— Alex Rodriguez came clean on his use of performance-enhancing drugs in a way that few active players have ever done. He didn’t fully answer every question, and he probably could have groveled more, but he did what we asked him to do.
He said what he took, how often he took it, how he administered it, why he took it and why he stopped. He said over and over again that he was young and stupid, and no one can question the honesty of that confession.
What he didn’t say was whether he felt he cheated.
That was a mistake, as his public relations consultant should have told him. If he didn’t want to tell anyone he was taking a banned substance, he had to have known it probably wasn’t right. As it is, pundits will have a field day with his invitation to make that decision for themselves.
By baseball’s standards, Rodriguez didn’t cheat because the game didn’t test for performance enhancers. Saying they’re not legal is worthless unless you have testing and penalties. Baseball also has no way of unearthing the others who did what A-Rod did — and haven't been caught. But most fans think he did cheat, even if what he did was what hundreds of others did. That doesn’t make it right, but it's important to maintain perspective.
Speaking of perspective, let’s lose the idea that by admitting to an amateurish doping regimen A-Rod is somehow disqualified from the Hall of Fame. That’s as preposterous as the suggestion that none of his numbers from the three years he was doing drugs should count.
It’s impossible to quantify the drugs' effects on his performance. All we can do is note that he averaged more home runs per year during those three years than he has the rest of his career. But he had his best slugging years when he wasn’t doing drugs and his second-best home-run season in 2007 — four years after he says he stopped.
The most you can say is he got 15-20 home runs he might not otherwise have had. But at the age of 32, he already has 553 total home runs. We’re going to keep him out of the Hall because a dozen or two of those may have been tainted?
As far as I’m concerned, A-Rod did the best job of apologizing he could. He genuinely choked up trying to thank his teammates for coming to the press conference to lend their moral support. He said he’s sorry, and I’m not going to beat him up because he didn’t cry about it. He's not capable of more remorse.
Of the hundreds of players who have done steroids and human growth hormone, only a handful have admitted it, and only A-Rod and Andy Pettitte among active players have sat down for a media inquisition. Give him credit for telling enough of the truth to allow us to skewer him with it for the rest of his days.
I believe him when he said he didn’t know exactly what he was taking. He says he found out it was a steroid when he was told he was one of 104 players who tested positive in anonymous testing done in 2004.
I also believe that he injected the stuff into himself not knowing exactly what it was. The way it works in sports is if someone you know tells you that they took something and it made them better, you’ll take it, too. You may not eat something in a restaurant without knowing what it is, but if a pal says, “Try this. It works,” and the guy saying it is a great player, that’s all you need to know.
A-Rod said he wants to move forward, and I’m all for it. Sure, he weaseled out of a couple questions, but there are those hundreds of other players who haven’t owned up to anything.
Maybe he did cheat, but he didn’t do it very well — nowhere near the way Barry Bonds did it.
The only thing he said that I find truly objectionable is saying that a cousin helped him inject the goods. I don’t know how many cousins he has, but I’ll guarantee you they’re all ducking for cover right now. Why A-Rod didn’t say he was helped by a friend or a guy he knew in the Dominican Republic or even somebody he met in a bar, I don’t know.
So, other than for his mystery cousin, who will be run down and questioned, I’ll take A-Rod’s confession and apology, flaws and all, and move on. He said he did it, answered questions and said it’s time to move on. He’s right.
It ended five years ago. He was stupid and he’s sorry.