When?

Published: February 20, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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Q:  “If your name was not revealed in the [Sports Illustrated] report, would you have come out on your own volition?”

A-Rod: “I haven’t thought about that much.”

Q:  “Do you consider what you did [using steroids] cheating?”

A-Rod:  “That’s not for me to determine. I’m here to say that I’m sorry.”

Q:  “Do you feel like your home run record would be tainted…?”

A-Rod:  “Look, I’m trying to get by the day today… I’m here to take my medicine.”

Vague, uncomfortable, cautious.  Did I miss anything?

If anyone was expecting a candid, heart-felt interview by Alex Rodriguez, they were sadly mistaken, because the guy facing the sports media Tuesday came off more defensive than Donald Rumsfeld facing questions about Abu Ghraib.

But the real sad part is this: it could’ve been so different.  With the right focus, the right heart, Rodriquez could have come off sincere, maybe even Homeric.

If anyone has an opportunity to do the hard work of rebuilding in spring training, it’s Alex Rodriquez. Instead, the highest-paid slugger in baseball moves around in the box too much, doesn’t keep his on the ball, and doesn’t follow through. Worse, yet:  he doesn’t think he owes anyone further discussion after reversing his six year denial about steroid use.

“I’m not talking about it anymore.” Rodriguez told reporters Thursday.

Done.

If ever a baseball player was so universally adored by millions of kids, it’s Alex Rodriguez.  If ever anyone had such an opportunity handed to him to influence young minds by his own example, it’s Alex Rodriquez.

And the same could be said of Donald Fehr, the head of the players union, Commissioner Bud Selig and Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.

ALL of them could have, SHOULD have come out together, acknowledged the problem, and stood united to announce an action plan for change that would have included Rodriquez traveling around the country and speak candidly to kids about baseball and drugs.

In fairness, Rodriguez did have this exchange with a reporter:

Q:  “How do you address parents [on] how to talk to their kids about the fact that you profited from this?”

A-Rod:  “Well, I think, the first thing I would say to a parent is I’m sorry. And I feel that this happened for a much bigger reason than baseball. I think God has put me now in a position… where I can be heard…  And I hope that kids would not make the same mistake that I made and I hope to join Don Hooton who has done some incredible things… his son passed away from steroid abuse and I know that this is not the time or the forum to be talking about what I intend or plan to do but I do plan to…”

Rod, are you kidding?  The timing doesn’t get any better than this!

You’re telling everybody and their kid how sorry you are.  You’re even saying that the Almighty, himself, has put “…me in a position… where I can be heard.”

ROD, buddy!!  This is your burning bush!  It doesn’t get any clearer!

You could’ve said, “Look, I screwed up!”  (President Obama just did this, by the way.)

You could’ve said, “I took steroids.  I cheated my team, the fans, the kids and myself.  I took the drugs because of the pressure to perform.  But I’m not here to blame baseball or anyone else.  I knew what I was doing and I should’ve done better.  But I want to make it right.  I need to make it right not just for me, but for the thousands of kids out there that watched me who may be thinking about cheating, themselves.

“Therefore, beginning (set a date), I’m going around the country and talk to kids about drugs, about cheating and about how to play the game the right way.”

These are just a few of the things Alex Rodriguez could have said last Tuesday, but the moment was gone, the opportunity disappeared faster than a Roger Clemens… (oh, wait, Roger may still be facing a federal indictment himself, related to drug use.)

When will one of these guys step up and show some real character?

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