July 31, 2013 at 8:52 AM ET
As New York Yankees star third baseman Alex Rodriguez faces a possible suspension by Major League Baseball for his connection to performance-enhancing drugs, a career that once put him among the all-time greats threatens to be irrevocably tarnished.
“He (is) one of the most talented players I ever saw, but now you wonder how much of it came out of a bottle or at the end of a needle,’’ Daily News columnist Mike Lupica told Matt Lauer on TODAY Wednesday. “He’s also one of the biggest phonies in the history of the planet. I have never met in my time being a sportswriter anybody more insecure or more needy or needing to be loved than Alex Rodriguez, and people got that about him.”
A report by the Daily News on Wednesday citing anonymous sources said that MLB plans to suspend Rodriguez, 38, and eight other players for allegedly obtaining PEDs from Biogenesis, a South Florida anti-aging clinic. Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player, has already been suspended for 65 games by MLB for his connection to Biogenesis.
Rodriguez’s attorney told reporters earlier this week that he will appeal any looming ban. MLB investigators have gathered an extensive amount of emails, text messages and phone records connecting Rodriguez to PED use after he had previously acknowledged in 2009 that he used steroids when he was with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003, according to the Daily News report.
“I think when (MLB) sweated him in Tampa not long ago, they wanted him to start to know exactly what they had,’’ Lupica said. “It’s more than diaries, it is voluminous emails. Does he have a chance to win on an appeal? Yeah, Ryan Braun got appealed out of a positive drug test a year and a half ago, but guess what happens now? (Braun) takes a 65-game ban.”
Rodriguez finds himself in a bad light yet again in a career that has included a vehement denial of steroid use in 2007 and then an admission in 2009 that he used a banned substance while playing for the Rangers earlier in the decade. Off the field, he was romantically linked to celebrities like Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz. There also were embarrassing moments like a picture in Details magazine of him kissing his own reflection in the mirror, and criticism of star shortstop Derek Jeter in an Esquire magazine piece that drew the ire of Yankees fans.
“Everything he’s done, he did to himself,’’ Lupica said. “Every public relations decision he made, he made himself. He has put himself into this situation, everyone’s closing in on him, (and) I don’t know if he can get out of it this time.”
When asked about his image in an interview for the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, Rodriguez said. “I want to be a role model, continue to be a role model — especially to my girls. So all the noise sometimes gets on my nerves, but that's it. I can't let it get any further than that. I have a job to do."
Lupica was asked by Lauer if Rodriguez truly understands the extent of the trouble he faces.
“If he doesn’t, then he’s in complete denial or living on the planet Alex,’’ Lupica said. “Most kids figure out how to cheat at the age of 9 or 10, so I don’t think anybody needs him to be a role model for that.”
As a cloud of suspicion has surrounded Rodriguez, his performance on the field has also suffered. He has been on and off the disabled list for the past two seasons with hip issues, and the Yankees still owe him nearly $100 million. Once expected to beat the all-time home run record of 762 set by Barry Bonds, Rodriguez is stuck on 647, 13 shy of the 660 by Hall of Famer Willie Mays. He also is 99 hits shy of the 3,000-hit milestone.
“I don’t know if he would’ve gotten to 3,000 when he was supposed to return,’’ Lupica said. “But now it’s become the summer of 3,000 lawyers.”