George M. Steinbrenner Field may not be big enough to hold the enormous number of news media expected to turn up at the Yankees spring training facility in anticipation of Alex Rodriguez’s arrival with the rest of the position players Tuesday morning in Tampa, Florida. A-Rod is expected to address the media regarding his admission of steroid use from 2001-2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers. It will be a must-see TV event.
One thing is for certain, A-Rod won’t be alone to face the cameras and microphones. Many of Yankee teammates plan on being present to offer support for their star third baseman. It is unknown how much information A-Rod will impart as to his steroid use as a follow up to his televised confession to ESPN’s Peter Gammons a little over a week ago. According to manager Joe Girardi, how specific A-Rod is in telling his side of the story isn’t the most important issue.
“I don’t think it’s necessary in my eyes that he answers every detail,” Girardi said to reporters on Monday.
Girardi also told reporters he felt that the Yankee players have a definite affection for A-Rod and that it will put on display Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s window dressing,” Girardi said. “I think it’s out of their hearts and their feelings for Alex and them wanting to stand behind him and help him through this situation.”
Some of the players contacted Monday, such as Andy Pettitte and new first baseman Mark Teixeira, said they planned on being present at the news conference.
Said Pettitte to reporters, “It’s part of playing here. Everything is somewhat magnified to a certain degree being here, and just some things you’ve got to deal with.”
Teixeira said he wants to assure A-Rod he is in the third baseman’s corner. “When I see him tomorrow, I’m going to give him a big hug and just tell him I’m there for him. I’m going to be a teammate and a friend if he needs one,” Teixeira told the media. Teixeira and A-Rod played together in Texas during the 2003 season.
Much attention is going to be drawn to A-Rod’s place in baseball history. Always viewed as a clean player he had been touted as the heir apparent to pass current career home run champion Barry Bonds. Bonds ended the 2007 season with 762 home runs to surpass Henry Aaron who finished his career with 755 round trippers. Bonds legacy is in question as he has also been accused of being a steroid cheat, although he has never admitted to knowingly taking any illegal substances. Bonds is slated to stand trial on March 2, 2009 in federal court to face charges of perjury.
Rodriguez, who has 553 career home runs and trails Bonds by 209, will now be lumped into the same group as Bonds and every home run he has hit and will hit is going be questioned.
To be sure Rodriguez will face tougher questions from the media Tuesday than he faced when speaking with Gammons. Gammons didn’t know what to expect, but now that the media has had a chance to digest A-Rod’s words he can expect them to come out firing. He dodged questions by Gammons regarding what drugs he used, how often he used steroids and if he used them in the off- season.
ESPN was criticized in some circles by not pressing A-Rod for more specific answers.
A-Rod is obviously the biggest name ever to be linked with using performance-enhancing drugs. He has been condemned in many sports columns and in the office of Commissioner Bud Selig. He also has been the butt of jokes on many of the late night shows. Although understandably distressing to the Yankees front office the team plans on rallying around their sullied star.
“A lot of people think that, you know, this is going to tear the team apart,” Teixeira said to reporters about how the team will respond. “I think it’s going to bring the team together.”
Tuesday, like facing a firing squad, A-Rod will have to face the media, but at least he won’t have to face it alone.