When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me, and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day.
Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. And I did take a banned substance. You know, for that I’m very sorry and deeply regretful.
Forty-eight hours ago, as the Yankees’ little A-Rod-centric universe was seemingly crumbling around itself, I was deeply, deeply disappointment in someone I had assumed was above it all. A-Rod was good ol’ natural talent, and he didn’t need any of That Stuff. Talk about naivete.
Today, I’m still disappointed. Baseball hasn’t been pure for decades, and now we’ll have to wait another generation for the game’s savior to show up. But after watching A-Rod’s seemingly sincere — if well-rehearsed — national apology tonight, I’m willing to forgive — but not to forget — and move on.
Rodriguez’s apology tonight was exactly what he needed. He came as clean as he could considering the circumstances and came across as deeply sorry. Perhaps A-Rod was, as Rob Neyer cynically wrote, sorry that he was caught, but no matter the underlying emotion, he was utterly sincere tonight.
From the get go, A-Rod framed this apology around himself. He felt the pressure to perform, and we all know what happens to A-Rod under pressure. No one in baseball, it seems, is more insecure considering the talent, and it sounds like A-Rod, around the same age as Joe, Mike and I when he arrived in Texas, felt the weight of the baseball world and $250 million on his shoulders. Surrounded by old-timers such as Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez, Mitchell Report boldfaced names, A-Rod caved.
That’s the thing. Again, it was such a loosey-goosey era. I’m guilty for a lot of things. I’m guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions. And to be quite honest, I don’t know exactly what substance I was guilty of using…
It wasn’t until 2003. I was laying in my bed in Surprise, Arizona. We were doing a team conditioning down by the pool in Arizona. And I suffered a very serious neck injury that went all the way down to my spine. I missed about 2½ weeks of spring training, and I was scared I was going to miss time…
It was time to grow up, stop being selfish, stop being stupid and take control of whatever you’re ingesting. And for that, I couldn’t be — I couldn’t feel more regret and feel more sorry because I have so much respect for this game, and, you know, the people that follow me and respect me. And I have millions of fans out there that are, you know, will never look at me the same.
On top of the sincerity, A-Rod has shown that there is no such thing as a smart baseball player. I can hardly say I’m surprised. In his interview with Peter Gammons, A-Rod noted that he didn’t know what substances he was using and he barely knew from whence they came. Skeptics will raise an eyebrow and wonder what athlete would put something in his body without knowing what it is.
To them, I say what athlete wouldn’t if someone else told them how great it was? I have been around collegiate athletes; I’ve been around gyms. I see how people take supplements without doing much research. If the label says it’s good, if your buddy says it works wonders on your recovery time or your biceps, it’s a lot harder to say no. Add in a few hundred million dollars, some fawning coverage of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and, in 2001, Barry Bonds, and it all adds up to PED use in the mind of a susceptible 26-year-old.
That is of course no excuse; it’s just stupidity. It was stupid of A-Rod to take something without knowing what it was. It was stupid of every baseball player who’s done that. But since then, A-Rod has developed a reputation for his near-robotic work-out pace. He carefully metes out his diet. He no longer breaks the rules, and while Joe Torre might considering him a fraud because of it, it sounds like his teammates trust him now, six years after he failed the test.
At the time, I wasn’t even being truthful with myself. How can I be truthful with Katie or with CBS?
A few years later, when he sat down with Katie Couric, he again was stupid. He lied to her on TV, but unlike Joe Torre, A-Rod wasn’t about to break that clubhouse vow. If he told her the truth on national television, it would have been a disaster, and he wouldn’t have been able to avoid throwing half of baseball under the bus. Maybe I’m rationalizing, but for the good of the game, this revelation and subsequent damage control-cum-apology worked out better.
Look, I think New Yorkers like honesty. I think they like people that say the truth. I also think they like great players that know how to win. And I think winning’s the ultimate medicine we can take here. If we can win a championship, if we can play well, if we can play well down the stretch, I think New Yorkers love to forgive you.
And right now, I made a mistake. I was stupid. I was an idiot, all these things. And I think New Yorkers can probably relate with that every once in a while. And I think they want to see me, now that I’ve come forward, continue and, like with Andy Pettitte, be a great player again.
When all is said and done, it simply boils down to winning. I have to believe A-Rod when he says he’s been clean and has been tested since 2003. Imagine the blowback if he were caught lying about PED use on national television again. So to be redeemed, at least in the eyes of the Yankee fans, A-Rod just has to go out and do what he does. He has to hit; he has to play hard; and he has to lead the Yanks.
What he did will never be okay, and he’ll have to live with the consequences of that decision for the rest of his career and his life. I’ll remain disappointed and disillusioned. But I believed him enough to get ready to move on. Be clean. Play hard. Win. That’s how A-Rod can win back those fans willing to be won back.