Major League Baseball’s Most Wanted Man walked into a conference room filled with at least 13 television cameras and close to 100 journalists.
The rapid-fire sound of cameras clicking followed Alex Rodriguez at 5:20 p.m. on Monday as he sat down at the table. The New York Yankees star had the microphone and everyone’s attention inside U.S. Cellular Field, where the networks could send his message across the world.
“The last seven months have been a nightmare,” Rodriguez said.
[More: Jeter lends support for embattled Rodriguez]
But this press conference before an 8-1 loss to the White Sox was more about what Rodriguez wouldn’t say. You know, something like: I didn’t do it.
Rodriguez had multiple chances to distance himself from performance-enhancing drugs, tell his side of the story and try to repair his image after the Biogenesis scandal. But he’s going to lawyer up after commissioner Bud Selig tried to suspend him for 211 games and all the way through the 2014 season.
“There’s a lot of things that have been thrown to the wall,” Rodriguez said. “I think when the time is right there will be an opportunity to do all of that. I don’t think that time is right now and I don’t want to interfere or get in the way of anything that might (impact) due process.”
[More: Life with A-Rod: Soriano believes cheaters will be caught]
Maybe no one would have believed Rodriguez anyway after watching his performance at a February 2009 press conference, admitting he had used illegal drugs between 2001 and 2003, writing it off as being young and stupid and immature.
A crowd of 27,948 booed A-Rod throughout the night on the South Side. He hit cleanup for a 57-54 team desperately trying to stay in the hunt for a wild card. He went 1-for-4, flaring a single to shallow left field in the second inning and getting serenaded with “Ster-oids! Ster-oids!” in the eighth.
[More: A-Rod hears the boos at U.S. Cellular Field]
“Nothing about it has been easy,” Rodriguez said. “All of it has been challenging. I’m sure there’s been mistakes made along the way. We’re here now. I’m a human being. I’ve had two hip surgeries. I’ve had two knee surgeries. I’m fighting for my life. I have to defend myself. If I don’t defend myself, no one will.”
Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said he doesn’t expect an arbitrator’s final decision before November or December, meaning Rodriguez should be able to finish this season.
While the Rodriguez appeal won’t formally begin until Thursday, 12 other players linked to the Biogenesis scandal accepted 50-game suspensions.
Selig’s office released a statement suspending Rodriguez for violating the collective bargaining agreement’s joint drug prevention and treatment program, citing “use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years” as well as a cover-up “intended to obstruct and frustrate” investigators.
“What (MLB’s doing) that is inappropriate is imposing a penalty that is way too harsh,” Weiner said. “I mean, we’ve never had a 200-plus (game) penalty for a player who may have used drugs. And among other things, I just think that’s way out of line.”
[More: Frank Thomas doesn't think A-Rod should be allowed to play]
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, the ex-Cubs catcher and Northwestern University graduate, said there’s no room for PEDs in baseball while also stressing it’s not his job to judge people.
“In our world, you’re supposed to be innocent until you’re proven guilty,” Girardi said. “But we know that’s not the case in this world, even though that’s what it’s supposed to be.
“Is there an internal conflict? No, (but) I think it’s important players realize that you need to do it the right way. People have asked me if this is a good day or a bad day for baseball. I think it’s both, because it’s another black eye for us.
“But I think it’s really good that the combination of the union and Major League Baseball are working together trying to clean this up. And I think they will continue to take steps in doing that.”
[More: Joe Girardi's pregame press conference]
Rodriguez underwent offseason hip surgery after a brutal 3-for-25 postseason performance against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers that will mostly be remembered for him getting benched and getting caught flirting with women by the dugout at Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez finally returned to the Yankees on Monday night after using his rehab assignment in the minors to float conspiracy theories about the iconic franchise trying to escape the roughly $100 million left on his megadeal.
“If I’m productive, I think they want me back,” Rodriguez said. “I think I feel tremendous support from our clubhouse. I feel great support from my manager. I think overall we all have the same goal. New York’s about winning championships and it’s about producing and hopefully I have an opportunity to do that and help us all reach our goal.”
Stay tuned for the next episode in A-Rod’s reality show.