Why should we believe anything Alex Rodriguez has to say?
A-Rod isn't just a cheater and a phony. He's also a rat.
Baseball hates a rat.
The game's clubhouse culture is all about protecting fellow players — it's ruled by a code of Omertà. Which makes the news that Alex Rodriguez named names of fellow steroid users to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration a decade ago all the more jarring.
According to Mike Fish's reporting for ESPN looking back on the Biogenesis scandal, Rodriguez leaked the names of Ryan Braun, Manny Ramirez, and another All-Star player to the feds.
A-Rod was reportedly never the focus of the DEA's investigation. But he ratted out fellow players to protect himself.
Alex was the biggest of stars, a generational talent whose blend of power, speed and slick defense redefined the shortstop position. He was seen as the answer, the game’s savior, the player who would "cleanly" rewrite the steroids-tainted record books.
But he wasn't clean. Maybe ever. Even during his early MLB career with the Mariners, sources have told me, there was speculation that he was very knowledgeable, too knowledgeable, about steroids.
The Rangers didn't know that, or pay it any attention, ahead of the 2001 season, when they offered him the biggest contract in North American sports history up to that point — a 10-year, $252-million deal (PEDs were definitely not front of mind for the 2001 Rangers).
A-Rod put up wonderful numbers in Texas. Steroids-aided numbers, as we would later learn.
In 2009, cornered by results of a leaked positive test from years earlier, Rodriguez stated that "I was young, I was stupid, I was naive." According to Alex, he took steroids in the 2001-2003 window.1 He held a press conference apologizing to his teammates.
At the time, he said he learned his lesson. That he knew better.
But as it turns out, he didn't learn anything. Instead, after Major League Baseball stopped hand-stamping his PEDs exemptions, he started getting drugs through Tony Bosch, a shifty guy who ran a rejuvenation clinic in Miami.
When Biogenesis clients started failing drug tests and A-Rod surfaced as a longtime client, he went on a scorched-earth campaign against the league, trying to avoid suspension.
Then he turned around and sung like a canary to the DEA.
Former teammates of A-Rod's have faced death threats and seen their reputations tarnished just for admitting their own PEDs usage. Not for naming other players, but for voluntarily coming forward and talking about themselves.
Ken Caminiti was criticized for breaking the lid off of the game's steroids underground by admitting to using PEDs in a 2002 Sports Illustrated cover story. But he only implicated himself. He was a troubled man trying to find peace in his life. He didn't name names, even when asked.
Notably, Sports Illustrated removed a reference to A-Rod from one of Caminiti's quotes that appeared in the magazine.
Here was how Caminiti was quoted in an online story that broke the news ahead of the magazine hitting newsstands:
"Look at all the money in the game," Caminiti said. "A kid got $252 million. So I can't say, 'Don't do it,' not when the guy next to you is as big as a house and he's going to take your job and make the money."
Here's how the quote appeared in print:
"If a young player were to ask me what to do, I'm not going to tell him it's bad. Look at all the money in the game: You have a chance to set your family up, to get your daughter into a better school. ... So I can't say, 'Don't do it,' not when the guy next to you is as big as a house and he's going to take your job and make the money."
To Caminiti, Rodriguez's big contract was an open door for other players to consider using PEDs.
It's common, at publications like SI, for the legal and standards folks to pore over word choices for publication and to remove any stray references to others not directly involved in a story. I've been through that process numerous times. It's interesting, looking back now, to consider how careful everyone was to herald A-Rod as a clean player — and how ironic it is that Sports Illustrated removed a reference to a player whose entire career would be tarnished by his own use of PEDs.
Jose Canseco, another steroids user-turned-whistleblower, named names of fellow players, including Rodriguez's, in his books Juiced and Vindicated. Lots of people trashed Canseco, but his accusations have held up.
A-Rod brushed aside and sidestepped Canseco's claims at the time. He didn't want to stoop down to Canseco's level.
Turns out, he could stoop even lower.
At least Canseco has been consistent. Whatever you feel about Canseco, the former Bash Brother with his ax to grind, his words on this topic hold credibility. Alex, for all of his shifting accounts, for the lies piled upon other lies, and for breaking baseball’s Omertà, doesn’t have any credibility left.
Canseco came forward in large part because he felt blackballed by Major League Baseball. And given A-Rod's image rehabilitation, I can't blame him. Where many players caught up in the PEDs cloud have taken a back seat, there's Alex, still front and center on your TV screen, still peddling his brand of bullshit as a broadcaster on ESPN or Fox. He's shopping a documentary, too.
At this point, why should we believe anything he has to say?
Why would we want to listen to a rat?
His claim to only use from 2001 to 2003 doesn't make a lot of sense to me. As the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, he had tons of attention and pressure on him, especially in 2000, the year ahead of his free agency and the first year he was playing without Ken Griffey, Jr., meaning he became the team's biggest star. If he didn't put up numbers in 2000, it would have cost him. If he struggled in 2001, after making bank, there were fewer consequences at play. Maybe the fear of letdown, sure ... but it's not like there were real expectations for Rangers fans.