On July 30, 2010, Alex Rodriguez arrived at the Yankees’ hotel in St. Petersburg for a series against the Tampa Bay Rays stuck in a slow slog toward his 600th career home run. Rodriguez had hit just two home runs in his previous 74 at-bats. His slugging percentage for the year sat at .488, the worst of his 15 seasons since he had became a major league regular. He had just turned 35 years old three days earlier. He was slowing down and gaining a few pounds. He was declining, as players do at that age. And his ego couldn’t accept it.
And that day Alex Rodriguez met Tony Bosch.
Bosch met Rodriguez in his hotel room, according to the timeline Rodriguez spelled out to federal prosecutors last January and first reported by The Miami Herald. The meeting with the feds in which Rodriguez sang rather than face prosecution was captured in a 15-page synopsis that was reviewed by the newspaper. Also with Rodriguez and Bosch at the 2010 hotel room meeting were Rodriguez’s cousin and go-fer, Yuri Sucart, and Jorge Velazquez, described by the Herald as one of Bosch’s steroid suppliers.
Bosch made his pitch. He told Rodriguez he had treated “hundreds” of baseball players. His star client was Manny Ramirez, who slugged .601 at age 36 but, Bosch said, flunked a drug test in 2009 only because he didn’t follow Bosch’s detailed protocols about what drugs to take and how much and when to use them. He told Rodriguez he would help him lose weight and play better.
Two weeks later, Rodriguez made his decision. He told Sucart to tell Bosch he was ready to get started on the phony doctor’s “program.” What happened next was predictable, and what had happened all the other many times Rodriguez turned to performance-enhancing drugs rather than his own skills: Rodriguez began to play better. Much better.
Two weeks after the July 30 meeting is Aug. 12. Take a look at how Rodriguez hit that year through Aug. 12 and after Aug. 12:
Through Aug. 12
After Aug. 12
Rodriguez and his career are beyond belief.
Here’s Rodriguez on Jan. 11, 2014: “I have been clear that I did not use performance-enhancing substances…and in order to prove it, I will take this fight to federal court.”
Here’s Rodriguez 18 days later to the feds: To paraphrase, I’ve been taking steroids for three years. What baseball and its investigators said about me is true.
Remember this pattern of deception when Rodriguez shows up in Tampa for spring training with the Yankees, if not some hand-picked interview before then. You could write the stories right now. He will talk about how his year away from baseball did him good -- refreshed his mind and body. He will talk about being in the best shape of his life. He will talk about being a great teammate and leader. He will talk about all the hard work he did while thrown out of baseball for a year. He will talk about how good his swing feels. He will talk about how excited he is to be back, and how being out of the game only enhanced his love for the game. He will talk about how the only thing that matters to him is helping the Yankees win.
Believe one word of it at your own peril.
Rodriguez has used PEDs or been connected to them in at least eight of the 13 years in the prime of his career: 2001, '02 and '03 when he admitted using steroids with the Rangers; 2007, when he used testosterone with a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE); 2008, when he used a testosterone jump-starter, clomiphene citrate, with a TUE; 2009, when he was treated by Anthony Galea, the Canadian doctor arrested for bringing HGH into the U.S.; and 2010, '11 and '12, when he turned to Bosch’s staggering array of banned creams, lotions, lozenges and injections that were to be used morning, noon and night.
That Rodriguez would put what little shred of honor was left to his career in the hands of Bosch and his strip-mall medicine show hints at his mental and physical need for PEDs. At one point, according to the Herald story, Bosch told Rodriguez he could pass MLB’s drug tests by providing samples only with “mid-stream urine,” rather than the urine at the beginning or end of his stream.
“It’s nonsense,” said Dr. Gary Wadler, an international expert on drug testing and PEDs. “Only with something like a urinary tract infection would a mid-stream sample have any meaning. It has absolutely no bearing on drug testing.”
Rather than any hocus-pocus in a mid-stream sample, what Bosch was doing with his clients to evade tests was managing their testosterone levels with low levels of the drug and in fast-acting forms. In fact, several of Bosch’s other clients did test positive, including Ramirez, Melky Cabrera and Ryan Braun. But baseball has since tightened those loopholes with more sophisticated tests in the past two years.
“The stat guys don’t want to face it,” said one major league executive, “but the undeniable truth is that steroids and PEDs work, and this [latest Rodriguez story] is just one more example. And it’s not the same for all players. But it’s the richest guys who can afford the best stuff, and get the best results.”
Rodriguez’s career is defined by the intersection of drugs, money and insecurity. He even tried to cover his steroid-tainted tracks with money. He bought Sucart a house in Miami and an SUV and forked over $900,000 to him to try to buy his silence, first reported earlier this week by the New York Daily News. When the Miami New Times first broke the Biogenesis story, Rodriguez handed Bosch $25,000 for a down payment for Bosch’s attorney. He also paid the steroid bills for 20 of Bosch’s clients after the clinic shut down and before the New Times story hit. He hired expensive lawyers to sue Major League Baseball and the players association.
But on Jan. 29, in a conference room of a Drug Enforcement Agency office in Weston, Fla., Rodriguez’s millions were no good. In that room it was only him and the feds – and, for a rare time in his life, the truth.