A story about Alex Rodriguez.
One day in the visiting clubhouse in Cleveland, Alex called me over to his locker. His grandmother had died a day earlier, and he wanted to tell me how hard losing her had been. He had been close to her, he said, and was devastated by her loss.
Alex told me all this without showing emotion. I thought he might be trying not to, so I nodded and listened.
"The funeral is Sunday," he said.
"Are you going?" I asked.
Alex looked genuinely surprised.
"No," he said. After a pause, he told me he’d had a long talk with Lou Piniella, who’d asked him to play through the pain.
It occurred to me that day that Rodriguez might not be feeling anguish so much as wanting me to know he was – and to write about it. I didn’t, in part because I thought it sent too mixed a message and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I still do, but it has gotten harder.
Alex Rodriguez never said a spontaneous thing to the media. Ever. On one level, that could be seen as caution. But over the years around Alex, it became apparent he was that way with teammates, coaches, everyone.
Ask him a question he wasn’t prepared to answer, he’d first stall – ‘Why would you ask me that?’ he’d respond – and then produce an answer that seemed canned. Good question, he might say, he’d never thought of that.
I don’t know anyone who believes they’ve seen an honest emotion from Alex. When I watched his confessional interview with Peter Gammons and thought we might finally hear him level with the world.
Until he said he wasn’t sure what he’d taken, only that it was banned.
Alex took something for three years without knowing exactly what it was? Impossible. Alex didn’t get dressed without thinking of the impact he wanted to make with his attire. He never spoke to the press without knowing precisely what message he wanted to deliver.
And the steroid cocktail he is alleged to have consumed is not something he could have purchased over the counter at GNC – part of it can’t even legally be sold in this country.
What Alex did Monday was confess to as little as possible. He never said the word ‘illegal.’. Only ‘banned.’ He never said he’d injected anything, or been on a program.
Alex Rodriguez taking iinjections without knowing what was in the syringe or how would impact his body?
Alex took the time to explain it was the culture of the game in 2001, that the reporter who broke the story had tried to break into the home where his two daughters slept. That’s taking full responsibility, Rodriguez-style.
When you think you’re just a bit smarter than anyone who interviews you, things get said that are too easily checked. Alex’s grandmother story, for instance. I talked to then-manager Piniella a bit later in the evening, and asked if he’d counseled his young shortstop about the death in the family.
"I didn’t know about it," he said. "Alex hasn’t told me."
Now, Alex wants the world to know he’s sorry. That whatever it was he took in Texas because of the pressure he felt after signing that contract, he stopped taking when he went to New York – where apparently, there was no pressure.
At least this time, he left Piniella out of it.