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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

February 17, 2009 at 1:02 PM

Ex-Mariners on parade: A-Rod bares his soul

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I’m going to refrain, for the moment, from commenting on the Griffey situation. I believe strongly he’s going to the Braves. I know Geoff had it from a very solid source that it’s going to get done. So did David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. SI.com is reporting the same thing. I’d be shocked if that didn’t happen. But the other day, someone who knows Griffey well told me that every time he tried to predict what Junior was going to do, he went the opposite way. So there’s a certain wild-card factor at play. Stay tuned, but it’s time to get ready for a Mariners season without Junior (at least until the trade deadline or the offseason, when we can revive the Griffey-to-Seattle rumors. Just kidding. I think.)

Because the Braves were putting up a cone of silence on official comment on Griffey, I decided to high-tail it back to Tampa, where the Yankees train, and arrived just in time for Alex Rodriguez’s press conference. It was jam-packed,with reporters, maybe 150, but it wasn’t nearly the circus I expected (even though it took place under a big top — a makeshift outdoor canopy). One veteran New York scribe told me, “I’ve seen worse.”

I can’t help but notice the confluence of events surrounding the two greatest players ever produced by the Seattle Mariners. At virtually the exact same moment that news leaked out about Griffey choosing the Braves, a grim Alex Rodriguez sat down at a table and tried once again to come clean over his steroids use. A-Rod and Griffey played together for four full seasons in Seattle (1996-99), plus parts of ’95 and a tiny bit of ’94. Steroids aside, they have to be ranked, with Ruth-Gehrig and perhaps Mays-McCovey (I’ll accept other nominations) as one of the greatest pairs of teammates in baseball history. And don’t forget, the M’s had a third Hall of Famer for most of that time (Randy Johnson) and maybe a fourth (Edgar Martinez), and were managed by Lou Piniella, who may make the Hall himself as a manager if he wins another World Series with the Cubs. Hard to figure how those late 1990’s M’s avoided the World Series. It wasn’t all Bobby Ayala’s fault, was it?

At any rate, I thought Alex did a solid job today, I really did — as good as can be expected in what really was a no-win predicament. You can nit-pick some of his answers, but I thought he came off as genuine and vulnerable, instead of slick and phony, his usual traits. For once, he didn’t seem — to me, anyway — to be pre-packaged and scripted. That was especially true when A-Rod nearly broke down while addressing his teammates, needing almost a minute to compose himself. I glanced over to the side of the room during that vignette, where a group of teammates, including Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, were sitting. They were watching intently, with what appeared to be genuine empathy.

I also thought Rodriguez was remarkably detailed in describing what he did, how he did it, and even why he did it. Of course, he’s changed his story a few times, so we have every right to be skeptical that he’s telling the whole truth now. I have particular doubts about his claim not to have used steroids at all during his Mariners days, when one of his closest friends was David Segui, who was named in the Mitchell Report and has admitted using steroids during his days with the Mets (1994-95). Segui was with the Mariners in 1998 and most of 1999. Rodriguez did own up to using a stimulant called “Ripped Fuel” during his Mariners days, which at the time was legal in baseball and could be bought over the counter. It’s now a banned substance and not sold commercially any more. Here’s more and even more on Ripped Fuel.

No player, other than Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti, has ever gone so deep into explaining their steroids use as Rodriguez did today.

A-Rod also struck the right note by not attempting to pass the blame. At one point, he said, “For the past week, I’ve been looking for someone to blame. At the end of the day, I can’t blame anyone but myself.”

He called himself, at various times, stupid, silly, immature, irresponsible and a maybe a few other disparaging terms I forgot to write down. As I wrote last week, and as Jamie Moyer put more bluntly the other day, Rodriguez will never fully live this down, and his career will be clouded for the rest of his life. But I thought he took a meaningful step Tuesday in moving forward as best he can.

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