Alex Rodriguez delivered a handwritten note to his fans yesterday. Here’s what he wrote:
“I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season. I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be. To Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family, the Players Association and you, the fans, I can only say I’m sorry.
I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology, but I decided that next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.
I served the longest suspension in the history of the league for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. 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.
This game has been my single biggest passion since I was a teenager. When I go to Spring Training, I will do everything I can to be the best player and teammate possible, earn a spot on the Yankees and help us win.
The only problem with this apology is that I have no idea what it means. A year ago, Rodriguez claimed he didn’t use steroids during the alleged period of infraction. Now, he says he will “take full responsibility for the mistakes,” but he isn’t specifically acknowledging what the mistakes were. Taking steroids? Lying about it last year? What?
In order for an apology to be effective, it has to be clear and understandable. Rodriguez flunks the test here.
Will Rodriguez still be able to play a couple more years and retire insanely rich? Sure. But will he get into the hall of Fame, get cushy broadcast jobs, be seen as an elder statesman of the sport? Doubtful.
Let me state upfront that very few men or women know less about Major League Baseball or professional sports than I do. But here’s my understanding of the situation, whether it is in bicycle racing or baseball:
Athletes are told by their coaches or trainers or advisers, “Look, everyone you are competing against is using this drug. It is giving everyone a 2% edge. If you don’t take this drug, you will be, comparatively, 2% slower, weaker, less effective. If you don’t take the drug, you are guaranteed to not compete at professional level and you will be lucky to get an unpaid job as a little league coach. If you do take the drug, it just means you are now competing on a level playing field. You aren’t getting an edge on your competitors because they are all doing it. You won’t be cheating because cheating is about getting an unfair advantage that others don’t have, and that is not the situation here because the vast majority of your true competitors are doing this. So you either take this drug now, or end your career now. What is it going to be?”
I’ve never been an elite athlete (friends and family might tell you I’ve never been a better than average athlete) in any sport, so it’s easy and pain free for me to pass judgment on Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong and all the other fallen heroes of late. It’s easy to dismiss the entire above paragraph as “so you are saying it’s ok because everybody else does it.”
But what would I do if there were an international federation of media trainers banned the use of a specific vitamin and my advisers said “TJ take the vitamin because all of your competitors are. If you don’t, you won’t be able to compete, your competitors will get all of your business and you will be an unemployable, homeless bum. But if you take the vitamin, you will make millions of dollars and you will be competing fairly with all of your competitors?”
What would I do? What would you do?
Fortunately, you and I don’t have to make that decision, but the answers get a little murkier when we apply similar situations to ourselves.
TJ Walker is a media trainer at Media Training Worldwide who does not take any performance enhancing drugs. He can be reached at 212.764.4955.