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ARod All Day, All The Time

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 12, 2009

Just a quick follow up on the A-Rod posts of the last couple of days. First, some people have asked me for the cite on the Harper Collins publicity document I copied to my post of February 9th, With ARod, Nothing is Ever Simple. The document appeared in several places– at Amazon.com on the preorder page for Hit & Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, at the publisher’s website, HarperCollins.com, and at PublishersWeekly.com— where I personally saw it. When the controversy over the journalistic ethics of author/journalist Selena Roberts started to take off, however, Harper retracted the publicity statement and it was scrubbed fro the sites. This isn’t a terribly rare occurrence– the controversy around Jim Frey’s A Million Little Pieces caused a lot of the publisher’s marketing material to get scrubbed from sites that are dependent on a good relationship with the publisher. The last bit of the marketing statement that I can find is at Publisher’s Weekly, which under its “Spring 2009 Hardcovers: Sports” (scroll down to the “Harper” entry) still describes the book sing words from the statement: “Hit and Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez (May, $26.99) by Selena Roberts exposes A-Rod’s controversial path to self-destruction. 150,000 first printing.” You can scrub all you like, but some spots don’t come out.

Also interesting to note is that HarperCollins yesterday changed the name of the book; on the HarperCollins site linked above, the book is now known not as Hit & Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, but as A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez. I wonder why the change? Could it be that the original title was a bit too close to the public perception of Selena Roberts journalistic style?

Additionally, word out of the publisher in the trades is that a new, accelerated release date is under consideration to take advantage of the publicity generated for the book by Selena Robert’s article in SI… but please, remember, Ms. Roberts can in no way be accused of generating this story at this point or releasing the name only of Alex Rodriguez from a list of 104 players in a naked attempt to generate publicity for her book and thus personally benefit from the news. Never. Really. Please, don’t do it.

Oh what the hell, go ahead.

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With ARod, Nothing Is Ever Simple

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 9, 2009

Unbelievable talent, a huge paycheck, narcissism to spare. It should all be a pretty simple equation, but with Alex Rodriguez it’s the variables that kill you. Unbelievable talent… that seems to evaporate in October. Huge paycheck… tied up in a nasty divorce involving Madonna. Narcissism to spare… confused by his bromance-hate relationship with Derek Jeter.

It’ll drive you nuts.

Even now, with what should be the slam dunk of ARod using steroids, we have a difficult to quantify variable at play– his accuser stands to benefit materially from her accusation, which is supported only by anonymous sources.

Selena Roberts, formerly of the New York Times and currently writing for Sports Illustrated, is in the process of publishing a none-too-complimentary unauthorized biography of Alex Rodriguez. Hit & Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez , described on the publishing-trade site Publisher’s Weekly as “…an expose of A-Rod’s controversial path to self-destruction, is scheduled for release right around Opening Day.

I have no reason to believe that Selena Roberts isn’t on the level, that she doesn’t really have four excellent and bulletproof sources… except that it’s an awfully big coincidence that the biggest story she’s broken in her career happens ten weeks before her first book is released and it happens to be a hatchet job on the guy she’s breaking this story on. There’s every chance that the two are intertwined– while she was researching her extremely negative take on Rodriguez for the book, she undoubtedly deeply researched him and those who were both willing to talk poorly of him and every angle she could find to cast aspersion. Here’s the publicity statement on the book from her publisher:

HIT AND RUN:
The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez

In this extraordinary book, senior Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts will deliver an intimate narrative on how New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, the richest and perhaps most talented player in baseball, is on the verge of a personal and professional collapse so profound it would rate as one of the most dramatic falls in major league history.

Through exhaustive reporting and interviews, Roberts will detail A-Rod as a plunge-in-progress, a once-in-a-generation baseball talent tortured by an internal struggle between the polished family man he wants to be and the unabashed hedonist he has become.

The storyline will include his dalliances with strippers, infatuation with Madonna, details of his record-breaking $315-million contract, shady real estate empire and further evidence of steroid use, but will also tunnel deeper into his behavior.

Roberts will reveal the root of Alex’s identity crisis—the night his father abandoned him—and, in so doing, answer the question: who is the real A-Rod?

HIT AND RUN will reveal:
• Details about his close association with a known steroid dealer and new evidence of his use of anabolic steroids and testosterone in 2003, his MVP season with the Texas Rangers.

• A-Rod fired a member of his domestic staff for drawing horns on a photo of Madonna.

• A-Rod always uses the same pickup line on women: “Who’s hotter, me or Derek Jeter?”

• The nasty nickname that A-Rod was called by his teammates in the clubhouse (and it’s a lot worse than A-Fraud).

• A-Rod compares himself to Joe DiMaggio, telling friends that Madonna was his Marilyn Monroe.

• A-Rod speaks to a motivational guru before each game; in 2008 he cut off his family and friends to devote himself to Kabbalah.

Selena Roberts, a former sports columnist for the New York Times, is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated

That sounds even handed to me and smacks of journalistic credibility, doesn’t it?

Everyone in the baseball industry knew that Ms. Roberts was working on this book– to compile the information she claims to have  generated she would have had to have talked to hundreds of sources. She’s obviously talked to team mates and former team mates of Rodriguez, friends and foes, ex-girlfriends and dalliances, etc. She also says she talked to four people with knowledge of a sealed document who haven’t said a word in five years about what is contained in that document and who chose to disclose only that portion which dealt with Rodriguez.

The document that Roberts is claiming has generated this blow up is a 2003 confidential report on performance enhancing drugs in baseball conducted by the Player’s Union to determine if there was a steroid problem in baseball at all. One hundred and three players tested positive for banned performance enhancers, but there was no specific rule banning usage in baseball at that point and thus no penalties attached; the report was sealed and was to be held anonymously, as it has been for five years now… despite the fact that ARod was allegedly in it, despite the fact that coming out with that news during the 2007 post-season controversy over ARod’s opting out of his Yankee contract would have been much larger than it coming out know will be, despite the strong possibility of people like Roger Clemens or Albert Pujols being on that list. Now, not one but four people confirm to a reporter not only that ARod tested positive in 2003 but that a union official tipped him off to a test in 2004… yeah, it could happen. How lucky for Ms. Roberts that it happened now, when she can make a personal fortune off of it, when SI and her editors can benefit from the prestige of having the reporter who broke the ARod story and literally wrote the book on it on staff.

I have always been a defender of anonymous sources in reportage– I’ve worked around reporters and believe most of them to be honorable and extraordinarily devoted to the canon of journalistic ethics. I’m also not a fool and have had my fair share of professional experience with reporters– when there’s a question of dramatic personal gain and the story contains a substantial surprise that facilitates that personal gain, you have to ask some questions. The problem is that the answers are almost impossible to arrive at; there is no way that Roberts will ever reveal her anonymous sources, so there is no way to evaluate their veracity. It’s catch-22.

So, as always with Rodriguez, there’s a swirl of something around what should be a simple sight. Given Rodriguez’, well, flapability, this is sure to have an impact on a player who in the past has worn his emotions on his jersey’s sleeve. For  sake of finding the truth, the best outcome would be an admission and sincere apology from Rodriguez; that’s also the least likely outcome once the attorneys and Rodriguez’ ego become involved and also because it’s possible that this story is untrue, that the reporter either was too willing to believe sources that told her what she wanted to hear or she has fabricated some part of the story or some of the anonymous sources.

Nothing is ever simple with ARod. Nothing.

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