With 654 Home Runs, Alex Rodriguez has proven he knows how to swing a bat. With his history of PED use, he also has proven he knows how to handle media coverage, both with denials, and eventually some admissions. To say the 2015 season is going to be an interesting one for Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees, is an understatement.
For now, Rodriguez is saying and doing all the right things. He showed up 3 days early to Spring Training and immediately began hitting and fielding, as he is trying to earn a spot in the Yankees lineup since his previous third base spot appears to be taken by the off-season signing of Chase Headley to a four-year $52 million deal. The media storm was there waiting in Tampa, and Rodriguez has not shied away from the questions, but is not going to directly answer anything regarding PED use, at least at this time. For now, the handwritten apology is going to have to work. Rodriguez appears to genuinely getting along with the media, and as he stated this morning, he “loves to talk baseball,” so it could be only a matter of time before he veers off the script and opens up about the PED use.
Rodriguez started his “apology” tour by meeting with new Commissioner Rob Manfred to clear the air as his suspension was drawing near the end. Then, he initiated a meeting with Yankees brass at Yankees stadium to do the same. As it has been widely reported, after Rodriguez met with Yankees a few weeks ago, the team made their position clear that they do not plan to pay the $6 million incentives for reaching certain home run milestones. Behind the scenes, the Yankees brass is most likely still not very happy with him, and I don’t see much changing about that anytime in the near future.
In January 2014, Rodriguez filed suit against the MLB and the MLBPA in hopes of getting the PED suspension reduced, only to drop the lawsuits one month later. One big hurdle has been cleared for Rodriguez though, should he hit 6 home runs this season, and be owed an additional $6 million by the Yankees as part of a separate incentive contract, by making good again with the MLBPA.
It was rumored after the lawsuit that some players were outraged enough that they requested Rodriguez be expelled from the Players Association. But it appears the two sides are on better terms now, as the New York Daily News reported last month that a source with the MLBPA has stated that they would defend Rodriguez if the Yankees declined to pay the Home Run incentives because they don’t want it establishing a precedent that could be used against other players in the future.
In 2009, in an ESPN interview with Peter Gammons, Rodriguez was asked “How do you go about making people believe you (that he was now clean)?” Rodriguez responded in part by saying, “when you take this gorilla and this monkey off your back, you realize that honesty is the only way. I’m finally beginning to grow up. I’m pretty tired of being stupid and selfish, you know, about myself. The truth needed to come out a long time ago. I’m glad it’s coming out today.” Of all the questions that were asked in what was a pretty historic interview back in 2009, this question, and this answer is a stand out moment. At least for now, there’s not going to be that upfront and honest press conference the Yankees wanted him to have before Spring Training to start, and it doesn’t appear that there will be any one-on-one sit down conversations like he had with Peter Gammons back in 2009 either.
The Yankees Clubhouse could be a different arena though for Rodriguez to conquer. In front of the media, and on the field, when the cameras are on, I would expect full support and smiles from teammates. Behind the scenes, away from the media, it may not be that way with everyone. CC Sabathia, however, is quoted as saying “All will be forgiven, and we’ll welcome him with open arms.”
I do believe Rodriguez will make an enormous amount of effort to be a great teammate, while trying to earn his spot in the starting lineup, it’s just yet to be seen exactly what he will be willing to admit to while making those efforts and whether his efforts, and lack of full admission will work with everyone in the clubhouse.
Possibly the easiest road to forgiveness could come with those that sit in that beautiful ballpark called Yankee Stadium. Yankee fans are unique. They hate those that come into their house unless they have the “pinstripes on”, but are about as loyal as they can be to their own team. There are those Yankee fans who currently are somewhat skeptical about the return of Alex Rodriguez, and there are those who are absolutely thrilled to have him back. Rodriguez is currently six Home Runs from Willie Mays, and 61 hits from the great mark of 3,000. Plus, the 4th home game of the season is against the great rival Boston Red Sox, so something tells me that the Yankee fans will not only be very forgiving, but they will be cheering louder for him than ever before, especially if he comes out producing and the Yankees come out of the gate winning.
To the baseball world, it’s time for the truth, the whole truth, to finally be told. What exactly did he do? For how long? Who assisted, and where did all of this take place? I believe his teammates, maybe not all, but definitely some, will want to have some questions answered. We are all entitled to a right to privacy, but when what you are doing in your private life, is dramatically effecting the integrity of the game, then fans have a right to know. Knowing the whole truth helps all of us be able to fully forgive and move on, not just Yankee fans.