"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: Lie to Me

A couple of items to attend to before getting into the article:

1) Thank you for the well-wishes in the BB community following my last post. My daughter was born Thursday, February 5, at 8:32 a.m. EST. She has a tremendous set of lungs and long fingers. I think she’s going to be a singer-songwriter, maybe a prodigy like Alicia Keys.

2) Cliff, Alex and Diane have done a kickass job here following the A-Rod story and keeping everything strong.

3) I’m back on schedule now. Welcome to Spring Training!


I’ve been watching Tim Roth’s new show on FOX, “Lie To Me.” The premise: Roth, as Dr. Lightman, heads a private company that assists in federal criminal cases, using scientific studies in body language and facial expressions to determine whether a suspect is lying. At various points in an episode, still photos of Sarah Palin, O.J. Simpson, etc., are shown to demonstrate how in real life, facial expressions can communicate emotion and in turn, veracity or falsehood of statements.

Far-fetched? Depends on your point of view. Provocative? Certainly.

In the three weeks since the show premiered, the A-Rod situation has blown up, and I’ve begun thinking about the show more and more, and yesterday’s press conference gave a perfect opportunity to role play and try to apply some of the science to breaking down what was a brilliantly staged spectacle.

“Hard to Believe” was the headline on ESPN.com. It’s a great headline because of the many ways it can be interpreted. Hard to believe A-Rod was being honest? Jayson Stark thinks so, as illustrated below in Diane Firstman’s excerpt. Hard to believe A-Rod read his statements so stiffly, as if he’d never rehearsed them? Hard to believe that he never mentioned the word “steroids” at all? Hard to believe that when asked if he considered what he did to be cheating, he dodged the answer and didn’t say anything definitive? (More on this later.) Hard to believe that he’s still trying to pull the “young and naïve” argument on us, and that he’s blaming his curiosity on not receiving higher education? Hard to believe he sold out his cousin? Hard to believe that he’s the scapegoat of the 104 players who tested positive in 2003? Hard to believe that Gene Orza of the MLBPA sold him out? Hard to believe that Bud Selig doesn’t want to take accountability for the state of the game breaking down, resurrecting itself, and breaking down again on his watch? Hard to believe A-Rod had no clue what Jamie Moyer said earlier this week? Hard to believe that this wasn’t a classic case of the media putting an athlete on a pedestal only to tear him down after learning of his transgressions? Hard to believe that a few callers dialed into Mike Francesa’s show and Michael Kay’s show yesterday afternoon buying into the Bill Madden theory that the Yankees should eat the remaining $270 million of his contract?

Putting on my Dr. Lightman hat, based on the visuals on the ESPN.com front page, “Hard to Believe” tells me that ESPN is pushing the agenda that A-Rod lied yesterday. In quadrant one (upper left), we have the patented A-Rod look to the left and smirk, like he’s above it all. In quadrant two (upper right), he has his lip scrunched, as if he’s justifying the “young and naïve” argument. In quadrant three (lower left), his lips are pursed, signifying a cocky attitude. What up, playa? And in quadrant four (lower right), his head down in faux shame.

More significant to me as I re-watched the press conference, were the cutaways to the Yankee players and coaches in attendance. I focused on Andy Pettitte, Tony Pena, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, and how they reacted during A-Rod’s opening statement. Of the four, Pettitte appeared to be the most genuinely sympathetic, empathetic and engaged — most likely because he went through the same thing nearly a year ago to the date. (Conveniently, news of his being questioned in the Roger Clemens probe was released shortly after the A-Rod presser.) Both Jeter and Posada looked like they’d have rather been anywhere else. It was Peña, though, who encapsulated the raw emotion of the moment. He had the look of a disgusted parent, his face communicating that he was personally betrayed and disappointed.

When A-Rod unleashed the 33-second pause — yes, I stopped to count it — before thanking his teammates for their support, YES went to a quick shot of the group mentioned above. While Pettitte, Peña, Jeter and Posada were frozen in their earlier positions, Mariano Rivera appeared to be in deep concentration, with a frown. It looked like he was thinking, “What the f— was that,” or he was holding back a yawn. I couldn’t tell.

Later, in answering WABC’s Scott Clark, when A-Rod issued his apology to the group, the cumulative look communicated, “OK. We’re here because we have to be. Isn’t that enough?”

