A-Rod needs to get story straight
Rodriguez's story has changed maybe once or twice too often already
Unlike Andy Pettitte, Rodriguez has no great excuses
A-Rod has great instincts on a baseball diamond, but not in life
TAMPA, Fla. -- If Alex Rodriguez didn't do as well as teammate Andy Pettitte at his steroid press conference, it isn't totally because A-Rod isn't the best communicator, though that may be part of it. The real problem is A-Rod's story. It isn't as good a story as Pettitte's. And what's worse, of course, is that the story has changed maybe once or twice too often already.
Rodriguez showed what appeared to be sincere emotion and revealed more of himself and his story, which was a very good idea. Yankees people have been urging him to come clean, and he certainly seemed to come cleaner in this mass interview on Tuesday than he did in the Peter Gammons session a week ago. Or certainly in the Katie Couric lie-fest of 2007.
A-Rod stepped forward to say it was his cousin who cooked up the performance-enhancing idea with him (though he didn't name the cousin), and that he took a performance-enhancer he was told was called "Boli," (presumably Primobolan, which SI's Selena Roberts and David Epstein reported he tested positive for), and that he did it about twice a month during his time in Texas from 2001 to 2003 (though he couldn't be sure that was exactly the right number).
As noted steroid expert Dr. Gary Wadler will tell you, the devil is in the details. And in the case of A-Rod, the details aren't great.
Frankly, neither is his whole story. While Pettitte could say he only dabbled a time or two with HGH, and only for medicinal purposes, Rodriguez had no such excuse.
"I was young," he said many times.
"I was stupid," he said almost as often.
The problem, of course, is that he wasn't that young. And that he isn't that stupid.
Rodriguez was a seven-year veteran when he and his cousin supposedly cooked up this ill-conceived scheme to transform the player everyone already conceded to be the best on the planet to be just a little bit better.
A-Rod obviously doesn't have a sympathetic story like Pettitte, who'd been dogged by painful elbow problems for most of his career, was hampered by a congenital defect in that area, and who had the misfortune to hang around with Roger Clemens.
Unlike Pettitte, Rodriguez has no great excuses. His cross to bear was that rather unsympathetic $252 million contract that was weighing on him, according to his story. And apparently, it wasn't enough that he was already the best player going. He wanted to be better than Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds all wrapped into one. Now, he will be. At least statistically, if you still believe those numbers of his.
His task was much tougher than Pettitte's. And it's not just because of the facts of the story, it's also because of the "magnitude" of the man.
Pettitte is a sweet guy, but no one is writing a book on him. Roberts, who broke the story of Rodriguez's failed 2003 test for Primobolan and testosterone, is working on a book about A-Rod. More stuff is going to come out. There's always a danger that he can be caught in another lie. Or two.
A-Rod has great instincts on a baseball diamond. But in life, not so much. Being the best should have been good enough not to cheat with the goal of being better than the best. And it was cheating, even if Rodriguez couldn't bear to admit that to a questioner on the occasion of his third steroid inquisition.
With the help of a multitude of p.r. people, spinmeisters and lawyers, he wasn't terrible telling his bad story this time . He needed to pause when he mentioned his teammates. That seemed about right. He was seemingly contrite. And he promised to do better from now on.
"I screwed up big time," he said, "and all I ask is that you judge me from this day forward."
The judgment on Day 1 was a mixed bag. Of course, he did way better than the Couric interview, which needs to be reviewed just one more time if only to count up the lies. That interview was just an idiotic idea borne of hubris beyond any mortal man to go on national TV and not give one honest answer to such a star broadcaster. If there's one thing A-Rod should understand, it's stars. Yet, he spit all over Couric. (For the record, he said he called her this week to apologize.)
By my own personal count, every answer he gave in the Couric interview was a lie. He batted 1.000 that day.
This, too, was better than the Gammons interview, which seemed very incomplete. Even his Yankee bosses, while publicly praising him for admitting usage in that TV interview, wanted more. He gave it to them Tuesday under the tent.
But there were still problems. It's those instincts of his. He's great going to his right and taking the extra base, but in these settings he somehow can't rule out the lie as an option.
At one point he tried to claim that he wasn't even sure that what he was doing with his unnamed cousin was wrong. But then later, he was asked why he did the injecting in secret if he thought it might be OK. And, of course, after praising Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post for such an excellent question, Rodriguez conceded that, well, "I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs." What he might have meant originally was that he wasn't absolutely certain what he was doing was wrong. But that isn't exactly what he said.
He also denied any knowledge of any other steroid usage in Texas after saying to Gammons that it was just a "loosey goosey time" and suggesting that steroids were fairly rampant back in that 2001-to-2003 period. But now he suggests it's all him and his unnamed cousin who are to blame. Maybe this was his way to protect teammates. But maybe it was just a better story for the day. It's hard to know what to believe.
If we are to play along and judge him from this day forward, as he suggested, he did OK on Day 1. Not great, but OK. His story isn't great and his instincts aren't much better. But he definitely did better on his third try. Maybe if he has two or three more press conferences or TV interviews he can finally get it right.