A-Rod leaves questions unanswered

A-Rod leaves questions unanswered

TAMPA -- Outside, mowers purred as they meticulously cut the lush green grass of a baseball field at George M. Steinbrenner Field. A gentle breeze cooled the rays from a bright sun, making the afternoon about as perfect as it could be for baseball.

Inside, under a large white tent better suited for a circus, Alex Rodriguez wrestled with words and emotion, trying to convince himself and a restless, frenzied media gathering of about 200 that his three years of illegal steroids use was the mistake of a young, foolish, naïve youngster.

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The contrast -- outside and inside -- was as dramatic as it could be.

How peaceful the beautiful field looked, so inviting for the summer game, yet so far removed from the ugly reality of today's baseball.

Tuesday was supposed to be the day that Rodriguez, the gifted, five-tool superstar, put his appalling misdeeds of 2001, 2002 and 2003 behind.

His confessional -- somewhat scripted, at times awkward -- lasted about 30 minutes.

He took a sincere first step, but questions linger.

How the Yankees' third baseman overcomes this albatross, this tarnishing of a once impeccable reputation, will take days, months and years to be seen. If ever.

Rodriguez, of course, tested positive in 2003 for steroids use, a fact that jarred baseball at it roots when Sports Illustrated broke the story on Feb. 7.

A-Rod -- who also said on Tuesday that when we was with the Seattle Mariners, he used a supplement called Ripped Fuel, which was later banned because it contains ephedrine -- revealed that an unnamed cousin obtained the steroids from the Dominican Republic. He called the drug "Bole," a reference to the anabolic steroid Primobolan, one of two substances for which he allegedly tested positive in 2003.

He said that his cousin injected him about twice a month for six months in each of the three years.

"It was pretty evident we didn't know what we were doing," said A-Rod, the three-time MVP. "We did everything we could to keep it between us, and my cousin didn't provide any other players with it. I stopped doing it in 2003 and haven't done it since."

He said that he consulted no one in the Texas Rangers organization, for whom he then played, about the substance.

Why the man who is arguably the best player in the Major Leagues would use such a substance is a question he could not answer.

Even more bewildering is the fact that he wouldn't specifically say what benefit he received from the substance.

Did it improve his play? Did it give him more strength? Did it add to his ability?

He said that when you're young and irresponsible, the benefits could be as much mental as physical.

He added that he really wasn't certain what the benefits were, even though he continued to be injected for the better part of three years.

If his admission and estimate are accurate, he was injected as many as 36 times over the three years.

He admitted that he had more energy but reiterated that he wasn't sure what the overall benefits were.

If he wasn't convinced of the benefits, why continue?

"It goes back to being young and being curious," Rodriguez said, not really answering the question. "When I started, it was probably the middle of 2001. When it ended, it was 2003. Thank goodness I realized after my neck injury that I was being silly and irresponsible. I decided to stop, and I was a young guy."

Rodriguez was told that in a recent poll, 46 percent of the respondents didn't believe that he used steroids for only the three years in question, that he took them other times.

"As far as other allegations, people are always going to say things," Rodriguez replied. "I guess when you're young and stupid, you're young and stupid."

He refused to call himself a cheater, saying that will be determined in years to come.

"I know that I am in a position where I have to earn my trust back," A-Rod said. "And over time, I am confident, and at the end of my career, people will see this for what it is -- a stupid mistake and a lesson learned for a guy with a lot of baseball to play."

Later, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, "There are hundreds of questions people want to ask, but I don't think he has any intention of putting himself back in that position.

"I can't tell you today this is over. It doesn't go away," Cashman added, noting that he wasn't speaking specifically about Rodriguez.

Cashman believes "the public blood-letting of individually fallen stars and what they have to go through after the fact [will lead others to] say, 'I don't want to be in that chair, to be the poster child for a problem in the game and in every newspaper across the country.' For the next young player, he might take a different choice."

Before that, A-Rod brought his confessional to a fitting close.

"I understand the questions and the doubts," Rodriguez said. "I made my bed, and I'm going to have to sit on it. I'm here to take my medicine. One thing I will say is that after today, I hope to put this behind me.

"I'll be honest with you. The last 15 months have been very, very tough. I've been through a divorce. I've been in the tabloids -- you name it. I miss simply being a baseball player. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for me to look in the mirror and be a better teammate, be a better player to my fans, to be a better human being. ... And start making the world a better place. That's my opportunity. I screwed up big time. The thing I ask is to judge me from this day forward."

That's all we can do, but still, there are so many unanswered questions.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.