I’m glad Alex Rodriguez has now come clean about steroid use while with the Texas Rangers. Unlike many athletes, the ever image conscious, Alex Rodriguez is often thoughtful, poised, well-spoken and generally well-mannered. That A-Rod came out in the confessional-style interview with Peter Gammons on ESPN. It was a measured and impressive performance, the kind that any crisis expert would praise. But I’m nonetheless uneasy about A-Rod’s “confession” and its implications. First, we don’t know if what he said in the ESPN interview is the complete truth. It’s probable that the unadulterated version of A-Rod’s steroid use is far more than we need to know and far more than A-Rod’s now tarnished image can stand. The true Truth we may never know.
I suppose he felt he had to confess. He is baseball’s highest paid and highest profile player, now permanently tarnished, with years left before retirement, which would have meant years of speculation and suspicion. Perhaps he considered just how poorly stonewalling and lying has played out for Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. I’m sure he also thought about the relatively positive receptions that teammates Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte got with their semi-confessions. So he likely made a calculated choice to tell the truth knowing he had nothing to lose and a patched-up reputation to regain. This is a process that will surely be repeated. Eventually the other names on that list will be leaked too. And they will have to decide whether to confirm or deny.
I’ve been thinking hard about what’s really making me feel uneasy, and I believe what’s troubling me is the judge and jury roles that some in the media, some inside baseball and many fans are now taking up. For instance, the owner of the Texas Rangers Tom Hicks says he feels a “strong sense of personal betrayal” by Rodriguez. Are you kidding me? Hicks is the same guy who proudly overpaid for A-Rod and then reaped all of the benefits of employing baseball’s best shortstop. Hicks is being a hypocrite. A lot of folks are being hypocritical.
While it seems clear that A-Rod’s “confession” was a carefully crafted PR ploy designed to limit the damage and elicit sympathy from shocked fans and future Hall of Fame voters what should we expect? We are part of the problem. We have chosen to idolize Alex Rodriguez and other players and we are willing to spend lots of money to buy tickets, souvenirs and other memorabilia. Thus whether we want to admit it or not our involvement as fans makes us indirectly complicit in the steroid mess. So in the end who are we to judge?