In the analysis of the event on various channels, I don’t believe enough was made of this nonverbal communication. The post-conference reaction, however, was telling in a different way. Bob Holtzman’s piece for ESPN touched on the Yankees’ recognition of the event, but his premise was that the members of the Yankee brass didn’t show a great deal of support. I never heard Brian Cashman sound as frustrated as he did when he said, “He’s our player, he’s our player for the next nine years, and we’ll take ownership of the situation.”

What would Dr. Lightman believe? Most likely, that A-Rod tried to fool us. Again.

Maybe A-Rod is afraid of the truth, as Bob Klapisch suggests.

Maybe that’s why we’re left with more questions after his 33-minute presser on Tuesday. We’ve apologized for him and tried to delve into his psychology so much over the past five years and continuously run around in circles.

If A-Rod is not afraid of the truth and if he did not lie to us yesterday — or to himself — he’s got a few things to consider:

1) Throwing some of the ego that drove him to take PEDs toward the MLBPA in effort to get the other 103 names released. The documents should have been destroyed and weren’t. If I was in his place, saying I was young and stupid seven years ago, I’d try to act older and more cynical now and try to find out if I was set up. If I was so concerned about my image and apparently desperate to vindicate myself, I would be as aggressive in this pursuit as I would be swinging at a 2-0 fastball down the middle.

2) Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks didn’t accept A-Rod’s apology in a 25-minute conversation the two had yesterday, according to an ESPN report. Maybe Selena Roberts would be more forgiving if he extended an apology to her for the way he’s treated her since the story’s publication. A-Rod acknowledged that he’s spoken to her since the alleged incident at his home in Miami, but since follow-up questions were disallowed, Newsday’s Ken Davidoff couldn’t ask him if he apologized to her.

Worst piece of instructions: No follow-up questions. This is not surprising, given how all professional teams and leagues want to control the flow of information as closely as they do.

Best question: The first question, from ESPN Radio in Tampa, asking A-Rod if he’d have admitted to testing positive had the Selena Roberts story had not been published.

Worst question: George King, asking A-Rod to name his cousin. A-Rod handled that diplomatically.

Best means of self-promotion: A-Rod saying, “I don’t want to use this as a forum to discuss what I plan to do…” and then launching into his foundation with Don Hooton, whose son died of complications resulting from steroid use.

Best answer: “I was looking for people to blame, and I keep looking at myself at the end of the day,” in response to Newsday’s Kat O’Brien, who asked if he had seen other players take PEDs during the “loosey goosey” era he described to Peter Gammons.

Worst answer: In successive questions, A-Rod said he didn’t know if he took “Boley” the right way in order for it to affect him properly; and in describing why he wasn’t more conscientious in researching what he was putting into his body, retreated to the position that he was 24 or 25 and therefore “young and naïve,” and not skeptical or calculated in his actions.

A-Rod is held to ridiculous and perhaps unattainable standards, both on and off the field. Perhaps the contract is the reason. It struck me that the reaction of many in the press was one of extreme cynicism — more so than usual. They took it personally, as if A-Rod lit a pipe-bomb inside the soap box and blew it to smithereens. The corps of 200-plus in attendance and the other types claiming punditry have made it clear that nothing A-Rod does or says will be good enough no matter how contrite he attempts to be, despite the fact that he has been more forthcoming about his PED use than any star player implicated in the scandal to date. He explained what he was sorry for, which was more than Jason Giambi did four years ago. He explained how he took the drugs. However lame some of the explanations were, he did put some useful information on the table.

Overall, in the reaction phase, I thought there was a general feeling of, “We’re tired of talking about this. We know it’s not going away, but can we please try to focus on our team and what’s going to happen on the field?”

Did we learn anything from the exercise? I think so. Reading the comments here and elsewhere, we learned that A-Rod remains a divisive figure among not only Yankee fans, but baseball fans in general. And eventually, while this story and A-Rod’s place in it will not go away, neither will baseball. We’ll still love the game despite the foibles of the professionals who play it.

That is no lie.

Until next week …

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Will Weiss  Yankee Panky

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1 The Hawk   ~  Feb 18, 2009 1:15 pm

He didn't blame his curiosity on not having a higher education. He said if he'd gone to college, he'd have more time to grow up instead of going straight to the bright lights of the majors. He's saying in essence he did what he did partially from an immaturity that may have been mitigated by going to school. Not because he'd have learned this or that, but just cause it would have slowed his career arc a bit.

