MLB Investigating A-Rod

In light of the Roberts allegations, Major League Baseball is investigating Alex Rodriguez for post-2003 drug use:

Major League Baseball is investigating the accuracy of statements by Alex Rodriguez about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, according to people within baseball who were briefed on the matter. Investigators have contacted several of Rodriguez’s associates to determine whether he used performance-enhancing drugs for a longer time than he has admitted, the people said.

Roberts was apparently asked on Friday to cooperate with the investigation but declined to, citing conflict of interest. My assumption is that, per standard journalistic practice, she is not willing to reveal her sources, which is probably what MLB is interested in.

And guess what? I’m fine with that. That’s how journalists roll. They can’t expect anyone to ever talk with them if they go promising anonymity and then break it simply because someone asks. Baseball doesn’t have the power to subpoena anyone and Roberts doesn’t have to talk with them. And just to be clear, this is an entirely different deal than Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada faced; they were being asked to reveal a source to law enforcement in the course of a criminal investigation of the very transmission of the source’s information to the authors. That’s the kind of situation where the source-revealing rubber usually hits the road. For everything I’ve said about Roberts so far, I am squarely on her side in her refusal to tell MLB who she talked to.

The larger question in my mind, of course, is why she granted everyone anonymity for everything in the first place, but that horse has already left the barn.

Implications: Absent someone coming forward and talking to MLB, Rodriguez won’t be disciplined for any 2003-steroid use for lack of evidence. After all, as the NYT piece notes, anything baseball does to A-Rod has to stand up to an appeal to an arbitrator, and arbitrators have higher standards than Selena Roberts’ editors when it comes to steroid allegations. The article also notes that MLB is not yet looking at the pitch tipping thing which, frankly, I find much more interesting.

Hat tip to River Ave. Blues, who was all over this first and who is of like mind on the matter.

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Comments

  1. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    But the more important question that nobody seems to be asking is “Why?”

    What will it prove if MLB determines A-Rod lied about his steroid use…

    …that he’s a liar? Duh. We already know that.

    …that PED use is more prevalent than the Mitchell Report indicated? Really. Did the sun rise in the East this morning?

    …that MLB has to “look good for Congress?” As if steroid abuse is a top priority these days, or that there’s not another election for 18 months.

  2. Sara K said...

    Amen, Woody. The debate over whether Roberts information is accurate obscures the question of what the value of the information is in the first place. It doesn’t do anyone any good (aside from Roberts, natch) to detail the indiscretions of a single player, unless somehow it leads to some broader insight about the state of the sport.

  3. Dan Whitney said...

    I agree with both Wooden and Sara. This whole convoluted investigation won’t yield anything meaningful or interesting. Everyone knows (or, rather, assumes) that Rodriguez used steroids and many find it hard to believe that he kept it confined to just his Texas years, with no dabbling before and no peer pressure in the Yankee clubhouse.

    I’m not typically an advocate of sweeping something like this under the rug, but what can baseball possibly gain from this production? It will be nothing but bad press no matter what they find. If they determine that the claims are false, nobody will believe them, because of their large self-interest in keeping things quiet. If they find that Roberts’s claims are largely accurate, then the onus is on MLB to punish him and we have a whole new asterisk discussion.

  4. res wright said...

    Would it be meaningless to investigate someone for armed robbery unless the investigation told us something about crime in general? Come on, now.

    It’s perfectly obvious why MLB would investigate Alex Rodriguez. Baseball has always looked pretty complicit in the steroids scandal—from the way the league studiously looked the other way as players got huge and records got shattered and obvious juicers got financially rewarded beyond their wildest dreams, and the faux surprise and outrage when the stories started to be broken, to the largely cosmetic Mitchell report, a lot of critics have had a solid basis to blast MLB for its treatment of the PED issue.

    And now in the midst of a bad recession the highest paid player in MLB, who is also one of its least popular players, but who HAS been put up on the wall as an example of a guy who ‘did it right’ even though the rumors have been there since the 90s about A*Rod and steroids, has not only been caught doing steroids, but may have, in pretending to come clean, just lied some more. People don’t like that at all—despite the existence of a vocal ‘who cares’ subcontingent among MLB fans, the fact is that people generally care if a ballplayer juiced, but folks are ALWAYS ready to pounce on a hypocrite.

