As everyone knows, A-Rod’s been implicated yet again in a ‘roids mess. Personally, I’m still getting over his last admission. Remember the blue sweater interview?
Well, this time I’m just waiting for the next step in the investigation. A-Rod has denied everything, as has Gio Gonzalez, and he’s even hired super defense attorney Roy Black. It looks bad, people. Will the Yankees be able to void his contract? I seriously doubt it. He didn’t fail a drug test, which is really the only allowable criterion short of the morals clause and nobody pays much attention to that. One can’t help viewing this news in the context of Lance Armstrong, also a longtime denier who bullied his accusers. The only person who benefits on the Yankees right now is Kevin Youkilis.
Rodriguez Linked Anew to Prohibited Drugs (January 30, 2013)
The Yankees had dated Alex Rodriguez for four years before popping the question after the 2007 season: Will you take this 10-year, $275 million contract? Rodriguez said yes, and together they have had some fun. But a marriage that starts with a lie is bound to fall apart, and that is what has happened.
Rodriguez’s contract, which now strangles the Yankees’ future, might be the most lucrative con in baseball history. It colors everything about him. Tuesday’s revelation in the Miami New Times, which tied him to a supplier of performance-enhancing drugs as recently as last season, was another reminder of his deceit.
The relationship might be over soon. Rodriguez’s latest public-relations firm (he has had several) issued a statement Tuesday in which he denied being a patient of the shuttered anti-aging clinic in the story. But baseball is investigating, and with good cause; three of the players named in the report — Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal — were suspended last season after positive drug tests.
The results of baseball’s investigation, in theory, could help the Yankees if they attempt to void Rodriguez’s contract. That would not be easy — the Yankees failed to do it with Jason Giambi — but there may be another exit strategy.
The Yankees have continued to emphasize the seriousness of Rodriguez’s hip injury, with General Manager Brian Cashman asserting last week that it could keep him out all season, not just for the first half. The natural next step in that progression is that the injury would end his career, as it did for Albert Belle of the Baltimore Orioles in 2001. This would allow Rodriguez to collect his money — but with insurance, not the Yankees, covering most of it.
That is the dream outcome, anyway, but for now the Yankees are still obligated to pay Rodriguez the five years and $114 million remaining on the deal they gave him before they knew of his chemical past.
That folly is mostly on the Yankees, of course. Hank Steinbrenner had assumed command that fateful winter, vowing to cut Rodriguez loose after he opted out of his contract. Instead, he rewarded Rodriguez with the richest deal in baseball history, even though no other team was known to be bidding, say, nine years. In retaining Rodriguez, the Yankees also passed on a much younger third baseman, Miguel Cabrera, who was traded to Detroit and now annually knocks the Yankees from the playoffs.
It is an amusing footnote that Rodriguez’s contract was officially announced on Dec. 13, 2007, the day Major League Baseball released the Mitchell Report on steroids. Rodriguez, who had always denied steroid use, was not named in the report. Part of the reason for the length of the deal was the presumption that he was clean and would chase Barry Bonds’s tainted home run record in pinstripes.
It was all a fraud, or “A-Fraud,” to use the term that Joe Torre revealed in his book to be a clubhouse nickname for Rodriguez. Fourteen months after signing the contract, Rodriguez admitted he had used steroids from 2001 to 2003.
Lying about steroid use is hardly shocking, but Rodriguez was pathological. Consider this passage from a recent interview by the writer Jeff Pearlman with Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, who recalled a conversation with Rodriguez in 2002:
“It was in his hotel suite in Chicago after a game one night. He looked at me like I had two heads. ‘Steroids? Gee, why would anybody take them? What do they do? I don’t know anything about it.’ I walked out of the suite shaking my head about his complete and theatrical lack of knowledge about the worst-kept secret in the game. It would be seven years later that we all discovered, by his own admission, that he was loaded to the gills on steroids at that very moment.”
When Sports Illustrated finally exposed Rodriguez as a steroid user, part of his response was to smear the reporter, Selena Roberts, by falsely claiming that she tried to break into his home while his children were sleeping. He sounded vaguely like Michael Corleone with that line, except Rodriguez has always been the Fredo of the Yankee family, awkward and envious and insecure.
Such insecurity has surely fueled Rodriguez’s drive to achieve, while also influencing his many bizarre decisions. He has denied many of them, like sending a baseball to some women in the stands during a playoff game last fall, but with his history of lying, who knows what to believe?
Rodriguez will always have his apologists, mostly people who have never had to deal with him and have never been part of his web of deceit. To some who know him well, including the Yankees and Major League Baseball, he is a source of irritation at best, slippery and duplicitous at worst.
Remember that Rodriguez continued to lie to the Yankees even after admitting his past steroid use. After his first hip surgery, in 2009, he maintained to the team that he had not seen Anthony Galea, the Canada-based physician who pleaded guilty two years later to federal charges stemming from his distribution of human growth hormone to professional athletes.
Rodriguez had, in fact, seen Galea, and baseball officials and the Yankees remain unsure that they know the extent of his links to performance-enhancing drugs. The Yankees might be inclined to overlook that if Rodriguez were still an elite player. But his production slips every year.
That fact, of course, cannot be forgotten. If Rodriguez were a healthy superstar, the Yankees would still want him around. They might have even supported him in their terse statement on Tuesday, which pledged support for baseball’s drug program and noted that the matter was now under the jurisdiction of the commissioner’s office.
Rodriguez has won a championship and two Most Valuable Player awards in New York. He is a historically significant Yankee, emblematic of a complicated era for the game and the team. But the sideshows never end, and it is hard to argue he belongs here anymore.