As a lifelong and loathed Yankee fan, I get razzed and ridiculed a lot about Alex Rodriguez and his latest doping scandal. As a PR professional, I wonder what I would advise if A-Rod called.
I gave up on A-Rod some time ago as a fan. After his hip surgeries, I wished he would have called it a career. Instead, he says he is fighting for his life in Major League Baseball. It is a battle most of us would rather not witness.
PR professionals, especially ones like me who specialize in crisis communications, often are asked to lend a hand to businesses, organizations and individuals that, as they say, have serious issues. Rodriguez has a stadium full.
As one of baseball’s highest-paid players, A-Rod is a not a clubhouse favorite. He is a boo magnet away from Yankee Stadium, especially in cities where he played and left for more money. He isn’t riding all that high in the bleachers and box seats in the Bronx, where fans are frustrated by his slumping statistics, especially in the clutch.
All that fades in the shadow of A-Rod’s 211-game suspension handed down by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for his alleged ties to Biogenesis. Twelve other Major Leaguers, many also star players, have accepted lesser suspensions in return for effectively admitting their guilt for doping.
No one knows for sure how much or what kind of evidence the MLB has amassed against Rodriguez. We do know, thanks for the Players Union, that none of the players suspended for their Biogenesis ties actually failed a League-administered drug test. That appears to be the crux of the Rodriguez appeal, which has allowed him to return to the diamond despite the suspension.
The main difference between A-Rod and the other 12 suspended players is he is at the end of his storied career. The others have years to play and rebuild their reputations. Rodriguez is close to some historic records, but the way he is playing at this stage of his career, they may remain forever elusive.
So my advice to A-Rod is to hang up his spikes. Catching Willie Mays on the all-time home run chart won’t be what people remember. They will wonder if A-Rod was always on the juice and question his impressive stats. That’s the main issue in the court of public opinion A-Rod needs to address if he wants a post-career consisting of more than jeers.
He can continue to emulate Lance Armstrong and proclaim his innocence, while whining that he had to dope because everyone else was juicing. Or A-Rod can own up to what he has done and take steps to redeem himself, such as telling his story, his whole story.
Noting that half of the suspended players were from the Dominican Republic, NPR’s Michelle Martin asked people close to MLB’s scouting there what’s going on. They told a story of talented young boys and their families who see baseball as their one and only shot to escape poverty. Despite the health and legal risks, they readily use performance enhancing drugs to make the cut between getting signed and getting left behind.
Rodriguez may have felt a drive similar to that and he can use his life story now as a cautionary tale. Even so, he will have to explain why the fame, the money and the moments with Madonna weren’t worth the humiliation he is and will continue to endure.
It would take a lot of courage for A-Rod to admit his mistakes instead of hiding behind a legal challenge to a long suspension without a failed drug test. If he takes the route he is on, he will fail a lot more than a drug test.