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Posted: Tuesday February 17, 2009 6:48PM; Updated: Tuesday February 17, 2009 6:48PM
Ben Reiter Ben Reiter >
INSIDE BASEBALL

Rodriguez blames youth instead of genuinely owning up to mistake

Story Highlights

A-Rod didn't take advantage of a tremendous opportunity to truly come clean

Rodriguez repeatedly chalked it all up to youthful indiscretion

Cashman: "I don't think that Alex is very good at communicating, to be honest"

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Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez was flanked by a number of Yankees players during Tuesday's press conference in Tampa, Fla.
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez began his press conference on Tuesday at 1:52 p.m. -- 22 minutes late -- but punctuality was not the only element of his performance that ought to have been enhanced.

Camera shutters began clicking like machine guns as soon as he came into view from the tent that the Yankees have permanently erected behind the third base stands at Steinbrenner Field, and Rodriguez, wearing a navy dress shirt, khaki pants and bright white sneakers, looked suitably uncomfortable. He frowned and licked his lips as he took his seat at the long table beneath the tent, next to general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi, and his first words after team public relations chief Jason Zillo had made introductions were, "Thanks, Jase. Bear with me, I'm a little nervous ... or a lot nervous."

A fine start, to be sure -- but things quickly went downhill, and got less believable, from there.

Rodriguez spent much of his prepared six-minute statement, and the 27 minutes of questions from reporters that followed, insisting again and again that while he had undoubtedly made "a stupid mistake" by taking a performance-enhancing drug (and he admitted that he was injected by his cousin approximately twice a month from 2001 to 2003, in six-month cycles), that mistake was almost solely the result of his age and immaturity at the time.

At various points he called himself "young," "curious," "na´ve," "stupid," "silly and irresponsible." More than once he referred to the fact that he had never had the benefit of a college education. "If I had a son, I would definitely recommend going to college," he said.

He never called the substance he took -- which was reported by SI's Selena Roberts and David Epstein to be the cutting-edge steroid Primobolan -- by anything but the name "Boli" (which he explained was its street name in the Dominican Republic, where he said his unnamed cousin acquired it). That seemed as if it was one facet of a strategy to underscore the youthful nature of his indiscretion. "I didn't think they were steroids. That's part of being young and stupid. It was basically amateur hour," he said. Later he added, "I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs."

It has been reported in recent days that Rodriguez has retained the consulting firm Outside Eyes to assist him in managing this crisis -- but if the contents of his press conference performance today were the result of their work, he might consider requesting a refund. His constant references to his immaturity as the reason why he deigned to allow himself to be injected were simply not plausible. If we are to believe that he took "Boli" only from 2001 to 2003, he would have been a grown man of 25 when he began, and already a millionaire many times over. Twenty-five-year-old multimillionaire athletes know precisely what they are doing when they bend over to allow their cousins to administer secret injections to them, whether or not they've been to college.

Rodriguez today had a tremendous opportunity to truly come clean. He might have said that the reason that he took steroids, in an era in which it was easy to do so, was simply to improve his performance as a baseball player. That he's deeply sorry. That he's stopped now. And that if even he, the player who undoubtedly remains the game's finest (natural) talent, couldn't resist the siren call of PEDs, then how can baseball expect all those so-called "Quadruple-A" players to do so unless baseball imposes even stricter testing procedures and penalties than are currently in place?

Instead, he chalked it all up to youthful indiscretion, and before he left the tent at 2:25 p.m. he said, "After today, I hope to put this behind me ... I miss simply being a baseball player." He added, "The only thing I could ask ... is to judge me from this day forward."

Despite Rodriguez's wish, that's certainly not going to happen, as Cashman admitted to reporters after the press conference was over. "This is not dying," Cashman said. "The shelf-life for this is a lot longer. But this was a very important step."

Even Cashman, though, intimated that perhaps Rodriguez could have been more forthright about his motivation for taking "Boli."

"The one thing he could have said, I guess, is that he did this to make himself better on the baseball field," he said. "Maybe everybody just assumes that ... [but] I don't think that Alex is very good at communicating, to be honest. This is not something he's good at."

He certainly wasn't very good at it today. Given the chance to communicate openly and honestly, he seemed to have mainly spin to offer -- and, sadly, it seems likely that nothing he can ever do as a baseball player, from this day forward, will make the public forget that.

 
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