do think A-Rod deserves credit for a forthright, no-strings-attached admission of guilt that went beyond the original year of 2003 in SI's story. Considering the circumstances, he probably did about as well as could be expected in a no-win situation.

Strategically, A-Rod's worst mistake might have been one that is quintessentially A-Rod - he talked way too much. A-Rod could have gotten the same points across in far less than 35 minutes. The lengthy interview offered far more opportunities for vague statements that could be picked apart.

A-Rod's best hope is that he stops being a 103-and-one player before too long. A-Rod deserves to face the consequences for what he's done, but so do 103 other players.


Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

Stating "back then you could walk in GNC and get four or five different products that today would probably trigger a positive test" is and indirect way of saying "why am I being singled out?"

But it would've been to lame to come out and say it directly, even for A-Rod.

Fred Garvin said...

A-rod doesn't deserve credit for coming clean about his use of PEDs. This interview was a calculated attempt on his part to minimize the damage. Look at what has happened to Bonds and Clemmens. Their lives have been turned upside down because they refuse to admit their guilt. Compare that with what has happened to Pettite. Once exposed, he appologized and most people have forgiven him. I don't think ARod will get off nearly as easily as Pettite, though, because ARod is not very likeable while Pettite is. Even if you hate the Yankees, Pettite always came across as a good guy. ARod, on the other hand, is the kind of guy who opts out of a $25M per year contract during the World Series because he thinks he's worth $30M per year. Even many Yankees fans hate him.

Anonymous said...

First, all names on that so called "secret list" should be made public if major league baseball is serious about cleaning up its act. A-Rod handeled the situation better than Bonds or Clemens but a cheater is still a cheater. It wasn't a slip of once or twice over a 3 year period but continual use for the 3 year period and that is a personal choice with intent to cheat. One of the problems with our society today is the double standard applied to athletes as opposed to the average person. He cheated for at least 3 years and that should excluded him from consideration down the road for the Hall.

Paul from Boston said...

I'm curious who else is on that list, but I don't think the names should be revealed. They were agreed with the premise that they would be anonymous. ARod got a raw deal in having his name leaked, but 104 wrongs don't make a right. Also, while it would provide fantastic fodder for us all, it doesn't mean anyone who didn't fail that year didn't do them at some point - so I question the kind of closure it would bring.

Uncle Mike said...

The names have to be released. Promising a bunch of cheaters you won't expose them only works if they copped a plea, enabling you to reel in a bigger fish. No sympathy for them: Release the names.

Yes, I know, you all want me to admit it: I want to see some Mets and Red Sox on the list, and some Angels, Diamondbacks, Marlins and Indians, too. So what will I do if one of the names is Derek Jeter? Or Paul O'Neill? Or another "real Yankee"? I don't know.

But we can be pretty sure Mariano Rivera won't be one of them. Way to skinny to be a steroid guy.

Which would also seem to eliminate Pedro Martinez from consideration, but maybe it would work the opposite with him: He's got so much rage, maybe steroids would calm him down! Antimatter!

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