[Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Since his character is part of the story, Rodriguez wanted me to talk to a character witness, and his choice was an odd one: Cynthia, his ex-wife. “You’re going to love her. She’s an amazing lady. I love her to pieces,” he said, “and she’s one of my best friends.”
Cynthia met me in a café in Coconut Grove and then a second time in the elegant though hardly ostentatious home she designed on Biscayne Bay. She’s not just toned but muscular, an attractive, petite blonde with smooth skin and piercing eyes and two bright diamond earrings. She met Rodriguez when he was 21 and she was 22. She wasn’t a sports fan. He told her he played baseball. “That’s great, but what do you really do?” she’d said. Cynthia is a traditional girl from a close-knit, religious family who lived a few blocks from her parents for a time—and she was a college graduate, which impressed Rodriguez. She’d earned a master’s degree in psychology and had practiced as a therapist.
She had every reason in the world to dislike Rodriguez. He’d humiliated her in the press; there were reports of Madonna and Rodriguez together shortly after the birth of their second child. But five years later—they divorced in 2008—she simply said, “I was disappointed.” She still esteems him. In the aftermath of the separation, he was generous and thoughtful. “He really made sure that everything was taken care of,” she told me. “It was a very nurturing process.” For her, that wasn’t an exception. “I saw something in him that I still see in him, and what I see is still very good.”
But she also sees damage. She spooled out the now-familiar story as to its causes. His father left the family when Alex was 10; he lived with his mother and lost touch with his father. The absence of a father made him the man of the house, big pressure for a teenager. “I was in a full sprint to make sure my mother never worked again,” he said.
Rodriguez’s success added to the emotional distortion. “Everything was about growing him as a baseball player,” Cynthia said. “He wasn’t learning anything but how to hit the fastball.
“What happens to everything else? It’s stunted, completely.” Without an authority figure, he listened willy-nilly to the advice of whoever was with him at the time.
“I used to say to Alex, ‘Don’t you just know what to do? Don’t you just have that voice in your head that tells you?’ He said, ‘No. I don’t.’ I think, looking back, he was probably uncomfortable with his place in the world.”
Later, when their marriage was crumbling, Cynthia thought a lot about Rodriguez’s issues. One day, she ran into Cal Ripken, one of his baseball heroes and a friend.
“What is it about Alex that I’m not seeing?” she asked Ripken. “What is it that I don’t get?”
“Cynthia, let me tell you the problem,” he said, and told her a story. “I might be wearing a suit, and Alex will see me and say, ‘Cal, I love your suit. Where did you get that suit?’ Then somebody else might walk in the locker room, and they have a completely different kind of suit on. And Alex might say, ‘Hey, I love your suit.’
“Cynthia, he tries to please everyone. That’s the problem.”
Rodriguez would often be charged with insincerity, but Cynthia didn’t see it that way. “He’s trying to say the right thing, trying to fit in. I would say immature, not insincere.”
[Photo Via: USA Today]
That The Greatest Scandal That Absolutely Ever Was has come down to a faceoff between Rodriguez and Selig is proof enough of what a comic opera the whole escapade has been from the beginning. The hysteria over PEDs in baseball — and, thus, in every sport — has unfolded the way in which all drug hysterias in the history of this country have unfolded. It has been fueled by misplaced moral panic, anecdotal evidence, anonymous slander, and a fundamental disregard for legal and constitutional safeguards — all in the service of what has been sold as a greater good by executives and media members who became famous or wealthy in the pursuit. It has been an exercise in simplistic moralism, so why shouldn’t it come down to one villain and one hero? The whole thing has been a scary story for children right from the jump.
Rodriguez seems to have very few friends in baseball, and probably deserves to have even fewer than he does. His image has been leaking hot air ever since he joined the Yankees. And yes, he is floundering in a vain attempt to rescue the reputation he personally fed into the wood chipper. But, in his battle with Selig, it’s important to remember that — while Rodriguez is fighting for his reputation, and Selig for his legacy — they’re also both fighting just as hard to avoid something else. Neither one wants to be the lasting face of the steroid era. The commissioner would like to fit Rodriguez for the role, because that’s the only way to save Selig’s legacy; this makes his pursuit of Rodriguez look less like an attempt to rescue the game and more like an elaborate attempt to cover his own historical ass.
