The Ultimate Spring Training Invite: The A-Rod Press Conference

A barrage.  That’s what you’ve found from the media.  You’ve found a barrage of articles and quotes and insight into the Alex Rodriguez press conference.  To be frank and honest with you, at the same time and simultaneously, I did not see it live.  Yes, I was alive, thank my lucky stars, and so was A-Rod, but as he spoke, I was in a doctor’s office.  Yes, I put myself and my health above the words of the mighty A-Rod.  I can only beg so much for his forgiveness.  With that in mind, I have just a couple of quick little ditties about the whole proceeding.  These will hopefully be a little different from the rest of the barrage, so since you’ve come this far, you might as well go all the way.

Knowing & Not Knowing What He Took

Because of our “holier than thou” posture, we all assume that A-Rod should have known what he was putting into himself.  Quick thing: Last time you had a sore throat, or your kid had strep, and the doctor prescribed something for you or your kid, what was the drug you were given?  Hurry.  The clock is ticking.

Yep, some moms out there will know immediately and rattle something off.  Maybe a handful of very involved fathers too.  But the majority of us?  Come on.  If a doctor says, “Jimmy, take this,” I will take it.  I won’t ask, “But what is it I will be putting inside my body because I must know?”  I won’t think about all the times I’ve been out at a restaurant and someone said, “Try this, Jimmy” and I said “What is it?” and they said, “Just try it” and it was yummy.  I won’t tell you how many times a trainer says to use ice, or heat, or puts something else onto my body.  I won’t tell you that I’m not paying attention half the time, thinking ‘Just make me better; just make the pain go away.”  Because I am holier than thou.  I can’t believe A-Rod didn’t know.

Truthfully, do you always know?  Is it just because it’s A-Rod, is it just because it’s steroids, that we can proclaim ourselves more holy than Alex?  Can you answer that truthfully?

Even so, it doesn’t appear as if there was a Doctor No in A-Rod’s life during this time period, just a mysterious cousin.  Well, if A-Rod trusted the cousin, there you go.  A-Rod said he was “young” and “stupid.”  But did anyone ever tell you ballplayers were lazy too?

The Press Conference Invitation: Player POV

Jack Curry, in a New York Times article wonderfully illustrated by Michael B. Weimar, wrote this about why A-Rod’s teammates attended the press conference:

“Cashman acknowledged that some players probably showed up to support Rodriguez because they consider him a friend and others attended because they realize that the Yankees need an effective Rodriguez to help them have a potent season. And others probably went because it seemed as if they were expected to attend.”

There’s another reason: History.  This is history, man.  Who wouldn’t want to say they were there?  If you’re a guy who more than likely won’t make this Yankees team team, or any Yankees team ever, don’t you think a perk of being in camp with the Yankees is stuff like this?  How many guys in the future will be able to say, “Yeah, I was there.”  Seriously, this is as big as going to the Obama inauguration, only you don’t have to stand two miles away.  You’re in a privileged space because, since cuts haven’t been made yet, you’re a Yankee.

While this is a big story from a baseball perspective, while it’s big from a personal Alex Rodriguez perspective, it’s just as big for the guys in camp who are trying to make the 25-man, heck, the 40-man roster.  Todd Linden, a veteran of 270 MLB games, will probably not make the team.  He got an invite to spring training back in January with the Yankees, not knowing the invite would also be to an Alex Rodriguez press conference.  Yes, he might turn up either in AAA for the Yankees with the vague assurance that he’ll be called up “if something up here happens,” or he might end up in AAA for the A’s or Royals or Pirates after getting cut with 7 days to go in camp.  But he’ll always be able to say he was there.

Todd’s path to superstardom will be blocked forever by his inability to become a superstar.  In ten years, Todd Linden will be cool to his friends and the people who come in contact with him because he was a Major League Baseball player for a little while, not because he was a big star.  But the little tidbit that Todd will always have in his back pocket, the little nugget he’ll always be able to throw out at parties or small gatherings, the one item his wife will be sick of him bringing up year after year due to his own insecurities (he made it, but never really made it, you know?), will be this: “In 2009, I, Todd Linden, attended spring training with the New York Yankees big league camp.  I sat in the same locker room as Jeter and Burnett and Posada and A-Rod.  Oh, I also ‘hung out’ at the A-Rod press conference.”  At which point, Todd’s hangers-on will hang on more tightly.  What was it like, Todd?  Where did you stand?  Did you think A-Rod was sincere?

“Tell ’em what you were wearing, Todd,” the frustrated Mrs. Linden will say.

Todd will, as men do, pretend he didn’t hear his wife try to pop the balloon he’d immersed himself in and therefore not bring up the Boyz II Men T-shirt he probably had draped over his upper torso.  Instead, he’ll talk all about how A-Rod handled himself in the clubhouse.  He’ll talk about A-Rod’s workout regimen.  He’ll discuss where the bathroom stalls were in relation to A-Rod’s locker.  He’ll say he never saw anybody do any steroids in his whole career, that he himself never did any steroids because “I wanted to play clean,” as every ex-MLB player says who never got caught now says.  He’ll say that 2009 camp was so rewarding for him.  The guys were great and, man, what a great time in his life.

“Tell ’em how long you were in camp, Todd,” the visibly flustered Mrs. Linden will say.

Todd will blow off her comment, knowing he was only there for two weeks before being a member of the first wave of cuts, a first wave he didn’t expect, especially since bodies were needed in camp when A-Rod and so many others left for the World Baseball Classic.  He won’t talk about his bitterness toward the Yankees, or how his agent couldn’t get him anything with any other team.  He won’t talk about how he ended up playing in the Independent Leagues during the 2009 season or how he was a little bitter because he’d had such high expectations for himself.  Instead, he’ll talk about parts of 5 seasons with the Giants, a team that also included Barry Bonds.  He’ll compare his former teammates Bonds and Alex Rodriguez and go into a detailed analysis of each, then discuss their steroidal activities.  Then he’ll discuss the stigma the two always played under while he didn’t play under any stigma because he was a clean player.  “Nope, we didn’t talk about it much, me and the other players.  That was a media thing.  We just wanted to play baseball.”

And deep down, way deep, Todd will be a little sad that he didn’t get to play as much baseball as he had dreamed.  He’ll be proud that he did make it, that he did play as many years as he did, that he actually hit 8 big league home runs.  But he’ll always feel incompetent when compared to A-Rod, to Bonds.  He’ll secretly wish that he had been the guy up on that podium, apologizing again to Selena Roberts and his teammates.  He’ll secretly wish he was the guy who’d taken something and not known what it was.  He’ll secretly wish for all of Alex Rodriguez’s problems, because they are the problems of a superstar baseball player, of the type of player Todd always wanted to be.  Yeah, Todd probably thought yesterday as he stood at that press conference, it stinks being him.

And for a few brief, telling moments, he’ll secretly wish to be A-Rod for just one day, even if that day was yesterday.

Jimmy Scott is probably the greatest pitcher you’ve never heard of.  Visit  Jimmy Scott’s High & Tight to read more from Jimmy.  You’ll also hear a new interview every Monday morning with former MLB players, agents, wives and others, giving new perspectives on this great game we call Baseball.  Go now to hear Jimmy’s latest interviews with Shea Hillenbrand and Scott Brosius.

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