A-Rod another star unmasked
Baseball fans and media should not be surprised by the A-Rod news
A-Rod told 60 Minutes 14 months ago he didn't need to use steroids
All of A-Rod's achievements, past and future, will be tainted
Surprised? No, I doubt anyone's all that surprised by this news. Was it really likely that while all these other power hitters were cranking their systems full of multisyllabic substances that Alex Rodriguez, the best, prettiest and prima donna-est of them all, abstained?
After all, perhaps as much as anyone in the sport, this is a man who cares, deeply and truly, what we think of him. A man who (bravely or foolishly, take your pick) admitted to bouts of depression. A man who yearned to play in the country's media capitol even though he always seemed better-suited for a mid-market team. Rodriguez was perfect for Seattle and Texas, where he could produce his ridiculous numbers in the absence of scrutiny or Steinbrenner-sized expectations, where he could be everybody's favorite action figure out on the infield. Yet he came to New York, where insecurities metastasize, then chose to remain in the city even when it was clear he'd never supplant Derek Jeter as the team's true star. While some players want to be feared, and others respected, it seems A-Rod really just wants to be loved.
Surprised? Well, we all did make a fuss about him hitting 500 home runs because he was the "clean" guy. And many opined that he couldn't break Barry Bonds' record soon enough, so that a "respectable" slugger would once again sit atop the records. But didn't it seem like it was just a matter of time until the other cleat dropped? I remember seeing him in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium two years ago and being shocked by his raw physical size. On TV, he never looked that big, at least not next to lumbering baseball mastodons like Jason Giambi, but in person he is almost frighteningly muscular, a Soloflex ad come to life. Certainly, people suspected it; I remember talking to one American League front office executive two years ago who scoffed as Bonds drew all the scrutiny, for didn't everyone in the game figure Rodriguez was up next? Well, somewhere out there today, Bonds is probably smiling. Another superhero has been unmasked.
There will be a lot of discussion in the coming days about what this means. For Rodriguez's legacy. For the Yankees. For the already-shattered trust between the game and its fans. And, no doubt, because this is America, for Madonna's love life. The New York media will pounce, as well they should. Wasn't it just 14 months ago that Rodriguez was arrogantly telling 60 Minutes that not only had he never taken steroids but also that he didn't need to? He was just that good, he told viewers. Well, if there's one thing sports fans have learned in the last decade, it's that no one is just that good.
What happens now? Well, it sure would be nice if baseball could somehow hold a clearinghouse, just get everyone out in the open so that we're spared the slow trickle of transgressions that will continue, likely for years. Just hold a one-week special: Come out now and receive half off your public flogging! Then there would be no more wondering. We could just start anew. But, of course, that won't happen.
Instead, we'll sit back and pick apart A-Rod's carcass. At least until the next last, great, clean slugger falls from the sky.
SI Exclusive: A-Rod tested positive for steroids in 2003