"... because in the postseason last year he was pinch-hit for by Raul Ibañez...."
"You're asking me the question," Rodriguez said. "Are you hearing this?"
" ... who hit a ninth-inning home run and won Game 3 against Baltimore. A-Rod started Game 4, was pinch-hit for...."
One by one, RailRiders players began stealing glances over at Rodriguez. "I look back and say Joe was right," he said finally. "I had a big tear in my left hip, I got it fixed, and hopefully I can do what I do. So I thank Joe for sticking with me that long. I love Joe.... "
As he has throughout his tour—which has seen him suit up for Yankees affiliates in Tampa; Charleston, S.C.; Trenton, N.J.; and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre—Rodriguez declined to talk specifics about Biogenesis, PEDs or reports that he was considering a deal. On July 12, he met with MLB investigators on the matter, then didn't show up for that night's rehab start in Tampa. He says he can't waste time and energy now worrying about all he may lose, or the distance he has traveled down. Yet the fact is, Rodriguez, once seen as baseball's great clean hope, is now viewed as hopelessly dirty.
Others have come back from such stigma: Mark McGwire is the hitting coach for the Dodgers; Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte, old teammates and admitted users of PEDs, are treated these days as elder statesmen. Rodriguez figures to be different—and knows it—but last week maintained the front of a blissed-out Candide. He insisted that he doesn't wonder, Why me?
"I never say that," Rodriguez said. "But maybe there are a couple chapters where I can become that person again. I'm not giving up. I have tremendous faith, and hopefully there's a couple more chapters to this book. And hopefully there's a happy ending somewhere. I have faith."
Of course, these days he may be the only one who does—and even that might be pushing it. The spin around Rodriguez has become so frenzied that it's impossible to say what he truly believes. It has been four years since Rodriguez's credibility got leveled by a one-two literary punch: First, the jab in former manager Joe Torre's book that teammates and clubbies saw through his perceived phoniness and dubbed him "A-Fraud," then a subsequent SI.com report detailing his use of steroids as a member of the Rangers from 2001 through '03. In admitting the latter in February '09, Rodriguez all but copped to the former. "This is Humpty-Dumpty," Cashman said then. "We've got to put him back together again."
It never quite took. Rodriguez insisted that he hadn't doped in his five years with the Yankees—and tried sealing his conversion by joining the board of the antisteroid Taylor Hooten Foundation in August 2009. Then came news that he'd been questioned by MLB for treatment he received from Toronto physician and now-convicted PED peddler Anthony Galea while recovering from his first hip surgery, in March 2009. And then, six months ago, Miami New Times published its piece asserting that his name, among 20 professional baseball players total, was the biggest one to crop up as a buyer of HGH and other PEDs in documents unearthed last winter from the Biogenesis "anti-aging" clinic in Coral Gables, Fla.
Rodriguez issued a brief statement then asserting that the "purported documents" were "not legitimate"—at least as they related to him. "Look, it's concerning," he said last week. "I have two daughters at home, and I'm sensitive to that, and above all, I want to be a role model, continue to be a role model—especially to my girls. So all the noise sometimes gets on my nerves, but that's it. I can't let it get any further than that. I have a job to do."