In about four hours, Alex Rodriguez is going to face death by media. The venerable and not-so-venerable members of the sports media are going to gather in Tampa as A-Rod, flanked by a bunch of Yankee lifers, faces spontaneous questions from the keepers of the press for the first time since his televised confession to Peter Gammons last week.
When the dust settles, again, around A-Rod, the media will have cared far more than PED-fatigued fans do. A-Rod will, of course, hear boos when the Yanks hit the road, and he will probably hear boos when the Yanks return to the Bronx on April 16. But how is that different from any other year? This press conference will truly be the media trying to bury a broken man while attempting to somehow atone for decades of ignoring the clubhouse story that was unfolding right before their very eyes.
Now, we can bury the media some other time. This morning, let’s talk about someone else speaking out against steroid use in baseball. This player — a very prominent member of the Boston Red Sox — exploded onto the baseball scene in 2003, and Yankee fans always viewed this gregarious player with a raised eyebrow. Of course, that ignores the fact that he had a stellar rookie campaign, battled injuries in Minnesota and was generally misused by his manager before arriving in a hitter-friendly park with arguably the best right-handed hitter of his generation backing him up in the line up. (And that’s just a case of “who really knows?”)
“I think that the A-Rod situation, it was a little bit tough for the game,” Ortiz said. “Talking about the best player all the way around. At the same time, people have to give the guy credit because he came out with what he said at the point of his career where he had done it all. On top of that, that was what? Six years ago? The guy has put up numbers his whole career. It was one thing that he said that caught my attention was that he was young and at the time. . . . sometimes you make the wrong decision like he did. He’s been playing clean and he’s still producing. He’s still been the best player in the game. If I’m a fan and I had to judge the guy, I would put that in the past and move forward. The guy, he works hard, man. He’s still doing his thing. He’s still got nine more years on his contract where he’s definitely gonna do some damage still.”
“I think you clean up the game by the testing. I test you, you test positive, you’re going to be out. Period,” Ortiz said. “If I test positive using any kind of banned substance I’m going to disrespect the game, my family, my fans and everybody. And I don’t want to face the situation so I won’t use it. I’m sure everybody is on the same page.”
“From what I’ve seen right now from the testimony that Alex gave, I would say it was very low the percentage that wasn’t using it. Like he said, that’s what was going around the league at the time. What else do you want? But in 2004 when they came out with the testing, I guarantee the percentage has been going down.”
Ortiz expressed his belief that around 80 or 90 percent of the game is now clean. Who knows if that’s naivete, undetectable designer drugs, the truth or some combination of all three? We just don’t know anymore.
Meanwhile, Paul, one of the Sox fans at YFSF, has an apt conclusion to his post on the matter. “One thing I’m surprised no one asked,” he writes, “especially given Ortiz’s previous comments about the GNC products from the Dominican, is whether he’s one of the 103 other names.”
The problem with David Ortiz’s statement is that you can’t hop in a time machine and ban everyone in 1999. You can’t really save baseball from the past. Ortiz is hitting on all the right things if you care about PED use and the pall it may or may not have cast over the game. But in the end, it’s not really Ortiz who is right.
Rather, the one person who was right is the one most overlooked and quite tarred by the scandal. On May 17, 2005, Mark McGwire said, “I’m not here to talk about the past.” That’s really the best thing right now for baseball. Officials, players, agents, owners can point as many fingers as they won’t, but the only action that will solve this PR problem is to move forward.
For now, though, we’ll just have to a few hours until A-Rod is ready to talk about the past.