    So yes, it’s obvious why MLB is ‘investigating’. They can’t not investigate this issue, as tarnished as their reputation on PEDs already is. They have to remedy that reputation and Alex Rodriguez has forced their hand in this matter by being so, frankly, amateurishly stupid.

    I doubt they’ll find anything significant, nor do they want to. Rodriguez has no room to complain, though, and with a little luck the notoriety will discourage some PED use.

  5. David said...

    RE: “Why”?

    Because MLB loves steroid talk the same way that celebrity publicists love dating rumors.  It stimulates public interest and provokes arguments. 

    During the 2007 playoffs, when MLB leaked Paul Byrd’s HGH use, Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson was being interviewed on a radio station (as their guest playoff analyst).  He said, in no uncertain terms, that the only possible way that their tests and private medical data could ever be revealed was if MLB leaked it intentionally. 

    So, MLB is leaking all this stuff intentionally and we can infer that they do so to drum up publicity.

    This “reporter” (who lead the charge against the Duke lacrosse players when they were falsely accused of and charged with rape) has zero substantive data.  Supposed anonymous sources (which are probably the voices in her fantasies).  She camped outside A-Rod’s house and he had to call the police to have her removed.

    Bigger ‘roids question….where the heck are the charges against Clemens?!?!?  Unlike the government’s hilariously bogus case against Bonds (no biggie: the case is a demonstrative loser top-to-bottom but it only cost the taxpayers $100m) the case against Clemens is as open-and-shut as a perjury case can possibly be.  Yet we’re well over a year removed from it and there have been no charges.

    I don’t think that I have to point out that Clemens is white while Bonds and A-Rod are not.

    And the government prosecutors and MLB “investigators”….what color do you suppose they are?

  6. David said...

    Can somebody please show me any shred of evidence that any of these accusations are true? 

    The evidence, as I understand it, is this:

    1) He used in high school because he was bigger as a senior than as a freshman.  As Doug Mientkiewicz said….so every kid that hits puberty is on steroids?  (He has also come out and said that the accusations are complete B.S.)

    2) “He used in New York because….why?”

    “Well….uh, funny you should ask….like….just because we wish he had, okay?!?  Stop asking questions!”

    3) “What’s your evidence he tipped pitches?”

    “Well, look at those Rangers’ pitchers’ ERAs!  They’ve become great since he left!  Proof!”

    “No, that’s not proof.  And the Rangers pitchers still suck.  So now you’re the liar.”

    ——-

    What a bunch of pathetic lemmings baseball fans are to believe this idiocy.

  7. Sara K said...

    Res – “Would it be meaningless to investigate someone for armed robbery unless the investigation told us something about crime in general?”

    The leap from steroid use in baseball to violent crime is a bit much, but if it’s your analogy of choice… Clearly, we want to capture someone who is a threat to human life.  But say we catch the guy, investigate him, and publish a definitive list of all the crimes he has committed. Have we learned anything that will help us prevent others from becoming violent criminals? I’m not saying that it isn’t worth catching one criminal if we can’t catch them all. I’m saying that the goals “catch this criminal” and “reduce violent crime” are not equal, and that seeing the first as just one objective within the second would be a better long-term strategy.

    I think your third paragraph pinpoints the motivation for the book and whatever investigation that follows. ARod is not the only cheater in baseball. He did not create the system of distributors, owners, management, coaches, agents, and players that worked together to enable the proliferation of steroid use in baseball. He is not the only one who has lied, posed, or otherwise covered up the truth.  But he *is* the highest paid person to do so. The nerve of him, to have accepted that ridiculous contract! 

    If the book takes a closer look at the system that allowed/encouraged ARod to do what he did, then we take a step closer to understanding the problem. If *all* it does is propose that ARod has preexisting fundamental flaws of character that lead him to this (which has, as far as I can tell, been the MO for Roberts’ writing on ARod all along), then what’s the moral of the story?  Bad people do bad things? That only bad people cheat? That a player can use steroids if he can maintain his popularity in the press and he doesn’t get paid too much? 

    One of my concerns with journalism like this is the possibility that people will start to confuse treating the symptom with fixing the problem. I really hope that the book goes beyond sticking pins in the ARod voodoo doll.  We’ll see.

  8. David said...

    Sara K,

    When you check out the book, let us know what’s in it, because judging by its anemic advance sales, you’re going to be the only one reading it.