2 Will Weiss   ~  Feb 18, 2009 1:37 pm

[1] Thanks Hawk. My bad on the misinterpretation. As Mad Dog would say, "That's a good job by you for picking that up."

3 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 18, 2009 1:55 pm

Welcome back, Will! (How's the whole getting sleep thing? It does get better, though it can get worse too - for example, my 3-year-old who probably wakes up once a night, every night, because she's "bored with sleeping".)

I have to admit, I skipped a lot of the post, only because I'm so tired of this whole thing - but I LOVED your summary. Spot on right.

I also thought this comment by BP's Kevin Goldstein, in a chat, had a lot of merit to it:

"strupp (Madison): Token Goldman mistaken identity: What do you make of A-Rod's yadda yadda yadda?

Kevin Goldstein: I have no comment about it. I'll answer questions about it when other sports, with far more serious performance enhancing issue get even one half the coverage and attention baseball does. Or when people start making a big deal about the fact that there seem to be major felony arrest at an alarming rate in some other sports, but somehow that's the back of the news. It's double-sided, hypocritical and I'm sick of it. "But what about the children?" doesn't really work for me." (http://tinyurl.com/dd5g7m)

4 rbj   ~  Feb 18, 2009 2:11 pm

I disagree about "1) Throwing some of the ego that drove him to take PEDs toward the MLBPA in effort to get the other 103 names released. "

That'll just look like A-Rod is trying to mitigate his guilt by naming names. By not doing that, or even naming his cousin, and straightforwardly accepting the blame he is taking a bit of the high road (though he's down so far that it looks like up to him.)

Question: how many athletes in any sports, including Olympics, have admitted to PED use without having been outed.

I definitely agree with your summary.

Final thought. From the presser yesterday and the Glanville column I get the sense that A-Rod is very insecure about not having gone to college. In my wider circle of friends at least one of the ones who didn't finish college does try to act as if he's had as much "book learnin'" as the rest of us. Even though to the rest of us the lack of a diploma doesn't matter.

5 Simone   ~  Feb 18, 2009 2:24 pm

Congrats to you and your wife, Will. Daughters are the best and we adore our fathers. It is all good for you.

Saw Derek's media comments. I liked when he said that people have stop to calling it the steroid era because not everyone cheated.

I love Letterman's faux Gammons interview.

6 Raf   ~  Feb 18, 2009 3:18 pm

Something else that should be pointed out is that this press conference was more about looking contrite, and damage control, than anything else. I don't know if people were expecting anything else, or even if they should.

That’ll just look like A-Rod is trying to mitigate his guilt by naming names.

Exactly. He's already seen as a "cheater," why add "rat" to the list?

7 OldYanksFan   ~  Feb 18, 2009 3:47 pm

Hey Will... my baby gril was born 2/5 also.... but in 1988. Female Aquarians are tough... get ready for some fight. Years 3 to 6 are absolurely the best years for Dad and daughter, so plan ahead now to free up some time then.

I personally think ARod did as good, or better, then could be expected. The level of quality (or lack of it) in mainstream media continues to erode. Honestly, it's getting to the point where they serve no purpose other then rationalizing their own salaries.

8 Dimelo   ~  Feb 18, 2009 3:58 pm

[0] If ARod did what he was suppose to do, then why would Cashman be so peeved at how ARod handled it? Is it because he knows he didn't do a good enough job to make it go away?

All reports that I'm reading seem to be strongly hinting at that.

9 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 18, 2009 4:06 pm

[7] OYF, I was just about to say that. Joe Sheehan had the best one-liner about this whole thing: "People are never going to be satisfied." I'd add - its A-Rod, the media loves to hate A-Rod, its good for business!

That's probably cynical, but I think justified. I'd bet page views/ratings/sales of papers are UP UP UP with all the A-Rod hullabaloo, so why wouldn't the traditional media milk this for all its worth? I said that just after the A-Rod/Gammons interview, and its doubly true now. He came clean, gave more details than anyone else has ever done before, and its still not enough. He wasn't sincere enough, he was clearly lying, his details were inconsistent - what else are they going to write/say? "Alex Rodriguez came clean by providing more details about his use of PEDs than any other professional athlete ever has, apologized to everyone, answered every question, and has the support of his teammates and the organization" is an awfully short piece.

