On the same day his steroid supplier Anthony Bosch was sentenced to four years in a federal prison, Miami native and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez released a handwritten apology letter “to the fans” for the mistakes that led to his suspension for the entire 2014 season.
Tuesday’s letter was probably the last stop on Rodriguez’s mea culpa tour before he reports for spring training in Tampa on Feb. 25.
Before this, Rodriguez met with new commissioner Rob Manfred at the end of January, and then top Yankees officials on Feb. 10, who offered to let Rodriguez use Yankee Stadium to address the public. But he instead opted to release his five-paragraph apology Tuesday geared toward closure on the matter.
“The commissioner has said the matter is over,” Rodriguez wrote. “The players’ association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball. I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.”
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Manfred said last week when the 2017 All-Star Game was awarded to the Marlins that “baseball has to make every effort to allow [Rodriguez] to resume his career.” Manfred acknowledged he has had “a number of conversations with Mr. Rodriguez in order to help him be in the best possible position to resume his career.”
On Wednesday, ESPN The Magazine will reportedly release a story in which Rodriguez — in the course of several months of interviews — discusses his PED use, how he spent the year away from baseball, how he considered retirement, his therapy sessions and how he sought the counsel of and spent time with home run king Barry Bonds, who was embroiled in a PED scandal of his own.
The Yankees wanted Rodriguez to clear the air with the media hoping to avoid distractions once spring training begins. Tuesday’s letter, though, probably didn’t do the trick.
“He paid his price, but it’s still difficult to understand how someone could defraud themselves and also the game,” said Marlins closer Steve Cishek, who was filming a public service announcement Tuesday at a recycling center in Pembroke Pines and was asked to comment on A-Rod’s apology to the fans.
“I just don’t understand it,” Cishek continued. “I feel like as a man you should be able to handle yourself a little bit better. I just don’t think he handled the entire situation well.
“Hopefully he’s away from that stuff, playing clean this year. I know there’s going to be a lot of attention brought to it. I just hope it’s not as big a deal as it was before because it’s bad for baseball. People shouldn’t focus on such a negative story when it’s going to be an exciting year for a lot of teams. That stuff shouldn’t be looked down on because one person decided to cheat the game.”
Rodriguez, who turns 40 on July 27, is entering spring training still owed $61 million during the next three years. The three-time MVP isn’t even being guaranteed a starting job. The club signed Chase Headley for four years and $52 million to start at the third.
According to Sports Illustrated, the Yankees are attempting to void a $6 million home run bonus Rodriguez would receive if he ties Willie Mays on the home run list. Mays had 660 home runs in his career, and Rodriguez enters the season with 654. Rodriguez is due another $6 million each if he ties Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and then if he passes Bonds (762).
Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $275 million deal in 2008 — then the richest contract in sports. In November, the Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton, 25, to a 13-year, $325 million deal, the new gold standard in professional baseball.
Cishek, who has been the longest-tenured player on the Marlins roster along with Stanton (since 2010), said while increased PED testing can be a headache for players the game is cleaner today than ever before.
“I had my first drug test this offseason and I had never gotten a phone call before,” Cishek said. “Initially you’d be annoyed — especially after I did seven [urine] tests during the season. But you appreciate it because it’s filtering out those guys who cheat. If you did something wrong you’re going to get caught. I just hope that at some point people give up trying to cheat and finding ways to cheat. The direction were going I think we will finally have a clean playing field.”