    The book’s accusations are, in all probability, bogus.  They’re extremely dubious on their face, and then we have no evidence at all to back them up.

    But that’s okay….I’m sure she dug up some salacious rumors about what women ARod has screwed from all the time she spent camped out on his front lawn before the cops had her removed.

  9. Sara K said...

    David –

    This is a conundrum.  I really do want to know what is in it, so we can see how close varying lines of speculation come to the reality (the reality in the book, not actual, you know, *reality*).  The problem is that I don’t want to put money in Roberts’ pocket, so it is extremely unlikely that I will buy the book myself. I’m at an impasse.  What to do?

  10. David said...

    SK,

    For the record, the parts of the books that have come out actually are the reality of the book.  The NY ‘Daily News’ was given an advance copy by the book’s publisher (standard industry practice, like an advance movie screening) and so, unless they’re holding something back (which would be a first), there’s nothing more to it. 

    “Is that all?” 

    Yeah.  It probably is.

    What are you to do instead?  Ya know those magazines at the grocery store checkout?  ‘Examiner’, ‘Globe’, and all those?  They’re probably more accurate than this and they’re definitely more sincere: at least they don’t have pretentions of profundity.

    (Or you could read some Jack London or Michael Crichton….but I’m not that naive.)

  11. David said...

    MLB thinks that steroids are so tragic and awful, right? 

    Well, right now on MLB.com’s front page they’re advertising a prime-time interview with the author of the book (the cheerleader of the Duke lacrosse lynch mob) on their flagship Sunday program.

    Yeah, but MLB doesn’t like steroids.  Right.

    Steroids is the best thing to happen to MLB Inc. since taxpayer-financed stadiums.

  12. res wright said...

    “Two “quick” things – What do you think MLB gains by knowing all of Alex’s indiscretions, assuming that no new names are brought to light? In other words, how does this book serve to advance the cause of ridding the sport of PEDs?  “

    You are still mixing and matching two completely different things—a book by a reporter who isn’t even cooperating with MLB and the subsequent report that MLB is investigating Alex Rodriguez. You should stop doing that, because they really are unaligned. Talk about the book, and the investigation, on their individual merits—don’t use one to attack the other.

    The author is under no particular obligation to further the interests of MLB; MLB is. The author’s work, insofar as it highlights the continuing problem with PEDs, can serve the public and clean baseball players well, even though its primary purpose is to be sold in large numbers.

    “However, after going back and reading a handful of Selena Roberts NYT columns about ARod, I have to wonder to what degree the public’s perception of ARod was created by the media.”

    Selena Roberts is one reporter. She’s also not particularly held in any regard by the baseball public.

    I think the media was happy to feed on A*Rod’s public image, which is at best not all that good. But they didn’t make his image.

  13. res wright said...

    “I’m not saying that it isn’t worth catching one criminal if we can’t catch them all. “

    Well, if it’s not what you’re saying now, good. It sort of *is* what you said, though. You know, “It doesn’t do anyone any good (aside from Roberts, natch) to detail the indiscretions of a single player, unless somehow it leads to some broader insight about the state of the sport. ” That’s pretty much what I was calling out.

    “I’m saying that the goals “catch this criminal” and “reduce violent crime” are not equal, and that seeing the first as just one objective within the second would be a better long-term strategy.”

    I think MLB’s owners are a bunch of hypocrites, but at this point it takes several trips to the tinfoil haberdashery before one could really argue that MLB a) isn’t trying to reduce PEDs in the game and that b) they wouldn’t see an investigation into Alex Rodriguez as something that can further that strategy. 

    I’m sure that MLB’s ownership would have been quite happy to never see the PED scandals break, to see people go on shattering records and belting quarter-mile home runs, but now that it’s out they don’t have much choice but to try and fight it.

    “I think your third paragraph pinpoints the motivation for the book and whatever investigation that follows. ARod is not the only cheater in baseball… But he *is* the highest paid person to do so. The nerve of him, to have accepted that ridiculous contract!”

    It’s really tendentious to argue that the book and the subsequent investigations are at all connected or share similar motivations.

