How SI's report affects A-Rod, the Yanks and Major League Baseball
If I had to guess, I'd say he focuses even more and has a typical A-Rod season
The Yankees are stuck with him, a guy who is untradeable and unloved
This ruins Rodriguez's Hall of Fame candidacy ... for now
SI.com spoke with Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci on Sunday about SI's report that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003.
SI.com: Was this shocking news to you? Did you ever suspect that Alex Rodriguez could be using performance-enhancing drugs?
Verducci: I would not say it was shocking at all, not for anyone even a little familiar with The Steroid Era. Suspicions have been out there, especially for anyone whom Jose Canseco talked about and who played in Seattle and Texas, where at least 12 players known to be linked to steroids have been his teammates.
SI.com: You chronicled A-Rod's fragile psyche in your new book with Joe Torre, The Yankee Years. How severely could this news impact his production and the Yankees as a whole in the coming season?
Verducci: I don't think anyone knows for sure. Larry Bowa said with great concern that he is worried about how Rodriguez will respond, knowing how he frets about even small things. Others have told me that he will be crushed because the legitimacy of his records is ruined; his greatest motivation was to be the greatest player ever. But Rodriguez has changed in the past couple of years, his personality growing a little darker and detached as his personal life blew up in public (stripper, divorce, Madonna, etc.). He could grow more Bonds-like, caring (or pretending to care) about nothing. If I had to guess, I'd say he focuses even more on his baseball and has a typical Rodriguez season.
SI.com: How will the Yankees approach this situation? Will this have any effect on Rodriguez's $275 million contract, the richest in baseball history?
Verducci: The Yankees are stuck with him for nine years, a guy who is untradeable and unloved. They have to be reserved with how much they promote him because a guy who used steroids and lied about it is not exactly what the image-conscious Yankees want as a face of the franchise. They're stuck paying him and they're stuck paying those garish bonuses based on home run milestones, a bad idea that looks embarrassing now that those milestones are meaningless.
SI.com: With all of the off-the-field drama that has surrounded A-Rod recently, do you think the Yankees wish they had just let him go after he originally opted out of his contract in October 2007?
Verducci: Certainly a faction of the front office was ready to move on then and must feel even angrier about being stuck with him now. Hank Steinbrenner is generally held responsible for welcoming him back with a sweetheart contract. But being stuck with him, they have to find a way to make it work.
SI.com: By 2003, Rodriguez had already established himself as one of the best players in his generation. It is unknown how long Rodriguez was doping, but what would drive such a gifted player to steroids in the first place?
Verducci: Competition and arrogance, which often accompany talent and youth. The greatest players often feel pressure to continue to validate their status, especially if they might see chemically-enhanced lesser players elevated to their ranks.
SI.com: When and how do you think Rodriguez will respond to this news? And how do you think he should respond?
Verducci: I think he's going to need some kind of crisis management professional here, because it's more complicated than fans think. If he tries to limit an admission to 2003, for instance, look at the potential trouble he faces: a guy with a credibility problem already who would want you to believe he was so unlucky as to be caught the first and only time he tried something. And the timing is curious. First, you will hear from Canseco again about the 1990s. Second, does it make any sense that somebody resisted steroids for eight years in places such as Seattle and Texas in the Wild West days when there was no drug testing or public pressure whatsoever, and then suddenly (and with the security of a $252 million contract in his pocket) choose to use them precisely when drug testing and the public pressure are put in place for the first time (after the 2002 SI Special Report on steroids, including an admission by Ken Caminiti)?
And if he goes the plausible deniability route (early signals from his camp questioned the technicalities of the testing process), he chooses to go down the path of Bonds as the uncontrite villain. In any case, given his Hollywood publicity agents, I expect he'll put himself in front of camera very soon with a friendly interviewer to control his very carefully crafted message, rather than a news conference.