Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fear The Couric!

Whether it’s fastballs in October, or softballs in February, Alex Rodriguez simply cannot come through in the clutch. A-Rod “came clean” Monday, admitting that, yes, he did take performance-enhancing substances between 2001-03 with the Rangers.

And if all you saw or heard yesterday were the excerpts of his ESPN interview with Peter Gammons, you probably were willing to give A-Rod a pat on the back and a job-well-done for admitting his mistake.

But if you actually tuned in for the extended-play version of the interview, you had to wonder if A-Rod would have been better off not saying anything.

Forget for a moment the pretzel-like twists in the logic of his tale: That he didn’t know exactly what it was he took; that he was experimenting (for three years); the implied references to GNC, as if he had ingested some over-the-counter product by mistake; the assertion that he didn’t know whether or not he had actually failed the 2003 test, then convincing himself he really hadn’t.

Even if you watched his interview with the mute button, A-Rod’s fibbing was self-evident. Nobody goes to the nose that often, except maybe Roger Clemens. Nobody telling the truth needs to drink that much water. What A-Rod was doing was water-hoarding, and it was torture to watch.

But I’m starting think that A-Rod is about the least-interesting player in this drama. Here are my five nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Katie Couric. Okay, this is Best Supporting Actress, but wow, has anyone had a better six months than Couric? First Sarah Palin, now A-Rod. Who said she couldn’t deliver the tough interview? If I had something to hide, she’s the last person I’d let through my door, other than Selena Roberts. Couric’s questions to Palin last September, hardly of the gotcha variety, provided Barack Obama the last crunching block to clear his path to the end zone. Now, her elicitation from A-Rod in 2007 that he never used, and was never tempted to use, PEDs has blown up in his face, forcing him into his nose-wiping, the dog-ate-my-memory performance Monday.

Jose Canseco and Tom Boswell. With each new name, Canseco looks more and more vindicated for his whistle-blowing books. Say what you want about the unscrupulous way Canseco has gone about his campaign, but without his revelations, the movement toward finally cleaning up the sport would probably still be languishing. The irony is that baseball could have used Canseco as motivation to clean its house 20 years ago, which makes me wonder what Boswell is thinking today. The brilliant Washington Post baseball writer broke the first steroids story back in 1988, when he accused Canseco of being a “conspicuous” steroid user, and fans at Fenway Park chanted “Steroids!” at Canseco throughout the first two games of the 1988 ALCS. But baseball and its union didn’t hear the message, and allowed Canseco to drive the point home in a much messier way almost 20 years later.

Gene Orza. I’m taking April 3 in the “Gene Orza resigns from the Union” pool. If possible, Orza is coming out of this tale looking far worse than A-Rod, with the allegations of 2004 test-tipping and his role in A-Rod’s fanciful tale Monday. Red Sox fans should be thanking Orza a thousand times over for blocking the final door to the A-Rod trade in 2003. John Henry and Larry Luchhino must be doing handstands and backflips over their remarkable luck that the MLBPA scuttled that trade at the last minute.

Peter Gammons. He’s taking a lot of heat today for conducting a soft interview Monday night, but let’s be fair. He lacked home-court advantage – anytime they break out the soft lighting, you know it’s not Woodward and Bernstein time – and probably had certain stipulations placed upon him. And, sure, he sounded more than fawning in his post-interview wrap-up. But Gammons did the one thing he needed to do: He got A-Rod to talk, and he got A-Rod to dig his own grave by just letting him talk. That was more than enough to turn the “A-pology” into more “A-Fraud.”

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