Alex Rodriguez is batting .500 on his return to the New York Yankees.
The disgraced slugger went yard when he declined the team’s offer to hold a news conference at Yankee Stadium, where he could apologize for using steroids, lying about it and dragging his sport through the mud while he fought a 211-game suspension that was reduced to 162 games.
The last thing we needed was another public flogging.
We saw that act six years ago and once is enough. Dozens of teammates and roughly 200 reporters were present for A-Rod’s presser upon his arrival at training camp in 2009. He read a prepared statement and took questions for about 30 minutes, offering more details on the drug use he confessed a week earlier during an ESPN interview.
Boxing promoter Bob Arum didn’t enter the Sports Quote Hall of Fame until later that year — “Yesterday I was lying; today I’m telling the truth” — but A-Rod was ahead of him. Rodriguez had lied to ESPN about not knowing what kind of steroid he used, just like he lied to CBS’ Katie Couric two years earlier, when he told her he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
But on Feb. 17, 2009, A-Rod blamed his usage on being “immature and stupid,” identified the drug as “boli,” and said he knew “we weren’t taking Tic Tacs.”
He went right back to cheating shortly thereafter (after winning a World Series ring), followed by more lying, the suspension and lawsuits against MLB, the players union and the Yankees team doctor.
There was no reason to go through the spectacle of another news conference, especially since A-Rod likely wouldn’t answer many questions due to ongoing federal investigations. Besides, nothing he can say will repair his image.
So whichever handler on his roster said he should turn down the Yankees’ suggestion, that was brilliant. Home run.
But the hand-written apology addressed “To the Fans” was a nasty strikeout, like when the batter stumbles badly and his helmet flies off after a violent swing-and-miss on an 0-2 count.
“I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season,” A-Rod wrote on the two-page note issued Tuesday through a publicist. “I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be. To Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family, the Players Association and you, the fans, I can only say I’m sorry.
“I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology but I decided the next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.
“I served the longest suspension in the history of the League for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball. This game has been my single biggest passion since I was a teenager. When I go to Spring training, I will do everything I can to be the best player and teammate possible, earn a spot on the Yankees and help us win.”
Nothing wrong with that apology … except it should’ve been typed.
Responsible adults don’t use long hand for formal communications. Grown-ups don’t resort to pen and paper for official business. Professionals don’t opt for cursive writing when the situation obviously calls for a word processor.
In a stroke of stupidity, A-Rod shifted the emphasis from what he wrote to the fact that it was written, literally.
If the message was typed, like normal, folks would’ve picked it apart just for general insincerity. But putting the release in script took A-Rod’s pretense to dizzying levels, causing even more head shaking and eye rolling.
Besides, the only thing left to do anyway is play, if he still can. After two hip surgeries, a lengthy absence, seven years since hitting .290 or better and five years since accumulating at least 20 homers or 65 RBI in a season, that’s a humongous “if.”
And he turns 40 on July 27.
A-Rod can say whatever he wants, however he wants. He can put up a billboard or use an airplane pulling a banner. He can take out a full-page ad or star in a PSA-like commercial. He can hold a news conference or make the rounds on TV.
None of those options would seem as disingenuous as a hand-written letter.
Perfect penmanship doesn’t change the fact that A-Rod is a train wreck.
Writing the note was like going over the ruins with a highlight marker.