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?
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.