Maybe It’s Best to Say Nothing

February 21, 2009

Hindsight being what it is, it’s beginning to look like Alex Rodriguez should have told reporters to get lost rather than hold that press conference the other day.  From the moment A-Rod said his unnamed “cousin” helped him to procure and then inject “boli” as he called it, the floodgates of doubt opened up. Now it seems there may be an official call for A-Rod’s cousin to explain how he got the steroid for Rodriguez and how he might have smuggled the drugs from the Dominican Republic into the U.S. – if in fact that’s what actually happened.

Making things worse is that  A-Rod is now being linked to a personal trainer prominently mentioned in major league baseball’s Mitchell Report.

“Confessions” often raise more questions than they answer.  This is now the case with Alex Rodriguez.  And perhaps that’s why you probably will not see a long line of players who will admit to using performance enhancing drugs.  The fact is nothing  said by A-Rod  or others tainted by the PED scandal will likely ever satisfy a hungry press corps or fans who feel betrayed their heroes.

The problem with cleansing one’s soul – there is never enough soap.  To many of the fans, the media and other members of the public jury, these confessors will always be “dirty” in some way.   In his attempt to appear open, Rodriguez is beginning to look just like the liar many think he’s always been.  And right now he may be the best example of why  sometimes you’re better served when you say nothing at all.


Suspension for A-Rod? – Don’t Even Try

February 12, 2009

We have now entered into the theater of the absurd. MLB commissioner Bud Selig tells USA Today that he is considering a suspension of Alex Rodriguez. It doesn’t get more ridiculous than this.

Okay, I get it. An unnamed someone with unknown motives leaks A-Rod’s 2003 steroid test results to a national magazine, which of course publishes the story. The test results by legal agreement were supposed to be anonymous and stay that way. No one was to be punished regardless of the results. Six years after the testing, and a day after the leak A-Rod is forced into an admission of sorts on ESPN. Now he faces possible suspension. Are you kidding me? Apparently the commissioner is feeling the heat of public pressure and says he may suspend Rodriguez. Based on what? What legal standing does the commissioner have? Further there are 103 other unknown names listed as testing positive. Do they now face suspension? Not for one minute has the commissioner seriously thought this through.

This is exactly why the steroids witch-hunt accomplishes nothing. Even if you believe A-Rod didn’t tell the complete truth about his steroids use in the ESPN confession, he nonetheless took a step most players would never consider taking. Now should A-Rod get suspended despite all the assurances the 2003 steroids tests promised, you can be virtually assured that no one else under suspicion will say a word and will never admit to anything. Why should they?

Why Only A-Rod?

February 11, 2009

Let me get back to a question I asked the other day about the latest steroids scandal: Why Alex Rodriguez? Why only him? What was the motive for releasing his name and his alone when there are 103 other players who also allegedly failed the test for steroids. Why weren’t other names leaked? Something is clearly wrong here. As a former journalist and current journalism instructor, I’m hard-pressed to criticize Selena Roberts and Sports Illustrated for reporting this juicy exclusive leak. This is what reporters do – report. But I have to wonder does Ms. Roberts know some of the other names? And if not, did she question why leakers only gave her the name of a single, albeit superstar, player? Keep in mind there were three other sources who corroborated the exclusive leak. Did Sports Illustrated even consider the implicit unfairness of it’s explosive tip? Did the magazine care about the ramifications?

For now, and I say this carefully, because I absolutely don’t know for sure, it appears that Alex Rodriguez’ name was probably leaked by someone connected to the Federal prosecution of the BALCO case. Only Sports Illustrated knows exactly where this leak came from. And the magazine is not obligated to reveal it’s sources. But we should ask: what’s really going on in this now years old investigation that would cause someone to leak the name of Alex Rodriguez? Did the government try to pressure A-Rod into revealing what he knows about steroids and then toss his reputation to the wind when he didn’t cooperate? Are pressure tactics being applied to other players on the list? Yes, I’m speculating, but the motives behind A-Rod’s outing need to be discussed and examined.

The egregious way in which the Feds have pursued the BALCO case and Barry Bonds in particular has clearly sullied its investigation of steroids in sports. The Feds have recklessly pursued players like Bonds in its quest for headlines, when if they really cared should be going after the creators and distributors of these illegal performance enhancing drugs. The way I see it, traffickers are getting a relative pass and high profile athletes are getting embarrassed and in some cases prosecuted. Again, I am absolutely not excusing the actions of drug cheating athletes, but if we only look at Alex Rodriguez and his forced admission of steroid use and his now tarnished reputation, we are probably missing the big picture – and the real story.

A-Rod Comes Clean – Who are we to judge?

February 10, 2009

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?

Et Tu A-Rod?

February 8, 2009

Baseball’s latest steroid revelation now fingering the Yankee’s Alex Rodriguez leaves me with a lot of questions. Such as: Why only A-Rod? Who else is on the list of 104 players who allegedly tested positive for steroids in 2003? Who leaked the details of the test results to Sports Illustrated and why? Why weren’t the test results destroyed when ballplayers were promised absolute anonymity? Are the Feds to blame? They are ones who seized urine samples and documents in 2004 from the testing labs in pursuit of the BALCO case. When does the steroid witch-hunt end?

I could go on. There are dozens of unanswered questions. And I’m sure we’ll never get a straight answer to any of them. The point is there is no way to know for sure about anyone or anything regarding steroid use in major league baseball. Its all speculation and innuendo. All we do know is that players used steroids. We don’t know how many used and we don’t know when they used. That’s all we know – that’s all we’re likely to know.

Here’s one question that baseball historians will surely be uncomfortable with and likely dismiss without much consideration – But I ask it to make a point that I hope will cause you to pause and think: Why are we so sure that former single season home run champion Roger Maris never used steroids when in fact steroids were indeed available in 1961? Why are we so sure that Maris never used steroids when in fact he only hit 275 career home runs and only hit more than 30 home runs 3 times in his career (all in a statistically unusual three-year period including the record setting season in which he hit 61)? Baseball dealt with Maris’ statistical aberration by granting him an asterisk for the home run record, and never voting him into the Hall of Fame.

I bring up Maris as red-flag waving example of how unproven speculation can lead to innuendo and character assassination. That’s what’s going on now. A-Rod has had quite a few huge statistical seasons and remains the odds on favorite to eventually eclipse Barry Bonds all-time home-run record. But until yesterday very few people publicly speculated that A-Rod was a steroid user. Most believed that he was the savior in waiting who would one day erase the “stain” of Bonds. Now based on unnamed sources and test results that we will likely never have confirmation about, A-Rod takes a very public fall. But what have we gained? What do we really know? Nothing.

We’ll never know for sure about Roger Maris and others from his era because there was no testing back then. And there was also no suspicion. But we’ll also never know when baseball’s so-called steroid era really began. Did it begin when the first group of players began hitting more than 50 home runs on a regular basis? Did it begin when an increasing number of pitchers began throwing more than 98 miles per hour? Did it begin at some point after the development and approval of the first steroid drugs in the 1950s?

I’m not defending the use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs in any way. But this witch-hunt has gone on for far too long. Not one thing has truly been accomplished. Only fingers have been pointed. And only at a select few individuals. There is a level of hypocrisy about this that is shameful. I say let’s grant all the players past and present blanket amnesty for indiscretions involving performance enhancing drugs up to today, and move forward from here. Without amnesty everyone loses, Baseball most of all.