Big story in the Times today detailing the sordid case against Alex Rodriguez:
In the nine months since Mr. Rodriguez and more than a dozen other players were linked to a South Florida anti-aging clinic that is believed to have distributed banned substances to professional athletes, baseball officials and the Yankee third baseman have engaged in a cloak-and-dagger struggle surpassing anything the sport has seen. The extraordinary investigative tactics, playing out in multiple locations, reflect Major League Baseball’s resolve to prove one of its stars cheated, and that player’s determination to discredit baseball officials.
Witnesses for both sides in the pending arbitration proceedings claim to have been harassed and threatened. Some were paid tens of thousands of dollars for their cooperation. One said she became intimately involved with an investigator on the case. And some witness accounts have shifted, leaving each side scrambling to defend the sometimes inconsistent stories provided by former employees and associates of the now-defunct clinic, Biogenesis of America.
The dispute — which involves lawsuits in Florida and in New York, and a battle over grand jury transcripts in Buffalo — has become so extensive that Major League Baseball has once again turned to its go-to consultant for complicated problems, the former senator George J. Mitchell, whose law firm is assisting with the growing caseload.
These details have been gleaned from dozens of interviews conducted by The New York Times over several months with witnesses, current and former law enforcement officials and lawyers involved in all sides of the dispute, and from documents obtained by The Times relating to M.L.B.’s case against Mr. Rodriguez, as well as police reports and lawsuits. Several witnesses and lawyers insisted on anonymity when discussing any aspect of the case because they have been ordered not to speak about the matter by the independent arbitrator who is hearing Mr. Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game doping suspension stemming from the Florida clinic investigation.
[Photo Credit: Umar Abbasi]
Meanwhile, if you’ve never seen this legendary bit of hambone acting, you’re in for a treat.
Here’s Bryant Gumbel’s editorial from the latest episode of HBO’s Real Sports:
“Finally tonight, what are we supposed to do with Alex Rodriguez? Embrace him? Pity him? Scorn him? I can easily understand any or all of those reactions because I think he’s a liar and a fraud. But what I don’t understand are the expressions of shock and outrage over his alleged drug use because, frankly, this country’s crazy about drugs.
Modern Americans reach for a drug for any and everything – for problems real and imagined. It’s why we consume more pills than any nation on earth and why TV ads are relentlessly selling us Xarelto, Abilify, Stelara, Prodaxa, and dozens of other drugs we never ever guessed we supposedly needed.
Americans are only about five percent of the world’s population yet we take 80% of the world’s painkillers and a whopping 99% of the world’s Vicodin. We have four million kids on Ritalin, 22-million women on antidepressants, over 30-million adults on sleeping pills, 32 million on Statins, 45 million on another drug I can’t even begin to pronounce. The list goes on and on.
So think what you will of Alex Rodriguez but when so many moms and dads are active parts of a national drug epidemic, let’s stop crying that a ballplayer’s the one setting a bad example for kids. And let’s skip the expressions of outrage and shock because however you may choose to view A-Rod’s alleged drugs use, there’s no denying the ugly reality that that’s become the American way.”
Measured only by the dollar, Selig’s tenure has been a success. However, by almost any other method, it has been a failure, for during his tenure whatever special place baseball still held in American society and culture has irreparably eroded. More than that however, baseball used to matter. Now, despite its financial health, the game is in many ways like an invalid living on an old fortune, wealthy but sequestered, important only to those who still need to keep the old boy alive to live off the crumbs that drop from his lap.
…At the same time, under Selig, the credibility of the game has been shredded. Under his limited sense of leadership, the game chose not just to ignore PEDs, but to revel in their impact, to juice the game artificially after a period of labor strife. Did they plan this? No. Did they see it happen and get all goose-bumpy, and start drooling at the financial rewards? Absolutely. As long as the checks cleared it mattered not that a host of records essentially became meaningless, that history was devalued, or that fully two decades of seasonal results are suspect (including Boston’s long awaited world championships in 2004 and 2007). All in the name of short-term gain, baseball under Selig chose to insult the intelligence of several generations of fans in favor of those who came to the game, not as fans, but as corporate guests.
