It's a circus. "Almost like a Super Bowl," says a writer behind me. Steroid revelations provoke steroidal reactions, it seems, and though doing so is talk-radio sacrilege, it's possible to feel the faintest sympathy for Rodriguez. Because what exactly does everyone expecta detailed, revealing confession from a person who's never shown himself to be the least bit detailed or revealing?
Rodriguez arrives, dressed in khakis, an untucked navy shirt, and the white Jerry Seinfeld Nikes. He looks like he should be ordering a margarita at the airport Sheraton. He blinks. He drinks some water. He looks over at his teammates. Derek Jeter's sitting in the front row to his right in a sweatshirt, slumped in a chair. The Yankees have been through these steroid tribunals before, with Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte. Everything about Jeter's body language reads, This shit again?
The confession begins. No doubt you've seen the key moments. The "I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs" line. The ill-considered "I'm here to take my medicine" line. The thank-you to his teammates interrupted by a bizarre clenched-lip, 37-second pause. The account of his cousin getting the drugs from the Dominican Republic. He blames himself, noting eight times that he was "young" and five times that he was "stupid." He wishes he'd gone to college instead of turning pro out of high school, "and got an opportunity to grow up at my own pace."
His performance isn't terribly convincing, but no one was really expecting it to be. As the surprisingly candid Yankee general manager Brian Cashman says later, "It is what it is." Cashman compares Rodriguez to Humpty Dumpty. "We've got to put him back together again. We've got to put him back on that wall."
But what parts do you put back together? "Damage control is all about pursuing the best of bad options," says Eric Dezenhall, a crisis-management expert who has reportedly advised clients like Exxon-Mobil and Procter & Gamble. "He's not a cuddly guy, and contrary to all that nonsense about spin doctors, you can't put in what God left out." For now, Dezenhall prescribes humility and a little austerity: "No posing next to private jets and Rolls-Royces. No Madonna. No strippers. No asinine behavior. It's not easy to dodge these temptationsthey're why people want to be rich and famous in the first place."
This is true. Pop stars and private jets may not have been the reasons Rodriguez tainted his baseball legacy, but there's little doubt they are part of the glamorous package that can make privileged men do desperate things. If Rodriguez is to recover, he must chase something far more elusive than a World Series ring. He's got to go back and find Alex, the kid from Miami via Washington Heights who existed long before A-Rod.
It reminds me of something he said that night in Miami: "You've got to put yourself in a position that, no matter who has what, the truth will be revealed. That's ultimately the place I want to be in." At the time, Alex Rodriguez was talking about Michael Phelps and his bong. But he knew we were coming for him, too.