In New York, A-Rod Faces Fresh Scrutiny
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
Another baseball player is in trouble today. Miguel Tejada, of the Houston Astros, has been charged with lying to congressional investigators and yes, it has to do with steroids. Tejada is accused of withholding information about doping by a former teammate.
In any other week, that would be a really big story, but not when Alex Rodriquez, arguably the biggest star in the game, has just admitted that he used performance-enhancing drugs. That confession yesterday further complicated A-Rod's relationship with fans and his team, the New York Yankees. Here's NPR's Mike Pesca.
MIKE PESCA: Rooting for a baseball team is like belonging to a tribe. So you'll never get fans of one team to cut an embattled enemy a break. Take Dave from St. Louis, who dialed up "The Dan Patrick Radio Show."
DAVE (Caller): I hate Alex Rodriguez with the same passion and intensity that I love my own kids.
PESCA: Okay, ask a Cardinals fan, a Mets fan, a Red Sox fan, just about non-Yankee fan, and you'll get a dollop of A-Rod-bashing. But you get it even when you ask a Yankee fan, like Neal Koenig(ph), who was right outside the Yankee Clubhouse, a Manhattan store that sells official team merchandise.
Mr. NEAL KOENIG (Yankees Fan): He had an arrogance about him. I grew up in the era of Maris and Mantle and Berra, pretty low-key guys, definitely underpaid, if you will.
PESCA: Some Yankee fans do love A-Rod, as he's called, and stick by him, though many are like Ron Bodanza(ph), who has a utilitarian relationship with the best-paid player in baseball.
Mr. RON BODANZA (Yankees Fan): When he hits a home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, you love him. You know, when he strikes out in the same situation, you hate him.
PESCA: As a member of the Seattle Mariners, Rodriguez was seen as all that's right with the game: clean-cut, well-spoken, hard-working and talented. All of this is what led Tom Hicks, owner of the Texas Rangers, to sign him to the most lucrative contract in the history of North American team sports.
Today, Hicks says he feels betrayed. Michael Cramer was president of the Rangers during the A-Rod era.
Mr. MICHAEL CRAMER (Former President, Texas Rangers): I think Tom wanted to build a team around him. He wanted to build the image of the Texas Rangers around him. That was all very do-able. It was expensive, but it was do-able. You know, he did his part on the field. I'm not sure we got all of the Alex that we thought we would get off the field.
PESCA: Cramer says as a Ranger, Rodriguez was given the kind of advice which convinced him to put on airs.
Mr. CRAMER: You're sort of the king. You've got to act like one.
PESCA: But if Rodriguez's heroic reputation began to suffer as a Ranger, it was shredded by the Yankee pinstripes. He joined a team that had won six of the last eight American League pennants, then proceeded to be the best player on a team that couldn't make it to the World Series. He was called a choker, a phony, a bad sport and a prima donna. And all of that was pre-Madonna, the pop superstar who he was reported to have dated right before his wife filed for divorce.
But maybe the biggest indictment against A-Rod was leveled by Ron Bodanza.
Mr. BODANZA: He's not Jeter.
PESCA: Derek Jeter, the Yankee captain who possesses four World Series rings, who is seen as a selfless leader. Perhaps this town was never going to be fair to A-Rod. He did win two league MVP awards as a Yankee. But this week, the intangible feeling of unease has calcified around one, irrefutable charge: A-Rod cheated.
So even when you find a Yankee fan who supports Rodriguez, dissent is a phone call away. Liz Lisser(ph) paused during a cell-phone conversation she was having to offer this opinion.
Ms. LIZ LISSER (Yankee Fan): I don't care about the steroids. I mean, it happened in the past. Come on, we all have shadows in our closet. Let it go.
PESCA: Wait, hold on a second, Lisser said to me. My mother wants to tell you something, and then she handed me the phone.
Ms. CARMELLA PAGLIA(ph) (Mother): I think he should not be in the Hall of Fame.
PESCA: It's hard to hear, but Liz's mom, Carmella Paglia, was saying that A-Rod was terrible, not a team player, and shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I handed the phone back to her daughter, who began arguing with her mom. Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.