The Miami New Times report linking Alex Rodriguez to a new performance-enhancing drug scandal gave the court of public opinion grounds to hammer away at his already damaged reputation. Now, the New York Yankees star could be finishing the job himself, completely destroying any semblance of credibility he has left.
Journalists Teri Thompson, Michael O'Keefe and Christian Red have heard from various sources that Rodriguez is "scared" something bigger is going on behind the scenes—allegedly characterizing his latest ties to PEDs as a witch hunt designed to get him out of Major League Baseball.
“He’s scared, because he thinks this is so unbelievably false, and he’s wondering who could be behind this,” said a source. “He thinks something could be going on larger than anyone might think.”
Should this be taken with a grain of salt? Yes. More like a boulder of salt, actually.
In reports like this one, the sources referred to are typically characterized as "a baseball source," "a source with knowledge of the information" or "a source close to [Player X]." These clarifications are necessary to convince the reader that the source in question actually has some authority.
The Daily News didn't give its source any such clarification. There's no indication that the paper's insider actually knows what's going on with A-Rod. The reader has to take it on faith.
That's not the only hole in this report. The very notion that A-Rod is a) smelling a conspiracy and b) is afraid of it is just plain silly.
If Rodriguez is innocent of the latest allegations—and he says he is—then he would have no reason to be fearful. He's baseball's richest player with an "army of lawyers" at his side, according to the Daily News. There are battles he can't win, but there are no battles he can't fight.
But for the sake of discussion, what if he actually feels that the Yankees or MLB are out to get him? What if he were to go public with this opinion?
He would be wasting his time, not to mention his energy. Depending on his guilt or innocence, he would either be misleading the public or misleading himself, not to mention portraying himself as an unsympathetic figure either way.
A-Rod is unsympathetic enough. There have been many words written about his personality, but few conflicting reports. He's most often characterized as a man obsessed with how he's perceived, but clueless as to how to manipulate his image.
Joe Torre said in The Yankee Years (via The New York Times) that A-Rod was always worrying more about putting on a good show than doing his job. Tyler Kepner of the Times recently called him "the Fredo of the Yankee family, awkward and envious and insecure."
Kepner also pointed out that Rodriguez isn't above lying to try and protect his image. He told Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman in 2002 that he wasn't using steroids. Several years later in 2009, he admitted that he had used steroids for three years, starting in 2001.
While he was at it, A-Rod also tried to drum up sympathy for himself by claiming that he had been stalked by SI reporter Selena Roberts. She called his claims "absurd," and Rodriguez felt sorry enough for what he said to call her up and apologize, thus handing over his "I'm a victim!" card.
It's thanks to incidents like these that the public has found it so easy to turn against A-Rod the moment the New Times report came out. His past history of cheating and deception made it impossible for many to give him the benefit of the doubt.
To earn it back, he needs to be patient and, above all, smart.
It will be confirmed that Rodriguez has neither patience nor smarts if he comes alleges that there's a conspiracy going on. Regardless of whether or not he's innocent or guilty, an accusation like that would be a no-win situation for him.
If Rodriguez is guilty of using PEDs from 2009 through 2012, as the New Times report alleges, attempting to clear his name by crying conspiracy would be a foolish excuse. He would be attacking his persecutors' methods while ignoring the gravity of his own crimes.
In essence, he would be a robber complaining that he only got caught because the cops wanted to catch him. He got caught, sure, but he was set up!
But what if Rodriguez is innocent of the latest allegations? What if he really is a victim here?
If he is, then the Yankees and MLB shouldn't be the targets in his crosshairs. He would be implying that the allegations popped up only because his employers and/or the league wanted them to, which, in reality, is not the case.
Before the New Times report came out, Mike Fish and T.J. Quinn of ESPN reported that MLB had been investigating wellness clinics in South Florida since last summer. The league was monitoring clinics it believed were supplying PEDs to all players, not just A-Rod.
Presuming he's innocent, Rodriguez's only target should be the man who linked him to PEDs in the first place. That would be Anthony Bosch, the "biochemist" whose handwritten documents were the foundation upon which the New Times report was built. In the event that he filled those documents with lies, it's much more likely that he did it to cover him own tracks rather than to service MLB.
Rodriguez hasn't tested positive for anything, and there's very little (if any) circumstantial evidence that suggests he was indeed using PEDs from 2009 to 2012. If he was, the history of past PED users tells us that his body should not have broken down like it has these last few years.
It's all going to come down to those documents. This entire situation is not Rodriguez's word against that of the Yankees or MLB. It's A-Rod's word against that of Bosch and Biogenesis.
All MLB is doing now is following up on the New Times story. All the Yankees are doing is waiting for MLB to make a ruling on the case. They may try to void A-Rod's contract, but doing so wouldn't be a personal decision. There are certainly some personal gripes in Yankee-land now that aren't going away for a while, but the actual act of voiding A-Rod's contract would be a business decision.
In the meantime, Rodriguez can certainly be forgiven if he's taking the latest allegations personally. But he needs to keep things in a proper perspective, and the proper perspective in this case means shunning all thoughts of a conspiracy. Whether he's guilty or not, that notion does him no good.
If A-Rod is innocent and he believes the Yankees or MLB might be out to get him, he needs to realign his focus. If he's guilty and he believes that the Yankees or MLB are out to get him, then he's convinced himself that it's better to live in delusion than it is to come out and tell the truth.
Exactly what's going on inside Rodriguez's head these days, though, is likely to remain a mystery. He's in total radio silence mode, and the Yankees are doing their best to make sure nobody finds him for a quote. Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com says that the club is keeping his whereabouts a secret during his recovery from his January hip surgery.
If he eventually does choose to speak, A-Rod will have every right to claim innocence, even if he's really guilty. But if and when he does speak, alleging that there's a conspiracy going on would prove that he's just as insecure and delusional as they say he is.
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