Nobody came away looking good from last night’s 60 Minutes story on the Alex Rodriguez doping scandal. A-Rod declined to be interviewed and was portrayed as a vengeful weasel who is afraid of needles. His lawyer, Joe Tacopina, with his “I’m-in-disbelief” routine about the allegations against Rodriguez came across as less than convincing. MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred had to be prodded to speak frankly about buying evidence from “Bobby” in South Florida. MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s puffed-up estimation of A-Rod’s villainy only supported the notion that he is on a witch hunt. And Scott Pelley and CBS generally played the part of baseball’s Pollyanna.
Photograph by Miami-Dade Police Department via Getty ImagesThe most sympathetic character was Anthony Bosch, the pill-popping fake Miami doctor who says he managed Rodriguez’s performance enhancing drug schedule, a claim he denied until he became a witness for the league. Bosch says he was paid $12,000 a month to help Rodriguez cheat and personally injected him with steroids. After reading New York magazine’s A-Rod cover story in December, it was hard to believe that Rodriguez would entrust his body and his professional reputation to Bosch and the “roster of hustlers out of an Elmore Leonard novel” who surrounded him. But last night, Bosch came away seeming like more of a pharmacological mastermind than a South Florida lowlife.
In his own telling, Bosch had cracked Major League Baseball’s drug testing regime and could provide immediate, dramatic, and untraceable boosts to performance on demand. His chief advertisement, and the one that drew A-Rod, he says, was Manny Ramirez, who came to Bosch when he was 35 and saw his home run total nearly double between 2007 and 2008. Bosch would give A-Rod a testosterone lozenge to take at a precise moment before a game and-—ta-da—-Rodriguez would go out and smack a wall-ball double and have clean urine by the time the game was over.
Bosch, in this version of events, is like George Hotz, the teenage hacker who bested Apple and Sony and was eventually hired by Facebook. This would explain why A-Rod would turned to Bosch and why baseball would go after him so forcefully. It would also give the league a powerful cudgel in demanding a more expansive testing regime and stiffer penalties in its Joint Drug Agreement with players. And, as 60 Minutes points, it would help cement Selig’s legacy as tough on drug cheats.
But this leaves MLB with a problem. If you believe Bosch, then it’s hard not to believe that baseball is helpless to stop performance enhancers. A-Rod never failed a drug test. They caught him because a jilted Bosch associate went to the Miami New Times. That is not a reliable method. Yes, the league knows Bosch’s tricks now, but by the time they have adjusted the JDA, won’t there be another Bosch turning aging sluggers into timeless hitting machines? Hyping the evil of drug cheats, it turns out, is a short-term boost that does lasting damage.