Sports coverage has become like political coverage: what polls say the public thinks/wants (in sports, enough with the PEDs already in MLB), and what the pundits say the public thinks/wants (GIVE US THE BLOOD OF BONDS, MCGWIRE, SOSA, CLEMENS, AND A-ROD!), are two completely different things. And then the media wonders why people buy fewer newspapers and ratings are down! Its incredibly frustrating to watch.

10 PJ   ~  Feb 18, 2009 4:45 pm

[7] Well said, OYF! In the current economy, many entities in the media today are fighting for their very existences. With the increasing popularity of places like here at Banter, and the gushing of blood from the critical wound of circulation numbers falling off the charts, print media is literally dying a quick death right before our eyes and is about to cease to exist as has in the past, period. And it's not going out without kicking and screaming. The bottom line is these overpaid wannabe celebrity saps write or talk about sports, ad nauseum. The real value to we serious sports fans are the great players and the performances themselves, not the opinions of the unathletic scrubs who write about them, Pulitzers or not. We lose our way whenever the media becomes the story. We're being insulted every time we see the media covering the media about the media as well! Quite frankly, I could care less if the media isn’t satisfied with anyone they cover. That’s not the purpose they serve.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if certain members of the media are not allowed access to the Yankees that they once enjoyed, all on their collective ways out. I mean it's almost as though the media is blaming A-Rod and the Yankees for not providing them with enough of a story to bail their asses out of economic and financial oblivion!

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of assholes, who believe they are entitled to unfettered access whenever and wherever they want and still print whatever they wanted once they get that access.

We know we're in trouble when the system dictates there is value in all forms of publicity and its pundits dictate to us how we should conduct our lives. Like electricity, it's packaged and marketed as a necessity. It's not, especially when we all have individual access to every single game, we know what's good and what's not, and we are smart enough to form our own opinions. I will never be told how to feel and think about athletes' conduct on or off the field by media types turned social critics from some fictitious moral high ground they enjoy because the establishment awards these journalists for their writings and corporate America obscenely rewards them for those awards. We want straws that stir the drink, not straws that stir the shit! It seems that by this story coming out, and how old it actually is, the media weren't as thorough as they'd like us all to believe they are! Well, they are at least not as thorough as they portray unless they are given confidential or privileged information...


11 pugzilla   ~  Feb 18, 2009 4:48 pm

I'm still bothered by the ferocious and almost universal attempt by the press to degrade and punish Arod over his steroid usage, while not giving a ship about the other 103 positives who were obviously every bit as guilty, or (currently) the other presumed users who haven't made nearly as much of an admissionsof guilt (e.g.: Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, Giambi).
Really long longshot: he's not on the list of the 104, although he was juiced - somebody lied.

12 rbj   ~  Feb 18, 2009 5:26 pm

I'm surprised that they haven't started blaming A-Rod for the current economic turmoil.

It's sort of like "Bush Derangement Syndrome" or "Clinton Derangement Syndrome". Nothing that person does is going to be acceptable to their critics.

13 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 18, 2009 7:49 pm


Apparently, from 2001-2003, A-Rod had his own "stimulus package"


14 pugzilla   ~  Feb 18, 2009 10:23 pm

Who else thinks his 'cousin" just might be a teamate, possibly high-profile, that he doesn't want to (or, conceivably, is afraid to) out?

And, Diane, I believe it's, "ba-da-boom" ;-)

15 pugzilla   ~  Feb 19, 2009 10:41 am

"Who else thinks his ‘cousin” just might be a teamate, possibly high-profile, that he doesn’t want to (or, conceivably, is afraid to) out?"

Didn't take long to prove me wrong, did it?

16 Will Weiss   ~  Feb 19, 2009 4:33 pm

[3] I'm not getting any more or less sleep than I did previously. I am sleeping more lightly than I used to, though. ... [5] In two weeks, she's already displaying some "Daddy's Girl" tendencies, which is a heart-melter, for sure. ... [7] Thanks OYF. I'm sure those aren't the only years to look forward to. Although I will say that the thought of her becoming mobile and vocal soon scares the hell out of me.

Great comments, all. In previous threads there was a lot made of A-Rod's "likability" factor. He doesn't have much of one, because he presents himself as such a me-first, prima donna-ish poser. On top of that, he's rubbed a lot of members of the press the wrong way, blowing off interviews, etc. A lot of what's going on is the thought that, right or wrong, this is their time to fire back at him.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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