I’m not positive if this was seen by me in some distant fortune cookie or if the famous wordsmith Anonymous might have first said it, but I recall from my youth the quote, “Reputation is what the world thinks a man is; character is what he really is.”
The words floated to the surface of the mind the other day with the latest reminders the Steroids Era has not yet let go off baseball and set it free. And might never, because the era is an ink stain on the game’s fabric, irremovable.
I thought of the quote with the latest Hall of Fame voting, and the reminder of the crocodile moat and impenetrable barbed-wire wall Cooperstown has put up for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others who once seemed so certain to sail in with honors.
I remembered the words again Sunday night as I watched CBS’ 60 Minutes and saw Alex Rodriguez’s once-heroic reputation continue to shrink by degrees as more indications of his character were revealed.
This was the latest chapter in the saga that arose from Biogenesis, the now-shuttered Coral Gables “anti-aging” clinic run by Anthony Bosch.
Fourteen players who were clients have been suspended by Major League Baseball, 13 have accepted responsibility (in their own best interests if not with true contrition), and one — A-Rod — fights on hopelessly, casting himself in a quixotic role, but playing it without benefit of nobility.
Bosch to CBS reiterated some of the same testimony that helped lead to MLB’s original 212-game suspension of Rodriguez. An arbitrator agreed upon by both baseball and its players union reduced the sentence to all of this coming season — 162 games plus the postseason, still a record penalty for use of performing-enhancing drugs.
On Monday, as expected, Rodriguez sued baseball and its players union to overturn the suspension, though he has to know federal courts historically want nothing to do with reversing arbitration rulings.
At some point, options exhausted, A-Rod will have no card left to play but that of Wrongly Convicted Man, undeterred by the knowledge hardly anybody believes him.
Rodriguez in 2009 admitted using steroids, but only in 2001-03, though more recent indications make you wonder if he ever stopped. Bosch says A-Rod came to him in 2010, just after hitting his 600th home run, hell bent on reaching 800. (His career total, at age 38, is now frozen at a tainted 654 homers.)
The details in Bosch’s allegations are overwhelming, including how A-Rod paid him $12,000 per month in cash; how the player’s representatives wanted Bosch to sign an affidavit saying he never provided A-Rod with PEDs; about the regimen of banned substances including testosterone and human growth hormone; about how their code word for testosterone lozenges was “gummies.”
Bosch made some 500 text-message exchanges available to CBS.
This one was from Rodriguez to Bosch prior to a 2012 meeting:
“Try to use service elevators. Careful. Tons of eyes.”
What’s that other quote? About how a man’s character is revealed by what he does when he thinks no one is watching?
Rodriguez denies everything Bosch says and calls MLB’s suspension of him “a witch hunt.” On his Facebook page as recently as Saturday he said, “The deck has been stacked against me from day one.”
The trouble is, the evidence, the past admitted use and the denials all serve to make A-Rod an unsympathetic victim. In the vehemence of his denials he lays claim to a moral ground that the evidence denies is his to have.
He casts himself as a martyr, but he makes a really bad one. I’m talking Lance Armstrong-bad.
He (like Armstrong and Bonds and so many others) could have played it so differently, and to such a better end.
Honesty is what I’m suggesting. Taking responsibility.
So many steroids guys refuse to understand that it isn’t the action that buries them in the public eye as much as their reaction. How they handle being caught.
Rodriguez had an opportunity last spring to admit his wrongdoing and negotiate what some experts think might have been only a 50-game penalty.
He would have been done with that by summer. It would be in the past today, at least relatively speaking. He would be preparing for spring training now instead of for a year of litigious wrangling.
Instead, whether driven by ego, finances or bad advice, Rodriguez kept up the pretense, even as MLB’s investigation and the Biogenesis evidence mounted.
As Armstrong learned, once you lie enough, the lie becomes who you are, and there is no turning back. From prison, against a parade of accusers, isn’t Jerry Sandusky still insisting on his innocence?
Fall from grace
I feel badly that Alex Rodriguez turned out this way. Though born in New York, he’s a Miami guy, raised here, his name (now dubiously) attached to the University of Miami’s ballpark for his donations.
He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, once. A man known first for greatness, once. It is sad to see his once-epic career run away from him, chased by controversy and scorn.
“Reputation is what the world thinks a man is; character is what he really is.”
Ultimately, of course, the two almost always become one, a man’s reputation only helplessly following where his character leads.