It’s always, always something with Alex Rodriguez. Someone who knows Alex very well said that to me Saturday, and that was someone who likes Alex. I could not agree more: Controversy just sticks to him.
Barely was the hubbub dying down over the portrayal of Rodriguez in the Joe Torre/Tom Verducci book, “The Yankee Years,” when a much bigger controversy arose: that Rodriguez had, according to Sports Illustrated via four independent sources, tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2003 with the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez admitted Monday he had used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03.
The use of PEDs by Rodriguez will forever tarnish his image. I don’t know what Rodriguez will say about all this when he reports to spring training in Tampa. He is an incredibly difficult person to predict. Though I first met Rodriguez in 2002, when I was barely out of college, making him one of the players I have known the longest, I don’t feel I know him well. He is a complex individual, more so than most players. In many ways, I find it hard to reconcile the person he is today with the person he was back in 2002.
I remember so clearly the first time I actually met Alex. It was summer 2002, I was covering high school sports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and I occasionally helped out with other sports such as Rangers baseball games. The Star-Telegram’s beat writer, T.R. Sullivan, introduced me to Alex in the dugout around the time of batting practice. He could not have been nicer, asking where I had gone to school, and what I had studied at Notre Dame.
While Alex remained in Texas, he was generally friendly and pleasant, though at times you would glimpse the more corporate side. Overall, though, he was good to deal with for a major star.
Once I had my younger brother, then in grade school, visiting me. My brother was trying to get autographs during BP while I remained 20 rows or so up in the stands. I was not even a beat writer yet, so I attended maybe half the home games and no road games. But Alex saw me in the mostly empty stands and called up to me, wondering why I was in the stands and not working. I explained that I had brought my younger brother to the game. During the game, I got a call from the team’s media relations director, who asked me to come to the press box. Alex had signed a baseball for my brother, without my even asking for it.
In those days, Alex would talk at length with reporters he knew well about anything and everything related to baseball. Who were the greatest players they’d seen, what was so-and-so from a previous baseball era like, etc.?
Since the trade from Texas to New York in 2004, I haven’t seen much of that side of A-Rod. In the two years since I moved here, I’ve probably seen a few minutes of that personal, human side. The rest of the time, he blocks out the world through iPod earphones.
I don’t know how relevant the personality change is in the steroid scandal. Maybe it means nothing, maybe a great deal. My point is simply that Alex Rodriguez is a very challenging individual to peg. Would he use steroids to get a little extra edge? I don’t have the slightest idea, because I don’t know which version of Alex or A-Rod is the real one.