Opinions vary on A-Rod conference
Players mostly supportive of slugger's admission of steroid use
Reaction around Spring Training camps to Alex Rodriguez's 32-minute news conference in Tampa, Fla., was swift -- and mostly supportive.Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee, the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner, applauded Rodriguez's openness during his initial media session since Sports Illustrated's revelations about his positive steroids test with the Rangers in 2003.
"What else do you want a guy to do, you know? He's come out and told everyone what he did," Lee said. "That's all you can ask. It's the right thing to do. He wasn't pointing fingers at anybody else. He took accountability."Echoed Atlanta manager Bobby Cox: "I think he's doing a great job. He's being himself. He's doing better than anyone could have imagined. He's embarrassed about it. He's honest about it. What else can he do?" Also typical of the sympathetic chorus for Rodriguez was Angels manager Mike Scioscia's defense based on the Yankees third baseman's career-long body of work. "This guy is one of the best players ever to walk on a field. If you look at what he's done, before and after those three years in Texas, he's had some great years," Scioscia said in Phoenix. "It's certainly a black eye for baseball -- a guy who has no need for steroids makes a poor decision like that. "I just think it's time to move on, move forward and focus on the game on the field. Let's put this chapter behind us and turn the page." Numerous peers made a point of noting Rodriguez's forthrightness. "It's good that he's coming out and talking about it," said Washington outfielder Ryan Langerhans. "Only he knows what he really did. It doesn't change the fact that he's a great player. Coming out and admitting it is a big step." "I think that was the first step in recovering from that," Royals pitcher John Bale said of Rodriguez's nationally televised news conference. "I'm sure his teammates are going to rally around him, and he definitely made a big step moving forward." "Everybody makes mistakes, and I'm not the type of person that's going to change my opinion about who he is just because he made a mistake," said Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, who met Rodriguez in 2001 while being recruited by the University of Miami. "I wouldn't just disassociate myself with somebody just because he made a mistake. I don't think anybody is perfect, and I don't think he's ever pretended to be perfect." Also taking in Rodriguez's presser through friendship-tinted glasses was Yonder Alonso, the Reds' No. 1 Draft choice last summer who has lived and trained with A-Rod in Miami. "It's hard, it stinks. I know the guy," Alonso said. "I saw him every day and talk to him a lot. I was talking with him [Monday]. He'll be all right. He will bounce back. He just has to swing and get back in there again. "This guy works so hard. He made a mistake. He made a lot of mistakes. He's like a brother to me and he opened doors for me, so I can't complain." "It's a bad day for baseball to see one of the greatest players to ever play this game be caught up in this," said Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez -- a former Seattle teammate and Miami neighbor of Rodriguez. "From a human element, because I know him, I feel bad for him, because I know he's hurting." In the Marlins' camp, Jay Gibbons, who was included in the Mitchell Report, said, "The whole thing is sad to me." "You've got the greatest player in the game," Gibbons said. "I feel for him a little bit. It's a tough thing. I wish him the best. He's going to go out and hit 40 homers this year and hit .300. He's going to be all right. He's going through a tough time right now, but at the end of the day, he's a great player, no matter what." Boston third baseman Mike Lowell called the "outing" of Rodriguez "a disappointing situation." "Everyone anointed him as the guy to put up monster numbers and doing it the right way," Lowell said. "Then this comes out, and I think it's just another negative toward the era. I think the names of a lot of high-profile guys are in this, but it has overshadowed a lot of guys that are putting up good numbers and putting up big league careers and are doing it the right way. I don't think those guys get enough credit for doing it the right way." Several players considered Rodriguez an unfair victim of testing that was designed to occur under a cloak of confidentiality. "It's not right to do steroids," said the Cubs' Derrek Lee. "But I also don't think it's right to be punished for something they're telling you is a confidential test." "Nobody wants an anonymous test revealed to the public. But he's a big name," said Cleveland's Grady Sizemore. "It's tough. Nobody wants to see a guy get outed and ridiculed for something he did years ago." However, the support for Rodriguez was hardly universal. Some of the harshest criticism continued to come from the camp of the Astros -- whose pitching ace Roy Oswalt had said a week ago that, "A-Rod's numbers shouldn't count for anything. I feel like he cheated me out of the game." "I don't feel the least bit sorry for him," Houston first baseman Lance Berkman said on Tuesday. "If you do something like that, you're going to pay the piper eventually. I'm sure his teammates will be right there for him like we would for anybody on our team. But you make your bed, you've got to lay in it." Straying from the subject of Rodriguez, Berkman also had a noteworthy accusatory angle on David Ortiz's call on Monday for blood testing to help cleanse the sport. "I'd make it a blood test. Guys are still doing stuff, I don't think there's any doubt about that," Berkman said. "There's stuff that can't be tested for that guys are probably doing. Obviously, that's the whole goal of getting rid of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. As a player that has never done that, you certainly want to have a level playing field." The Cubs' Lee concurred. "There should be zero tolerance," Lee said. "We've had plenty of warnings. There's no excuses. You get caught now, there should be no sympathy and you do your time." White Sox general manager Ken Williams took the philosophical high road on the issue of whether Rodriguez's numbers, and hence his eventual Hall of Fame qualifications, should be altered. "I just don't feel like I have the right in my life to be so judgmental about others," Williams said. "Everybody that's walked the face of the earth has their share of baggage one way or another. "Each era has its baggage of inclusion or exclusion. You go back to the days of [Babe] Ruth and all those guys in the Hall of Fame from that period, and well, they weren't playing against black players. So, one could argue that those numbers are inflated. They aren't artificially inflated by substance, but they are inflated." Other voices: Carlos Beltran, Mets: "What I admire him for is that he's been able to come through and talk to the media, let fans know what he did, what he did it for. So he made a bad choice, and every time you make bad choices, you have to deal with the consequence." Michael Young, Rangers, on Rodriguez being able to put the issue in his rearview mirror: "[It] is not going to be something that happens quickly. I imagine [the media] will have questions when he comes to Texas, and I imagine every team will have questions for him when he gets to their cities. Certainly, the fans in visiting cities are not going to let this go anytime soon."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.