the sports section

Leitch: Ten Things We Learned From the A-Rod Steroid Scandal

On Saturday morning, Sports Illustrated’s Selena Roberts broke the story that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for two anabolic steroids in 2003. Here are Ten Things We Learned From the A-Rod Steroid Scandal:

1. Alex Rodriguez really shouldn’t have come to New York. Before Rodriguez arrived in the Bronx, he was known as a slightly robotic and aloof run producer who was probably the best player in the game, and maybe the best in its history. Since he came here, he’s been, at various times, Playoff Choker, Adulturer, Desirer of the She-Male Muscular Type, Swooner of Madonna, Stalker of Jeter, A-Fraud, and now Steroid Abuser. It can’t possibly have been worth it.

2. A-Rod’s PR people are failing him. For whatever reason — probably shock — Alex Rodriguez, or anyone from Alex Rodriguez the Brand, has still not made any public statement on the story. That’s a lot of news cycles without comment, even on a weekend. They didn’t have to immediately issue a strong denial, but outrage about the releasing of the names and a promise to get to the bottom of all this would have been wise. Now, no matter what A-Rod or his handlers say, the story seems set.

3. If the Yankees could figure out a way to sign “Time Away From Chaos” to a nine-figure, multiyear deal, they would. Since the last game at Yankee Stadium in October, the Yankees signed the game’s three best, most expensive free agents (in the middle of an economic catastrophe); built a new stadium; had their star young pitcher busted for a DUI; and watched as their former manager (and heroic figure) supposedly destroyed everyone in a tell-all book. And now this. If you’re waiting for a return call from Yankees PR this week (ahem, ahem), don’t expect one. If you haven’t noticed, the Yankees of this decade have employed more confirmed steroid users than any other team in baseball.

4. The players union is about to be crushed. Remember a decade ago, when the umpires attempted to strike but MLB took advantage of dissension in the ranks to flatten, split, and essentially dissolve the union, molding it into the docile entity MLB had always wanted? Baseball players have traditionally had the strongest union in sports, but after this disaster — remember, these test results were not only supposed to be anonymous, they were supposed to be destroyed — it’s difficult to imagine how those players will ever trust their union again. When you add in the (not new, but suddenly more damning) revelation that Players Association COO Gene Orza called to tip A-Rod (and presumably other players) off about the tests (tests they still failed), the players union looks corrupt and incompetent. It’s about to break into factions, something that’s never happened before. This is exactly what Bud Selig and company have been waiting for. They’re ready to lower the hammer in the next negotiations.

5. It’s going to be a very stressful season for 103 gentlemen. Because the list of 104 players who tested positive in 2003 — which was only supposed to be a test-case study, to see if more steroid testing was needed — was supposedly sealed and/or destroyed, A-Rod probably thought he was safe. Now 103 other players who have spent the last six years in fear of this moment are going to be on high alert for the other shoe to drop. There is a very real possibility that this baseball season is going to be a long, slow leak of names of 2003 steroid offenders. It could be your favorite player next. And everyone’s a suspect.

6. Maybe more people should have bought Jose Canseco’s second book.
In Vindicated, Canseco wrote that he “introduced Alex to a known supplier of steroids.” Everyone ignored this when the book came out, perhaps because Canseco ended his A-Rod chapter with the line, “So A-Rod, if you’re reading this book, and if I’m not getting through to you, let’s get clear on one thing: I hate your fucking guts.” But, once again, Jose Canseco appears to be the only person who has been right about steroids from the very beginning. This is like learning that “Let It Be” was actually written by Vince Neil.

7. Nobody cares about Joe Torre’s book anymore. Suddenly, it seems awfully silly to blast Torre for being “disloyal” to his old team, or trashing people on the way out the door. Everyone can go back to trashing A-Rod now, which is much easier and more fun anyway.

8. The MLB Network is no house organ. Any fear that the new station would try to paint the league in an exclusively positive light was eradicated Saturday. The network’s all-day coverage, featuring Harold Reynolds, Tom Verducci, Matt Vasgerigan, and newly hired Bob Costas, was gripping, tough, fair, and completely on point. (The highlight was an extended Costas interview with SI’s Roberts.) If the MLB Network ends up being a success, Saturday’s breaking-news coverage of A-Rod will be its Hugh Grant on Leno moment.

9. A-Rod was never baseball’s savior.
If you believe every columnist who chimed in this weekend, Alex Rodriguez testing positive for steroids is the most crushing blow to baseball yet, because he was the Chosen One Who Was Going to Break Barry Bonds’s Home-run Records in the Right Way. This is from the same people who were calling him A-Fraud, oh, a week ago. As we’ve been reminded over the last 48 hours, no one actually liked A-Rod. If Rodriguez approached Bonds’s home-run numbers and never tested positive for steroids, trust us, they would have found something to hound him about. The reason people are saying this is a Death Knell for Baseball and the Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen to the Game is because people are always saying that about baseball. It’s part of the fun of the sport. Baseball will be just fine. It always is.

10. A-Rod’s probably going to be just fine. There’s always been a theory that A-Rod would be a lot happier and a lot more successful if he just “turned heel” — accepted that he’ll never be as popular as Jeter and played the Bad Guy role. This is his opportunity. What’s the best way to strike back against all the criticism? Hit 50 home runs, pass every steroid test, and lead the Yankees to a World Series title. As low as A-Rod has been over the last 48 hours, if those three things happen, fans will forgive him, and they will love him. We’re less interested in moralizing about steroids, and more interested in winning. This won’t go away if A-Rod thrives and the Yankees win — because it’s never, ever going away — but, in the short term, everyone will let it go. As I’ve mentioned before, A-Rod only seems happy on the baseball diamond. He only needs to find a way out of his own head. This might, ironically, be just the thing to do it.

Leitch: Ten Things We Learned From the A-Rod Steroid Scandal