    Anyway, I think it’s pretty plain that the reason Alex Rodriguez is now going to be investigated by MLB isn’t that he makes a lot of money. It’s that it,and he, are high profile. Believe me, MLB would have much rather made this entire story go away, and if they had felt for a second that omerta would have even been a slight fraction better for them, they would have clammed up and moved on straightaway.  In Rodriguez’s case, it’s more or less impossible for them to do that—he’s too visible and the story’s already in the public eye. He’s of course made matters much worse for himself with the way he’s handled it—first denying it, then getting caught, then smarmily lying about how much he used in order to look like he was ‘coming clean’, and now getting caught again.

    The public won’t start believing that it was just guys like A*Rod because of this book. That ship sailed, for starters. People aren’t going to read the book, no matter how salacious it is, and suddenly and completely revise their attitude about what’s wrong with baseball and PEDs. Moreover, several books, many of which were smart, well written and otherwise entertaining, have already been authored which make the case you want to see already—that the game was juiced during the steroids era, that a lot of players took PEDs. So I don’t frankly get the ‘concern’ that people will draw the wrong conclusion. If they were the sort to read books and change their thinking on MLB as it is, they have already had a wide exposure to books on PEDs in baseball. “The Juice”. “Juicing the Game”. “Game of Shadows”. “Juiced”. “Vindicated”.  “Bases Loaded”. “Clearing the Bases”. “Perfect I’m Not”. Even “Ball Four”.

    The only real part of this that is unfair is that people are just fine seeing Rodriguez hung out to dry because, well, it’s Rodriguez. Just about nobody likes the guy.  I know he has his fans and he has other people who are just sensitive to someone getting singled out, but Alex Rodriguez isn’t exactly the best liked guy in baseball, and it’s not because he makes the most money. It’s because—let’s be honest—he’s not that likable of a guy. People are much more willing to believe allegations of A*Rod because they find him fake and slimy and psychologically brittle. But it’s undeniable that he’s had a hand in the crafting of his image, so at the end of the day although I wish people weren’t so self-righteous in calling for A*Rod to be given the third degree, I also find it fairly hard to feel sorry for him. Guy dug his own grave.

    He deserves the same chances everyone else gets. No more, no less. The thing is that Alex Rodriguez had a couple chances already to come clean. Roberts might be a sensationalist hack but she’s not the source of the rumors about Rodriguez and steroids—they’ve followed him since the minor leagues. I think a lot of us were laughing when we heard the guy say he only used for those three years. It was a pretty amateurish thing to say. He’s getting smoked for it now.

  14. Sara K said...

    I bring up what good it does for baseball simply because without that, I am at a loss to see any redeeming value to the book. Roberts would probably describe her work as important; I’m just trying to figure out in what way it’s important.

    And it is enlightening for me, a Midwesterner, to learn that reporters for the New York Times don’t really sway the opinions people might have about athletes who play in New York.  A false assumption on my part, apparently.

  15. Jake said...

    Sara K said…

    I don’t want to put money in Roberts’ pocket, so it is extremely unlikely that I will buy the book myself. I’m at an impasse.  What to do?

    there’s always Abbie Hoffman…

  16. Sara K said...

    Res, I disagree with the interpretation of my post that you open with here, but I only have a few minutes before I have to take my kid to school, so it’ll have to wait. 

    Two “quick” things – What do you think MLB gains by knowing all of Alex’s indiscretions, assuming that no new names are brought to light? In other words, how does this book serve to advance the cause of ridding the sport of PEDs? 

    Second, I agree with your penultimate paragraph (I got to use the word “penultimate” in a non-Monty Python related instance! Whee!!).  I think that this has the legs it does because ARod is not liked. However, after going back and reading a handful of Selena Roberts NYT columns about ARod, I have to wonder to what degree the public’s perception of ARod was created by the media. Sure, his personality is what it is, but journalists can go (and have gone) out of their way to be apologists for some players, spinning them favorably while still acknowledging the less pretty truths.  AFAICT, Roberts didn’t do that for ARod.  The articles I read were remarkable in their negativity.  In one case, Roberts paints ARod’s willingness to help the team in a negative light (!!).  And in nearly every article I read, she mentions the money he makes. 

    Last night, I watched Roberts interview with Costas on the MLB Network.  She tries, at the end, to come off like she’s sympathetic with ARod, saying that there’s a really good person inside him, hoping he has a chance to rebuild himself, yadayadayada.  I didn’t see an ounce of that compassion in her NYT reporting.

    Crap, I have to go…more later, perhaps.

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