NEW YORK – Journalist Selena Roberts makes the case that Alex Rodriguez likely used steroids in high school and may have taken HGH while with the Yankees in her new biography of the MVP, a portrait of a deeply insecure man trying to cope with being abandoned by his father and obsessed with becoming a superstar.
The release of "A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez" has been moved up to Monday because details of Rodriguez' possible drug use as a teenager and as a Yankee leaked out over the past week. Rodriguez has refused comment, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi questioned Sunday why the book was even written.
In the book, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, Roberts traces much of the slugger's behavior to his father's decision to separate from the family when Alex was 10.
"I think like any child, you never want to be abandoned again. In order to sort of keep people near him, people close, please people, I think he always felt that he had to be better than good," Roberts said in a telephone interview Sunday.
"I think in some ways he felt he had to be, you know, not just a great story, but a tall tale, something that was too good to be true in so many ways."
For her, a key insight into A-Rod's character comes with what some might call a fib: He tells people he hit with wood bats in high school because that's what the pros use, even though she found photo evidence he used metal.
The pattern of embellishment and outright deceit continues through his admitted used of steroids in the major leagues, Roberts contends.
Following Roberts' article on SI.com in February that said Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003 as part of baseball's anonymous survey, Rodriguez admitted using drugs from 2001-03 while with Texas. Roberts concludes he likely had to have used steroids while in high school, before Seattle selected him with the top pick in the 1993 amateur draft.
"I've talked to players who say he was using in high school, but if you want to discard that, you look at the physical evidence," she told the AP. "You look at a player who by his own coach's account was unrecognizable his junior year because his body had changed so much. Scouts didn't recognize him. In his sophomore year he could barely bench press 100 pounds. By his junior year, he was bench pressing 300 pounds."
She writes that after Rodriguez joined the Yankees, "a player told me he had witnessed a strange scene: (Kevin) Brown and Alex had ampoules of HGH in their possession at Yankee Stadium." Brown denied that account through his lawyer.
Major League Baseball has interviewed Dodd Romero, Rodriguez's former trainer, as part of its follow up effort to check the veracity of statements Rodriguez made to the sport's investigators in March, a baseball official said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the disclosure wasn't authorized.
Baseball also hopes to interview Yuri Sucart, the official said. Sucart has been identified as the cousin who provided Rodriguez with steroids obtained in the Dominican Republic.
But more interesting than the drug accusations is the psychological portrait of a needy Rodriguez desperately trying to create a lovable image yet wrecking it by running around with strippers, going to a "swingers' club" and to illegal poker venues. Roberts called it "a battle he is waging" that's made him a staple of the gossip pages.
"He went through a phase where, I think, and maybe he's still going through the phase, I don't know, where he really I think felt as if he had transcended baseball and reached a different level with the public, on a higher celebrity level, than he was as a ballplayer," she said.
That celebrity only has increased in the past two years as he got interested in Kaballah, became friends with Madonna and divorced his wife Cynthia. While most Yankees who live in Manhattan take apartments on the East Side, convenient for traveling to the ballpark, Rodriguez has rented a $30,000-a-month apartment two blocks from Madonna's Manhattan residence on the West Side.
"I think it is a mystery in so many ways but I think what is not a mystery and what is in fact true from the teammates I've talked to and from the people around him is that he was infatuated with her," Roberts said. "I think a lot of people want to write it off as publicity and dismiss it easily as something that was manufactured, but you have to remember that real people did get hurt. There was divorce that was filed afterwards. There were a lot of changes in his life that were, you know, not about a publicity stunt."
For much of his career, Rodriguez has shown what Roberts says is "a well-honed, very orchestrated personality. ... years in the making of trying to create a persona that would mesh well with the corporate world." At the same time, she writes "the abandoned boy within Alex Rodriguez made him particularly gullible to the influence of successful, authoritative men, so it was easy for (agent) Scott Boras to manipulate him like a sock puppet."
Roberts said she remains hopeful for Rodriguez, who likely will rejoin the Yankees within a week following his recovery from hip surgery.
"I do think there's a very good Alex in there," said Roberts, who spent six months reporting and writing the book. "I think the good Alex has a very good shot at winning. I think the good Alex is there for all of us to see for the next nine years. ... No matter what stage he seems to go through, what sort of incarnation he seems to go through, I think that he is at heart a pretty tenderhearted person."