Give ESPN this: When they get beaten on a story, they sure do milk the hell out of the follow-up.
Still, the smothering sports network might as well have had Keith Lockhart instead of Peter Gammons sit down with Alex Rodriguez, considering how orchestrated the whole process was.
Compelling TV, yes, but if we’re supposed to take yesterday’s steroid admission and consider it an emotional turn in the life of A-Rod, then the wool really has grown in, well over our eyelids and reaching for the ears and mouth.
A-Rod is “sorry.” Great. That might have meant more last Friday.
In coming clean, A-Rod exposed himself as an even bigger, more duplicitous fraud than we had previously imagined, which is saying something. He’s sorry for getting caught, a confession of guilt that never would have materialized had “this Selena Roberts lady,” as Rodriguez so pettily referred to her, not broken the story on SI.com over the weekend.
He admits he took banned substances from 2001-03, but he doesn’t know what they were. He doesn’t even really know where they came from despite sharing the clubhouse over those three years with Rafael Palmeiro, Ken Caminiti, John Rocker, Ismael Valdez, Steve Woodard, Juan Gonzalez, and an assortment of other never-proven suspects. Yeah, I wonder.
It was the culture. He was young. He was stupid. We now know how Rodriguez spent the weekend: Taking a crash course in Celebrity Confession 101.
Be vague about seemingly definitive answers, such as the years you dabbled in performance-enhancing drugs. Just the three years, A-Rod? “That’s pretty accurate, yes.”
Apologize to your fans: “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.”
But here’s my unequivocally favorite part of the interview (which, you know, you can get on ESPN.com), when Scott Boras — er, sorry, Gammons — asks him about educating “kids across the country” in the shadow of this story.
“100 percent. I mean, that’s what I’ve done with the Boys and Girls Club my whole life. You know, I was born in Washington Heights [N.Y.]. I would love to really get into that community and do things that are real, that are going to make a difference. And I have an opportunity here to help out a lot of kids. And I have nine years and the rest of my career to devote myself to children in the future and really bring awareness to, you know, where we need to head as a game. And I think we are headed in the right direction.”
He’d really like to get into that community. Excuse my sense of time, but hasn’t the guy played in New York for five years now?
Sorry, I don’t believe 80 percent of what Rodriguez and Boras are selling in this interview. How can you, when just a little more than a year ago, the Yankees superstar sat down on “60 Minutes” and lied to Katie Couric’s face? Back then, he had complete confidence in himself on the baseball field. He must have been young and stupid when he decided to lie on national TV.
Oh, not now.
That was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this whole interview, the fact that Gammons didn’t hammer Rodriguez more about the “60 Minutes” lie, almost as if the question were in there because there would be overwhelming criticism of the sit-down if it weren’t.
PETER GAMMONS: Now, you mentioned the Katie Couric interview. You were asked if you ever used steroids, human growth hormones or other performance-enhancing substances. You said no, flat-out no. In your mind, that wasn’t a lie?
ALEX RODRIGUEZ: At the time, Peter, I wasn’t even being truthful with myself. How am I going to be truthful with Katie or CBS? Today, I’m here to tell the truth, and I feel good about that. I think my fans deserve that. I’m ready to put everything behind me and go play baseball. You know, we have a great team this year. I couldn’t be more excited about the guys that we’ve brought in, Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett … It’s an important time in my life to turn the page and focus on what’s next.
Somehow, we got from CBS and Katie Couric, to Rodriguez weakly explaining why it wasn’t a lie, to the Yankees’ free agent spending frenzy. Now, if this weren’t a rehearsed 30 minutes on the parts of A-Rod and ESPN, here’s what the next question might have consisted of:
“Alex, if you lied back in ‘07, why in the name of Bronson Arroyo should we believe one iota of what you’re shoveling now?”
That, in essence, is the unanswered question from this interview with baseball’s latest swindler, in cahoots with ESPN, making up for getting out-scooped by forcing a disingenuous “apology” down our throats. But that’s what you get when you’re so hungry to make a splash on a story you’re playing catch-up on, a harried agreement to ask only certain questions of a subject that might have plenty more to hide than for which he’s seemingly sorry.