Why I respect A-Rod… well, kinda

Alex Rodriguez, one of the best players in the baseball, has been accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs. OK, so nobody’s jaw hit the floor because of that, but be prepared to let it drop for this one: he’s admitted to taking them. The fact that he took the drugs shouldn’t surprise anyone — this was from 2001-2003, and everyone was doin’ it — but the fact that he has taken the high road and stated publicly that he took them is a little surprising. In fact, my respect for Rodriguez actually increased a little because of this whole event, and I’ll tell you why.

Aside: Don’t you hate when people end a statement with “and I’ll tell you why”? Why bother telling me that you’re going to tell me why? Why not just tell me why? Anyway, here’s why.

I’m not a huge fan of A-Rod. He’s probably the best all-around player in the game today, and likely one of the best of all time, but there have been a couple of incidents since he joined the Yankees that have tarnished my image of him. There was the one where he was running down the first base line and slapped at the glove of the first baseman who had already caught the ball. Then there was the incident in Toronto where he was running from second to third and yelled “I got it” while running behind the Toronto third baseman who was waiting to catch a fly ball. The third baseman, thinking the shortstop was calling him off, moved out of the way and the ball dropped. These are both silly and childish, and wouldn’t be tolerated in a Saturday beer league, let alone the majors. You can maybe see some rookie pulling stuff like that, not a multiple MVP-winning superstar who just happens to be the highest-paid player in baseball. Then again, firing his agent and negotiating his own contract with the Yankees was a bold move — anyone who tells Scott Boras to go F himself gets a thumbs-up from me.

There’s been a lot of talk in the past year or so about his relationship with Madonna, but I have no interest in his love life. Maybe he left his wife for Madonna, maybe his marriage was over anyway and he and Madonna hooked up after, I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t really understand why anyone else does either, but it seems that a lot of people care about a lot of these types of things that have no bearing on anything. If that weren’t the case, what would Perez Hilton do with his life?

As for the steroid thing, my impression of A-Rod didn’t get any worse after hearing this, mainly because it’s almost an assumption that at the time, everyone was taking something, so this is hardly a revelation. But (I’m “telling you why” now) at least Rodriguez had the stones to say “Yes I did it. It was stupid and I’m sorry” which is more than you can say for the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. Yes, he was interviewed last year and specifically asked whether he took the drugs, and he lied. I’m not absolving him of that, but you can understand that nobody is going to admit to something like that if there isn’t any proof. But once the allegations came out, he did the same as Andy Pettitte and immediately came clean. With Clemens, Bonds, et al, there is proof, or at least very strong evidence, and still they deny taking the drugs. Who do they think they’re fooling?

Is it possible that A-Rod doesn’t regret a second of it and is just saying this because it’s what people want him to say? Absolutely. But even if his regret is fake, it still takes balls to say it knowing that now that he’s admitted it, thousands (if not millions) of baseball fans will never forgive him. Barring injury, Rodriguez likely has at least seven or eight years left in his career (there’s nine left on his Yankee contract) but is already a lock for the Hall of Fame. For someone in that position, admitting something like this could have serious repercussions on whether he gets in at all (just ask the aforementioned Mr. McGwire, although McGwire was never a lock in the first place even without the drug scandal) — as someone on SportsCentre said this morning, “sports writers have long memories”. For someone who has aspirations of entering the Hall of Fame (and what ball player doesn’t?), this kind of admission takes courage.

Now, it could also be argued that once the allegations came out, A-Rod had two options:

  1. Admit taking the drugs and look like a cheating douchebag, or
  2. Lie about taking the drugs and look like a lying douchebag since nobody would believe him anyway

so it’s not like he just called up SI out of the blue and said “Hey guess what? I did steroids!” But not only did Rodriguez do the “honourable” thing and admit wrongdoing, he did not blame his trainer or doctor or anyone else. He did not say that someone gave him this stuff without his knowledge or consent, or told him it was legal. He took responsibility himself, saying that he didn’t know exactly what the stuff was (i.e. the names of the drugs), but he knew full well that it was illegal (though technically not banned by baseball at the time) and he took it anyway. He specifically said during his interview that he did not take responsibility for every substance entering his body, and that was his own fault. While I can’t respect what he did, I do respect him for telling the truth, unlike so many of his fellow players.


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