After a brief detour to deal with Manny-mania, I finally finished the Selena Roberts/A-Rod book over the weekend. I originally had thoughts of dissecting the sucker, but upon its completion I realized that, despite all of the hype (to which I helped contribute, I’ll admit), writing a highly-detailed takedown would represent a massively disproportionate response to a book that is lighter than air and dumber than a bag of hammers.
The big bombshells — allegations of pitch tipping and expanded steroid use by Rodriguez — are essentially unsupported. The book cites 19 unnamed sources, but quotes and facts are attributed to these people hundreds of times, most heavily in these controversial areas. If Rodriguez had a “quid pro quo” with opposing middle infielders as Roberts charges, why doesn’t Roberts or the anonymous sources name them? If Rodriguez “may have” used steroids in high school, why doesn’t she get a quote from, say, Doug Mientkiewicz about it? After all, he was A-Rod’s high school teammate and friend. (Oh, that’s why. Query: did Roberts ask but simply not like the answer she got?).
In light of these basic journalistic oversights — and many, many more — one has no choice but to dismiss Roberts’ reporting even if they were inclined to believe her in the first place, and stood willing to overlook the evidence countering these charges that has emerged in the past week. Baseball may go through the motions of investigating Rodriguez over this stuff, but that’s only because P.R. demands that they respond somehow. There is nothing — absolutely nothing — in this book that could form the basis of even the most rudimentary of disciplinary charges against the guy.
But you know what’s even crazier about these anonymous sources? The fact that many of the anonymous sources themselves don’t even have the goods on Rodriguez. Rather, Roberts has to resort to innuendo and unearned supposition in order to even support the most anonymous and oblique steroid or pitch tipping claims. Lots of passages read like these:
In reading this book one might be tempted to call Roberts a muckraker, but I strongly caution against such a charge, because no respectable muckraker would use anonymous sources that were so weak and equivocal.
But for all of the anonymous source hoopla, I think the book’s biggest failing is Roberts’ hackneyed theme in which she argues, time and again, that A-Rod’s manifest character problems are attributable to his father leaving home when he was a kid, which led to his subsequent search for strong male role models (coaches, steroids dealers, Boras, etc.). I’d say that whole line of the book reeks of sophomore psychology class, but most sophomores wouldn’t beat the theme into the ground the way Roberts does. What’s worse, there’s nothing to back this up other than (1) the fact that, yes, Rodriguez’s father left the family when Alex was a boy; and (2) page after page of Roberts giving voice to what she believes to be Rodriguez’s thoughts at given points of his life. She doesn’t even go into anonymous source land here. She simply says stuff like “Alex searched for meaning constantly as if the right catch-phrase from a self-help book could ground him in a normalcy he at once longed for and feared.” Um, OK, except there’s no one who supplies any facts to support a “search for normalcy” or any of the other emotional drama Roberts ascribes to him anywhere in the book. It’s all half-wit, pop-psychology invention. As I’ve written numerous times in the past two weeks, Roberts has not earned the benefit of the doubt with her previous reporting, so she’s certainly not entitled to the benefit the doubt with this purported clairvoyance either.
So, yeah, the layers of fail are numerous here, but maybe the best part is when Roberts criticizes Rodriguez with this tidbit:
“Friends say he fanned his breakup with his wife by giving his friends permission to plant disparaging items about Cynthia in the tabloids attributable to ‘sources close to A-Rod.’ “
That’s right: Roberts actually criticizes Rodriguez for planting blind items. It was at that moment that I put the book down, realizing that I had a frickin’ life to lead.
The best I can say about Roberts’ book is that it suggests that Alex Rodriguez is an interesting enough character that someday someone will write a good book about the guy. This one certainly ain’t it, though. Not by the longest of shots.