Rodriguez made a lot of positive noises, albeit strangely disconnected from any obvious emotion. "The truth shall set you free," he told reporter Peter Gammons, adopting the language of the civil rights movement to the cause of drug weasels. "I get to start a new chapter in life, where I can only focus on baseball," Rodriguez said, "(and) my team, the fans of New York and recommitting one hundred percent of my focus. I can't wait to get to spring training, because to play with, you know, going through a divorce, this gorilla on my back, not being one hundred percent honest and forthright and transparent... That's my savior, the game of baseball."
Of course, in that classic Nixon way, he was lying, ducking and weaving when he said all this. Not for the first time. Rodriguez admitted in the interview that he'd been lying for years to baseball fans and reporters. And, according to Rangers owner Tom Hicks, to his team, too. Hicks said yesterday that he felt "personally betrayed" by Rodriguez, thus casting himself as Captain Renault in this little drama. We now know that Hicks was running the steroidingest team in baseball.
It turns out that the lying is a hard habit to break.
You can start with this: Rodriguez said that he didn't know what steroids he was taking. For three years. He's asking us to believe that a 26-year-old, world-class athlete in his eighth year as a professional spent three years shooting himself up with, well, uh, no idea, really. Could have been steroids. Or baking powder. Heroin maybe. Jujubees? Hard to say, Rodriguez told Gammons.
Well, said Gammons, whatever it was you were taking, did it help?
Not that you'd notice, said Rodriguez. "Overall, my consistency says a lot," implying that his years in Texas were of a piece with the rest of his career. It's true, if by "consistency" you mean an unequaled career peak. Two of Rodriguez's three biggest home run years came while he was in Texas, and three of his four highest slugging percentages. The drug-infused version of Rodriguez was pumped up enough so that he missed a total of only one game out of the 486 the Rangers had scheduled during that time — the only such Ripken-like streak of his career.
Where'd he get the drugs? How and when did he use them? Did other players on the Rangers know he was using? Did he see other players use? When and why did he start? No answers. When and why did he stop? That he had an answer for: His conscience got to him. Seriously. That's what he said. Not because he'd been tested and it turned up positive. Heaven forfend! Why, Rodriguez said, I didn't even know I'd tested positive until last week.
When he wasn't lying, or just leaving stuff out, Rodriguez used a classic distancing technique. His three-year ride on the needle was always referred to as "back then," like it was Edwardian England. "Back then it was a different culture," he said. In this strange and different time — less than six years ago, if you're going to be picky — the use of steroids was apparently not a major issue in athletics, unprescribed use was not illegal, and they were not banned from Major League Baseball.
(To clear up a common misconception, steroids were in fact prohibited in the big leagues in 1991, although the player's union, still smarting from the cocaine fiascos of the '80s, refused to negotiate a penalty for their use.)
It's possible that Rodriguez was telling the truth about one thing: He told Gammons that he hadn't consulted with agent/Hobbesian svengali Scott Boras before he decided to speak publicly about his steroid use. Say what you want about Boras, the man believes in preparation. He's famous for it. It's hard to believe he would have let Rodriguez dissemble in such robotic and patently dishonest fashion for half an hour on camera with Gammons, and especially not in a way that might actually leave Rodriguez open to legal action by the Yankees and/or the Rangers.
In any case, the Sports Illustrated revelation and Rodriguez's admission are "depressing," and "tarnish an entire era, to some degree," as The First White Sox Fan said last night at his press conference in the White House.
The four greatest players of the generation — Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Rodriguez — are cheats. If they were, why not hundreds more? The records and achievements of the time are meaningless. More personally, more tragically, the memories are too.
Listen to our conversation with Dave Zirin about A-Rod's admission that he took performance-enhancing drugs.