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Mike Lopresti: Gannett National Sports Writer

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Originally published: February 9, 2009

Rodriguez comes clean, but what of baseball's men in suits?

By MIKE LOPRESTI, Gannett News Service

The Alex Rodriguez Reclamation Project, Part I:

Wear a nice sweater, sit in front of an ESPN camera, freely accept responsibility - without subpoena, without the FBI recording the session, without a hearing on Capitol Hill.

How quaint.

Now we apparently know what $250 million can do. It can make a man desperate to be what the money says he should be.

He will try anything, take anything. He will hope time covers up the tracks.

In the tenor of baseball, circa 2003, it seemed like a good idea. Rodriguez was not alone. Lesser players with far lesser paychecks decided the same thing, by the dozens.

Baseball's steroid age is like a sunken ship, still leaking oil. Still poisoning the water. Every so often we look to find yet more pollution. Another slick. The clean-up will take years and years.

Now we know Rodriguez is one to blame. He is another guilty face in a jersey. But what of the men in suits? What of those in charge when their membership got themselves into this disaster?

Donald Fehr and Gene Orza, the movers and shakers of the Players Association then and now, have never faced the cameras and admitted their own accountability in this wound that will not heal. They remain safely ensconced in the background, while one player after another is led to a day of public relations reckoning, their reputations and legacies on the line.

This week was Alex Rodriguez' turn. But in a scandal like this, don't the men in charge have to answer for ... something, sooner or later?

That a flunked test from 2003 ended up as bold headlines in 2009 is a testament to how this story is too toxic and convoluted to go away. The results were supposed to be destroyed, were supposed to be used as a survey and a green flag to drug testing, when 104 positives came back.

But they weren't destroyed, and ended up in the hands of government investigators. Now the names leak one by one, the biggest fish first. Rodriguez is made a public example, while a hundred of his colleagues are still untainted. So far.

He had a lousy weekend, and there are uncertain days ahead. This stain may affect every path of his life from Madison Avenue to Cooperstown. But Monday was not that bad, as damage control goes.

Rodriguez did the only thing he could do, if he wants to move on as quickly as possible. Sinners come clean in a confessional. Steroid users confess on SportsCenter. He told the truth, asked for forgiveness, and now hopes the healing can start apace.

Maybe it will, maybe not. Forty home runs and 125 RBI this season would greatly help his cause, too.

But this was neither the time to stonewall nor play with semantics. His manner certainly has a better chance of success than so many of the failed tactics used by other baseball stars, when finding themselves neck-deep in bad news.

The Pete Rose System did not work. Deny everything, and hope 4,256 hits are what count in the end.

Nor did the Mark McGwire System. Refuse to talk about the past, and maybe it will go away.

Nor the Barry Bonds System. If you're surly and difficult enough, people might stop asking about BALCO and start asking about 762 home runs.

Nor the Roger Clemens System. Act indignant and injured before Congress, and let the Republicans dump on your accuser.

This does not make Rodriguez innocent. Nor should we forget that the motive he claimed for his steroid dalliance - the hunger to produce and prove his multimillion-dollar worth - is exactly the same motive as any other user could argue.

But there have been very few right turns in this endless fiasco - in baseball front offices, or the union high command, or the clubhouses.

Plain truth is usually the best way out. We ought to at least recognize a correct move, even if it is nearly six years too late.

Contact Mike Lopresti at mlopresti@gns.gannett.com.

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