A-Rod Gets A D-Minus

I spent Tuesday on the ski slopes, so I missed the A-Rod press conference. From the “day after” press coverage and talk radio commentary, it looks like I was not the only one spiraling out of control, changing course and struggling to stay on the straight and narrow that afternoon. Since Tuesday, a few friends outside the PR/crisis communication industry have asked for my thoughts on A-Rod’s performance. How did he do? Did he win some votes in the court of public opinion? Was he believable? Was he credible? How could he have done better? Should he just shut up and play?

Here’s my assessment: he is looking better than Roger Clemens , Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but not by much. The fact that he came forward and admitted steroid use was an adequate and necessary step in repairing his tarnished image. After all, steroids are just one of his several transgressions – you cannot forget his messy and public divorce and his off-field antics with women of ahem “questionable character” during the past year. He has a long road to travel and sorry A-Rod, nobody but you seems ready to “turn the corner” as quickly as you’d like. Even the staunchest Yankees fans out there (and I know and have talked to a few in the past 48 hours) are sickened by your off-field performance and you are not out of the proverbial woods yet.
So how did he do from a media and public relations perspective? There are two aspects of his “performance” that need to be judged: one, was he believable and credible in his body language, his eyes, heart and mind and was he able to provide timely and logical answers? Two, was the storyline itself believable and consistent with his previous revelations? Did he really tell all? Was it really only 2001-003? Highly doubtful. Not when you look at how his body morphed and his power numbers jumped since ’03. On the other hand could he have satisfied all of his key stakeholders – blood thirsty media, fans, teammates, opponents – with what he revealed? Same answer.

By reading from prepared notes, A-Rod, naturally, came across as scripted, heartless and plastic. But that is A-Rod. If this apology and explanation of his actions is not in his head, it is not in his heart. He should have been much better rehearsed and his opening line about being nervous? Again, if he was being completely truthful there is no need to be a “a lot nervous.”

He also came across both arrogant and unsure of himself – if this is possible. He was as uncomfortable in front of the camera’s glare as he has been at the plate with runners on base in a key post-season game. When it matters most and the pressure is greatest, he continues to fail to deliver.

Other related thoughts and questions:

I was sure he was not coming completely clean during his interview with Peter Gammons from ten days ago and shame on Peter (whom I have always had immense respect for as a journalist, but now have lost a bit) for going easy on A-Rod.

I doubt the credibility of the neck injury. This was not a legitimate reason for taking banned substances – it came much later in his career timeline and it did not even cause him to miss much time. The Texas heat? Another lame excuse. Lots of guys played there and played it clean. Young and naïve? Sorry, at 27 you have to know better.

I am stating the obvious by noting you get one chance to apologize and reveal your sins. A-Rod better hope that more skeletons do not emerge from the closet in the coming months.

How about this for a better answer: “I was wrong. I messed up. I wanted to compete at the highest levels every day. I saw my former Texas teammates (without naming them) and opposing pitchers cheating and I thought I needed to do the same to level the playing field. But I have no one to blame but myself. For that I am very sorry. It will never happen again and I’m sorry to have disgraced this great game of baseball. I accept any penalty, scorn or ridicule that awaits me this year.

How’s this for creating a lasting positive image which could have helped his legacy? He should have offered a years’ salary to the Taylor Hooten Foundation which aims to end steroid abuse by teens.

That might have quieted some critics and allowed him to focus on the only thing he really does well: Play Ball!

— Posted by Tim Hurley

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3 Responses to “A-Rod Gets A D-Minus”


  1. 1 bradtroyphotography February 20, 2009 at 2:17 am

    I think Alex Rodriguez has done well in trying to own up to his faults during this whole situation. He’s done far more than Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, etc. I am struggling with A-Rod’s inability to just spill his guts completely. He started with a little. Then a little more, but a wasn’t quite consistent. By the time all is said and done, he’ll have a huge hole dug to hang out in. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of situation. But I don’t feel sorry for any of them.

  2. 2 Steve Rankel February 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Tim,

    I appreciated your assessment of A-Rod’s “performance” on air.

    Somehow people think that ‘spinning’ things in a positive way will help – I have found that it only hurts.

    It’s too bad A-Rod didn’t just belly up to the bar, take his medicine, and apologize sincerely. Imagine how surprised (and appreciative) everyone would have been, especially given the squirrely behavior we’ve come to expect when people are confronted with their wrongs?

    I have a disaster story to share, that turned out better than A-Rod’s…

    I led sales & marketing in the turnaround of a local tech firm. One morning, by accident, someone came in and launched our system, which dialed 2,000 households in Cincinnati with a message from a local DJ.

    At 5:30am.

    Ouch.

    When I got in at 8:30am, the client was calling – absolutely ripped.

    They tore into me.

    Here’s the blow-by-blow on how we responded:
    – I gathered everyone involved + higher ups in a conference room.
    – We called the client together.
    – They yelled, called us boneheads, etc.
    – I agreed, and took the heat for the team.
    – They were surprised, and lost some steam. (people want to be heard, and validated)
    – I then took us out to the woodshed, in front of the client. Not individuals, but the company. (greeted by more surprise)
    – I told them what we were going to do to fix it.
    – I told them I’d call with an update EVERY hour.
    – After the 3rd or 4th call they said ‘It’s OK – you don’t have to call us every hour – just update us daily.’
    – We did what we promised
    – They became our biggest, happy customer
    – They bought our company

    Not all disaster stories need to be disasters. People really apperciate honesty.

    I look forward to the day where we have a player with character stand up and say “I blew it, I’m sorry, I’m ready to take my lumps, here’s what I’ll do to make up for it.”

    Then someone will become a REAL baseball hero.

  3. 3 andrewsoucy February 25, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Agree with the post Tim, and, while many have disagreed with me, feel as though Gammons was throwing A-Roid some real softball questions (pardon the pun).

    The worst part is that, though it is A-Rod’s mistake, and his alone, players across the league are forced to deal with it – fielding questions on the situation of a single, high profile athlete. I’m sure some utility back up for a small market minor league team really enjoys coming in to spring training and having to talk about the Yankees.


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