Selena Roberts’s much-anticipated A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez hits stores today, and her media tour, which kicked off last night with a Bob Costas interview on MLB Network, takes Roberts from the Today show to Extra to WWOR to ESPN. It’s the great unveiling of “The A-Rod Steroid Book,” as it has been billed since February, when Roberts (with David Epstein) broke the news that A-Rod had tested positive for steroids in 2003. The book’s more tabloid-worthy elements — that several Yankees thought A-Rod used steroids while with the team, that he might have used in high school, that he had “tipped pitches” to pad opposing players’ stats when he played for the Rangers — leaked last week, but as of this morning, the book is finally out there for the world to see. We snagged a copy over the weekend and have read it. You have questions, we have answers.
So, is this book a biography of A-Rod, or is it just about steroids?
It starts out as a biography — there’s a fascinating detail about his father (who left the family when A-Rod was 10) possibly being a freedom fighter in the Dominican Republic — but by the time he’s signing his $252 million contract with the Rangers, the book has mostly devolved into a catalogue of A-Rod’s various dopings. Roberts doesn’t have a specific smoking gun — she doesn’t, for example, actually have a photo of A-Rod injecting steroids into his ass — but she comes about as close as you can get, quoting teammates, friends, and various managers and executives about specific times and seasons A-Rod was juicing. Roberts is a bit too moralist about steroids for our tastes, but you can’t deny her reporting, which is diligent, detailed, and overpowering. This is not a book of conjecture: It’s one of hard, bootstrap journalism. She even visits an apartment complex in Florida that A-Rod owns and has let fall into disrepair; he has lost more than $10 million from his investment. The sports-biography landscape is littered with halfhearted, quickie, SCANDALOUS, sloppy books with no depth, research, or legwork behind them. This is definitely not one of those.
What kind of guy is the A-Rod in this book?
Vain, deluded, confused, and not particularly bright. Roberts calls him an “adulation junkie,” and that pretty much sums it up: A-Rod, like many athletes, surrounds himself with people who tell him how great he is and will expel anyone who does otherwise. He stares at himself in mirrors incessantly, sometimes wears glasses in public because he thinks they make him look smarter, and carries around a bag of facial creams with him at all times. He’s not an evil person, and is in fact sometimes touchingly naïve and innocent; mostly, he’s just awkward, sheltered, impressionable, and rather dim. Also, hilariously, a friend is quoted as saying, “Alex can’t stand fat people. He really just can’t be around them.” Yet he still lives in Florida! Mostly: A-Rod just wants everyone to love him and tell him how amazing he is, which is ironic because he’s pretty much the worst person in the world at making people love him. Yet he keeps trying, making it harder and harder on himself.
Is the book really all that salacious? We had heard she gets into A-Rod attending swingers clubs and what not.
Not really. Roberts does touch on A-Rod being spotted at a Dallas-area “couples-only lifestyle club” called Iniquity, but if there was truly dirty stuff in here at one point, the HarperCollins lawyers appear to have scrubbed it out. There’s still plenty of embarrassing A-Rod With Ladies dirt, though, including:
1. At functions involving Yankees and their spouses and families, he once used several pickup lines on players’ wives. When confronted, he claimed he was joking.
2. At clubs, he has been known to approach women by saying, “Who’s hotter: Me or Derek Jeter?”
3. At one point, Roberts describes A-Rod, as his marriage to Cynthia Rodriguez dissolved, as an “insatiable hedonist.”
What about Madonna?
Oh, she’s in here. Roberts describes A-Rod’s 2008 as the year he was truly “lost,” obsessing over Kaballah (he goes nowhere without the signature Kaballah red string around his wrist), purposely baiting paparazzi, helicoptering with Madonna to Jerry Seinfeld’s private yacht, and leaving last year’s All-Star game early to go see the pop star. In an awesome dig, one Yankee says, “I’d give him a high five (for Madonna) if it were 15 years ago. It’s like sleeping with your mother.” A-Rod is obsessed with Joe DiMaggio — that’s the reason A-Rod agreed to allow Pulitzer Prize–winning author Richard Ben Cramer to write a biography of him; he didn’t realize Cramer’s A Hero’s Life was deeply unflattering to the Yankee Clipper. A-Rod hadn’t read it because it was “a thick book.” He considers Madonna his version of Marilyn Monroe.
Is A-Rod ever going to be the same again?
By the end of the book, A-Rod is failing in interviews to explain his steroid abuse. (And, weeping before his ESPN interview, calling Roberts a “stalker” before giving here a half-assed “apology” and then rehabbing his
rib hip injury in solitude, away from the game, the only thing he has ever been good at, for the first time in his life.) Which A-Rod will we get when he returns, as soon as next week? The book makes a pretty solid case that it’ll just be another A-Rod creation, hastily slapped together for public consumption, a lonely manboy who never figured out what he was supposed to be. But at least he’ll be on the field. That’s the one place that has ever made sense for him.