Baseball has always been a business, but for years its success depended, at least in part, on the ease with which it was easy to forget that. All pretense of that is gone now. Baseball is only business, and business is the only measure that matters. Witness the changes to the All-Star game, the playoffs, the escalating cost of watching the game, in person, on TV, or the Internet. If there is a National Pastime anymore, it is the ATM.
And let’s not forget drug testing.
With suspensions rumored to come down today, William Rhoden writes that Bud Selig’s bullying almost makes Alex Rodriuez a sympathetic figure:
According to people briefed on the negotiations between Rodriguez and Major League Baseball, Selig has discussed several options, ranging from a lifetime ban to a suspension that would begin this season and end after next season. Rodriguez has never been known as a player who cares about anyone besides himself. But if there were ever a time for A-Rod — and the once-powerful players association — to step up and fight the impending suspension, that time is now. Rodriguez should challenge the credibility of the evidence. If Major League Baseball has compelling evidence, force the league to show it.
There are no vials of evidence. There are no eyewitnesses to Rodriguez’s alleged performance-enhancing drug use. Investigators have the word of two questionable characters connected to Biogenesis, one of whom, the former owner, Anthony Bosch, once impersonated a doctor. Investigators may indeed have compelling evidence — phone records, shipping receipts, e-mails. If they do, A-Rod and the players association should force those investigators to reveal what they have gathered.
This exhaustive investigation is less about A-Rod and performance-enhancing drugs than about power and control. Major League Baseball is attempting to impose its will on high-profile players by possibly circumventing due process to make an example of them.
[Photo Credit: STEVE NESIUS/STEVEN J. NESIUS PHOTOGRAPHY]
Alex Rodriguez is the subject of Scott Price’s SI cover story this week:
Rodriguez, once seen as baseabll’s great clean hope, is now viewed as hopelessly dirty.
Others have come back from such stigma: Mark McGwire is the hitting coach for the Dodgers; Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte, old teammates and admitted users of PEDS, are treated these days as elder statesmen. Rodriguez figures to be different–and knows it–but last week maintained the front of a blissed-out Candide. He insissted that he doesn’t wonder, Why me?
“I never say that,” Rodriguez said. “But maybe there are a couple of chapters where I can become that person again. I’m not giving up. I have tremendous faith, and hopefully there’s a couple more chapters to this book. And hopefully there’s a happy ending somewhere. I have faith.
Asked, last week, if he understood Cashman’s famously profane rip, Rodriguez shot back, “Do you understand it?”
Yes. Because Cashman knows; Rodriguez’s gift, his unprecedented completeness, was never really his; it’s called a gift for reason. Sports is a collective of time as well as talent. Six generations of baseball players and fans, billions of dollars worth of stadia and TV time, an infinity of minor and major leageurs working for untold lifetimes–all of it combined to create the game, the numbers, the interest and the hothouse environment in which Alex Rodriguez was going to be the best.
People care so much about sports greatness because, deep down, they know that it’s a reflection; something there belongs to them. We gave Rodriguez his chance. We urged him not to waste it. Cashman knows, better than anyone: We hate when we make so big a mistake.
Here’s more from Price at SI.com.
Over at the USA Today, Bob Nightengale talks to Alex Rodriguez:
“I know people think I’m nuts,” he tells USA TODAY Sports, in his first extensive interview since last season. “I know most people wouldn’t want the confrontation. Most people would say, ‘Get me out of here. Trade me. Do anything.’
“But I’m the (expletive) crazy man who goes, ‘I want to compete. I want to stay in New York. I refuse to quit.’
“Maybe it’s stupidity, I don’t know, but I’m wired to compete and give my best. I have a responsibility to be ready to play as soon as I can.”
[Photo Credit: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press]