As I read A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez by Selena Roberts, I thought back to an introduction to journalism course I took at UMass a long time ago.
The professor one day spoke about the difference between writing a story for a newspaper and a column. A story, he explained, contained only what you could prove. A column was what you thought.
The book is 246 pages of what Roberts thinks about Rodriguez. What she proves isn’t much of anything.
Because Roberts broke the story in February about Rodriguez having tested positive for steroids use, I wrongly assumed the book would include other revelations. Instead it’s page after page of “one teammate” suggesting Rodriguez did something wrong. Or “a player” insinuating that he did something else. “Friends” of Rodriguez paint him in unflattering terms.
In her postscript, Roberts acknowledges the use of 19 anonymous sources. But no explanation is given as to why these sources needed anonymity. It’s also unclear whether the 19 sources were used equally or whether one or two sources provided the bulk of the information. We’re supposed to trust her judgment, apparently.
Even those facts that could be documented are not. Roberts, for instance, reports that notorious Dominican trainer Angel Presinal was signed into major league clubhouses by security officers while attending to Rodriguez. But no dates or places are given.
Throughout the book, Roberts even places herself in Rodriguez’s conscience and writes as though she knows what he was thinking. In her version of his thoughts, Rodriguez is a weak-willed, narcissistic cheater and womanizer willing to do anything to succeed.
Given the completeness of the February story in Sports Illustrated, I expected more in the book, certainly more detail. But the book does not meet the standards of the magazine. It is, in essence, a 246-page column.
This is not to say that Rodriguez deserves the benefit of the doubt. He has admitted to using steroids from 2001-03 and it’s difficult to believe he limited himself to those three years. Roberts is able to prove he associated with suspicious characters and she is a skillful enough writer to lead you believe that Rodriguez probably did use PEDs at other points of his career. There are many layers of hearsay evidence.
But she doesn’t prove anything beyond that he’s not particularly well-liked by his teammates and says a lot of dumb things. That we knew. The rest is unfair to Rodriguez.
Roberts come close. But a good editor would have kicked the manuscript back and told her to come back when she more.
A-Rod might have a tough time saying the right thing; he might attract the wrong kind of spotlight too often. He is our player, though, and deserves and needs to get all the support we as fans can give him. We need him, and he needs us - let's not let him down.