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A-Rod acts like A-Fraud

Brian Cashman, the Yankees' general manager, used an ideal metaphor. He compared Alex Rodriguez to Humpty Dumpty, and said it would be the team's job to put the beleaguered slugger back together again.

Good luck to them. Maybe Rodriguez will some day rise above his steroid use and create a lasting, pristine baseball legacy. One of these years, he might actually come through in a big postseason situation and lead the Yankees to another World Series title.

But A-Rod's practiced, pathetic performance before the media Tuesday won't do much for his tattered reputation. It's about credibility now, and his staged attempt to "come clean" about his steroid use was utterly unbelievable.

That wasn't an apology. It's a strategy. A-Rod has employed a media adviser and a crisis management team. He was about as believable as Rod Blagojevich. A-Rod achieved what I had considered impossible: He made Barry Bonds seem sincere by comparison.

Whose idea was it to have him pause for 37 seconds, presumably near tears, before thanking his Yankee teammates for showing up? Madonna? You could almost hear A-Rod counting down the seconds in his head. It couldn't have seemed more phony and rehearsed if he'd peeled an onion to make his eyes water.

Does A-Rod expect us to believe he only used steroids with the Rangers from 2001 to '03, and that he did it because of the enormous pressure of his new 10-year, $250 million contract? Does he have any idea what an insult that is to every hard-working American?

Pressure is when you have no job, or when you're about to be downsized by the company. Pressure is a single mom juggling two jobs and three kids. People have about as much sympathy for A-Rod as they do for Wall Street crooks, bankers and politicians.

And if the pressure was so great, why did A-Rod stop juicing after going to New York City, where the tabloids scrutinize his every at-bat and off-field move? If pressure was an excuse, every athlete in the Big Apple would be on the stuff.

A-Rod wouldn't admit that he had cheated by taking Primobolan. He portrayed it as a stupid, youthful act, abetted by some unnamed cousin. "All these years, I never thought I had done anything wrong," he said.

He was evasive and vague in his news conference. It was a transparent effort to finesse his image, to isolate his steroid use to a specific period from 2001-03. Clearly, he wants to convince the public he used for a brief period, when he was "young, stupid and ignorant."

That's his crux of his defense. Youthful stupidity. By cloaking himself in youthful ignorance (though he was 25), A-Rod distances himself from the rampant steroid use on those Texas teams. The Rangers' locker room was a rogue's gallery of juicers. Rafael Palmeiro was on the team. So was Ken Caminiti, who died a few years later.

Really, are we to believe that A-Rod began using when he got to that team, and that he didn't have any idea of what was happening around him?

Sorry, I don't buy it. A-Rod cheated, and he lied about it. He lied to Katie Couric's face in an interview a year ago. Are we supposed to be believe him now, just because his name came out in a magazine story? This "coming clean" is a campaign to minimize the PR damage and massage his baseball legacy.

A-Rod wants history to regard his drug use as a brief indiscretion, one that won't diminish his stature as a great natural talent. It's a little unfair for him to take the hit when there were 103 other players in the 2003 report.

But that doesn't make A-Rod believable. His calculated play to repair his image only makes it worse. All the advisers and all the PR men can't put A-Rod back together again. It's too late for that now.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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