Never mind that the man who is ostensibly the note’s authors is, in fact, one of the least genuine characters in a sports landscape we know is littered with liars and cheats. Whatever you think of Rodriguez’s actual transgressions – violating baseball’s drug policy by purchasing performance-enhancing drugs from Anthony Bosch, the owner of the Miami anti-aging clinic Biogenesis that in 2013 ensnared a dozen major league players – is almost academic. What’s important is that he lied about it, again and again and again, all aspects of the story, and that he has no clue how to make amends for that.
“To the fans,” Rodriguez’s note begins, as if he’s not insulting the very group to which he’s writing. “I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season.”
Where is the pugnacious A-Rod who was going to sue MLB and the Yankees, his team? Forget that, because it appears the combative Rodriguez who will show up in Tampa for spring training sometime in the next week is hand-in-hand with the competitive Rodriguez, both shells of their former selves.
What’s important here is the notion of full responsibility. Watch Rodriguez at any of his supposedly explanatory news conferences in the past – when he was appealing his original suspension in August 2013, when he first admitted being “young”, “stupid”, and “naïve” for taking PEDs in February 2009, even when he was embarrassingly dropped to eighth in the order in the 2006 playoffs and teared up when the Yankees lost to Detroit – there is an unmistakable disingenuous air to him. It’s uncomfortable.
In those cases, when taking a question, he fidgets in his chair and turns, rather dramatically, to look his questioner in the eye. It is a coached move, no doubt, but like so much that he does, it works against him. In trying to seem earnest, he looks more fraudulent.
So it is with this letter. No one knows for sure, but it appears the four paragraphs Rodriguez issued are supposed to take the place of a true discourse about his suspension, about exactly what he is admitting. The Yankees offered the use of Yankee Stadium for Rodriguez’s mea culpa this week. He turned it down. Given how he has come off in those public back-and-forths, maybe that’s sensible. But he will have a locker at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa during spring training. He will have perhaps the most aggressive core of sports beat writers in the nation – New York baseball writers – in position to ask him questions every day. He can refer to the letter all he wants. They’re not going to stop wanting more. Nor should they.
Notably, Rodriguez disputed nothing about Major League Baseball’s case against him. “I served the longest suspension in the history of the League for PED use,” Rodriguez wrote, and he followed quickly by noting that Commissioner Rob Manfred and the Yankees both consider this matter closed. So that’s that, right?
But full responsibility here could include more. Rodriguez’s apology doesn’t change the fact that he has 654 homers, fifth-most in the game’s history. It doesn’t change the fact that he has made, in baseball salary alone, more than $356 million since he broke in as a skinny 18-year-old with the Seattle Mariners back in 1994. And it doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees owe him $64 million over the next three seasons.
The Yankees are reportedly going to go after some of the bonuses in Rodriguez’s contract, starting with the $6 million they would pay him for tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the home run list. He needs just six homers. How rich. Baseball-reference.com estimates Mays made less than $2 million in his 22-year career. Rodriguez would triple that with six more homers?
So here’s a novel idea: Give it back. Just give it all back. Let’s assume Rodriguez hasn’t frittered away $350 million in lawyer fees and chemist bills. Couldn’t he give up those bonuses? Dream more: Play the next three seasons for the major league minimum, $507,500.
Yeah, yeah. The players’ association would never allow such a precedent to be set, a signed contract being voluntarily voided by a player. But again, we’re dreaming, right? Maybe Rodriguez could just donate $60 million over the next three years to charity. Pick one. Doesn’t matter.
Such a move wouldn’t win back all the fans, and it probably shouldn’t. The gulf between how the public views A-Rod and how A-Rod thinks the public views him has been wide for more than a decade, maybe never wider than right now. That’s what Tuesday’s hand-written note shows above all else: a complete inability to understand what makes something genuine. It is, apparently, born of an arrogance that pushed Rodriguez to the top and now gives him hope – internal hope only — of making amends even as he dwells at the bottom.