Bits and Pieces of Truth
So here's what we're supposed to believe.
At a time when he was in the first few years of a ginormous 10-year, $252 million contract to play professional baseball, Alex Rodriguez was merrily popping and otherwise ingesting a little of this, a little of that to juice his talent, all along knowing it was illegal stuff but not really having any idea what he was putting in his body.
According to Rodriguez, it could have been anything. Sugar. Strychnine. Cod liver oil. Flaxseed. Human growth hormone. Vitamin C. He had, and has, no idea what it was he was taking.
That's a little hard to believe.
Other parts of the carefully managed A-Rod/A-Fraud/A-Roid confession yesterday, on the other hand, were very believable.
That Texas Rangers team, it would appear, was Steroid Central for years, long before Rodriguez got there. That he says a "culture" was prevalent in the game and with that team that told players that taking performance-enhancing drugs was acceptable makes sense. That he felt pressure to do whatever he could to justify the biggest contract in baseball history makes sense as well, although it's a sad commentary on the insecurities of a superb athlete.
That baseball was turning a blind eye to an awful lot of shenanigans in those days as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa put the game back on the front page with their home run-hitting feats is a fact, and it's rather humorous now to hear so many baseball people say they had no idea what was going on in clubhouses back then. The union, for goodness sakes, was apparently tipping players off to "random" drug tests, so somebody knew something.
C'mon. Everybody saw the explosion of muscles everywhere. Heck, McGwire's bottle of androstiendione was there in his locker for the world to see. Instead of an investigation, however, what we got was an admonishment not to ruin the fun and anyways, how could steroids help a guy hit home runs anyway?
Remember that? People used to say it all the time. Happily now, in Feb., 2009, in the week of Darwin's birth when the evolution of man in sport should be better understood than ever before, you're not hearing such nonsense as much.
So there are parts of Rodriguez's story that sound logical, and parts in which his conveniently foggy memory make him sound like Roger Clemens alleging that Andy Pettitte "mis-remembered" things from the good old days.
That said, Rodriguez was smart to get out in front of this story. He learned that from Pettitte and Jason Giambi and clearly has seen that the way in which McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Clemens have handled allegations against them is not the way to go. I would still argue that if McGwire had come clean about his drug use, the path to the Hall of Fame would now be clear.
The crucial difference for Rodriguez when compared to McGwire and Clemens, however, is that he's still playing. He has a chance, over the next 7-10 years, to make all this seem like a bad memory, to perform clean at such a level that he'll be viewed no worse than someone like, say, Santonio Holmes, who dealt drugs as a teenager and went on to catch the winning pass in the Super Bowl.
The list of athletes with checkered pasts is long indeed, and that's the opportunity at hand for Rodriguez, to make his drug use of the early part of this century part of his past, but not his lasting legacy.
The biggest obstacle to doing that is the fact that he's just not a well-liked athlete by the media, his teammates, other players and his coaches.
Being A-Jerk is likely to now catch up to him more than being A-Roid.