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Posts Tagged ‘sports illustrated’

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.

Posted in Baseball, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The First Running Local Subway Rat Award

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 2, 2009

rat22Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated has always struck me as a whiny sort, quick to complain about the state of the game but slow to write anything that meaningfully explores it. As it turns out, he had a vested interest in not exploring it.

Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts (h/t to River Ave. Blues) has a piece up today revealing a series of interesting coincidences in which Heyman breaks the news of a major signing and crows about his scoop, but all of the players signed are represented by one agent– Scott Boras. Jason Varitek, Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds, ARod– Boras clients all, all of their signings, opt-outs and trades broken by Heyman.

Sources are great, but something darker is going on here– Heyman is selling Boras his column space in SI. John Heyman is a tool in every sense of the word– a prominent whiner about player salaries working for Scott Boras. Not only does Heyman break these stories, he also spends a good deal of his time pumping out what are now clearly seen as false rumors to stoke the demand for Boras clients. While you and I as fans like to think that the Brian Cashmans and Billy Beanes of the world are hooked into a world of baseball insider information, they are looking at the papers and tubes as much as we are to try to get a read on what’s happening in the marketplace. If Casman reads that Teixeira is moving into the Red Sox orbit, he must up his bid. If Boras wants his client in Los Angeles in July, Heyman starts talking about what a good fit the player is for the Dodgers and then creates a crisis  by reporting that sources have the Giants or the Padres in talks with the current owners of the player for a trade.

Jon Heyman has been corrupted by the very system he likes to exclaim is corrupt. There’s an irony there, but it is drowned out by the cloying odor of Heyman’s duplicity.

Sports Illustrated also takes  a well deserved hit here, quick on the heels of SI scribbler Tom Verducci’s involvement in Joe Torre’s managerial suicide. It seems they may need a new editor overseeing their baseball coverage– but only if they want to enjoy a reputation for integrity. That may well seem an unaffordable luxury to SI these days.

Anyway, to John Heyman I award the first official Running Local Subway Rat. Enjoy the company, Jon.

Posted in Baseball, Jerks, Running Local Subway Rats | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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