Alex Rodriguez, the admitted steroid user and previously exposed liar, has to know how this goes. He has lived it before. Years of denials once landed him in a stuffy tent outside a pretty little ballpark in Tampa, Fla. where he reluctantly gave away his name and reputation.
He's watched Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens prevail in courtrooms only to lose in barrooms (and press rooms), then pull a third of the votes in their first years of Hall of Fame eligibility.
What's left of Rodriguez, however, is the number of games his hips can carry him, the paychecks that come along with that and whatever the New York Yankees achieve with him in the lineup. That was true four months ago. It's true days after his name, for what it is worth anymore, showed up in a composition book beside the usual maladies of his sport – HGH, synthetic testosterone and chemical formulas only the cheaters and their bobos understand.
He has denied involvement with performance-enhancing drugs or the alleged supplier. On Friday, ESPN reported Tony Bosch, supposedly the latest to scheme with the gluttonous and fragile egos of baseball, not only supplied Rodriguez with drugs, but administered them as well. That was met with another denial from the Rodriguez camp.
The truth is in there somewhere.
Perhaps the past few days have feathered Rodriguez into Bonds and Clemens territory; bound for life to defiance mostly viewed as transparent and sad. Perhaps Rodriguez will be vindicated, having been wrongly judged in the present by his past. Perhaps he will summon that conscience once again, have everyone back into the tent, and feed the beast.
I don't know if Alex Rodriguez was back on PEDs or if he ever got off them. I don't know why his name is in the notebook. I don't know if the notebook is real or fabricated. I don't know if the fake doctor, as ESPN reported, carried syringes to Rodriguez's mansion. I don't know if Rodriguez is being set up, or why anyone would go through that sort of trouble, or what happens from here.
What I do know is this: that Rodriguez has little left to defend, other than 50 games' worth of salary. He'd serve a suspension from the disabled list. The rest? He's already viewed as a cheater. He's already bound for a handful of humiliating days when Hall of Fame votes are released. He's already fouled whatever career numbers he posts. Clemens and Bonds were – are – defending their freedom, their numbers, their places in Cooperstown, their legacies. There was still some public doubt – not a lot, but some – about their guilt, as they'd not tested positive for banned drugs or admitted to using them. Rodriguez did the right thing three years ago when he confessed to using steroids, assuming he told the whole truth, and yet at the end of the day he still confessed to using steroids. Maybe he earned himself an ounce of forgiveness from his public, but he'd still soiled himself and his career.
So, beyond the factory-setting human response – it wasn't me – why bother today?
Embarrassment? Outside advice? Habit? Um, honesty?
What's the end game of a hollow denial? String it out, root for it to die? That's the plan? That can't be the plan. To what end? To save what? For $8 million?
Is there a chance he's telling the truth? I don't know.
I like Alex Rodriguez. Don't really know him, but I like him.
We talk about basketball, a sport I haven't covered – or seen much of – for seven years, and I try to pretend I still know something about it, or that I ever did. I ask about his girls, whose names I do not know. I've been critical of him, we talk, we start over.
I get that I stand pretty much alone in my regard for Rodriguez, especially recently. It looks like he might have screwed up again. It looks like the Yankees don't want him anymore and that Bud Selig is loaded for bear on this one. Rodriguez has a new lawyer, a fresh PR guy and, I guess, another story to tell. When he's not chasing trouble, it's chasing him. Anymore, it's hard to identify who's doing the chasing and who's doing the fleeing, but A-Rod's always in there somewhere.
I don't believe he's misunderstood; I think he's understood just fine. I don't even think he's all that complicated. He's just another person who makes some dreadfully poor choices, costly choices, and makes them out in front of everybody, which is yet another poor and costly choice.
Maybe he believes he is bulletproof, in spite of the dump-truck load of evidence otherwise. Even then, he usually seemed to understand most of his problems were self inflicted. He'd nod, endeavor to make better decisions and then in a quiet moment retake steady aim at his foot. Grant him this; he's hardly ever missed.
Yeah, it can be sad. It can even be forehead-slappingly pathetic.
Now we can hardly wait to see what comes of the latest, which so far consists of a very damning newspaper report, a somewhat predictable refutation and a new report that maybe Rodriguez was tighter with Tony Bosch than he claimed. A-Rod's not alone on this one, not in the accusation or the denial, though it might seem to him like it. No one's talking about voiding Gio Gonzalez's or Nelson Cruz's contracts, though neither have Gonzalez or Cruz previously laid themselves bare in a previous incarnation of the same story, nor are either in some stage of utter physical breakdown.
Then, neither is as unlikeable as A-Rod seems to have made himself. They don't have his money, his trophies, or his pinstripes. They don't have his past either. No, if you're going to get caught up in a national scandal, you can hardly do better than to ride shotgun with A-Rod.
So, like, this sorta doctor from Miami thought it'd be a hoot to keep a record of famous ballplayers who didn't actually come to his office, and when they didn't come to his office they'd not buy the drugs he'd write beside the names of the famous ballplayers who, you know, didn't come to his office because he didn't know them and they didn't know him.
Or, well, it's all legit and there's more to come.
Now everybody wants those records, from MLB to the famous ballplayers' lawyers to, presumably, the Feds, seeing as nobody has much of a case – or alibi – without them. It's possible nobody has a case with them either, which is probably what Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and the rest of the boys are hoping.
In the meantime, they deny. Maybe we believe them, or want to, and maybe we don't and don't want to.
Me? I don't know. But if Alex Rodriguez is found to be hiding something, I'll raise my hand in that tent and ask the first question: “Why bother?”
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