“In many ways, I root for him,” wrote the NYT’s Doug Glanville about Alex Rodriguez after the World Series. I have to say to my surprise that I feel the same way. A-Rod not only has the greatest baseball skills of anyone around, and always has, but a confluence of life’s events also give him the chance to do some things off the field that no player has done.
To wit, that means really getting out front on the steroids issue and telling our kids, “This was wrong and you shouldn’t do it.” Shouldn’t take drugs to play a game better; shouldn’t take risks with your health just to make a few more bucks; shouldn’t cheat to get ahead. All of those things that we want to hear from ballplayers.
Why should A-Rod do this? Because he has the greatest pedestal of anyone to do this. And he seemed genuinely regretful of his brush with PEDs when he came clean with Peter Gammons (but only after his name was leaked from the list of 104 players who failed the 2003 drug test). He has way more money than anyone needs, and so won’t jeopardize his playing career by commenting publicly on steroids; he certainly can’t be disliked by his fellow players any more than he already is. And because I think he can find a great deal of personal redemption in being the player who comes out front on this issue. That, as well as homers and run production, could be his lasting legacy to the game.
My reasons are partly selfish: I watched A-Rod play as a youngster in Seattle, and always thought he was a marvel. He handled pressures that most players don’t have. I wanted my son Joe to admire him, too, but Joe always was wary of A-Rod, even before the PED revelations emerged. When it came out last spring that A-Rod had been named, Joe just looked at me and said, “I told you that he used steroids.”
Maybe now, after some new efforts by the Yankees’ third baseman, my kid can turn to me and say, “You know, I think he really means it and is really helping kids make good choices.”