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Books | Sports

June 29, 2009

Putting A-Rod on the Couch

Sports Illustrated's Selena Roberts gets inside the head of the troubled Yankees star, and responds to critics of her controversial, steroids-inflected biography.

Dan Adler

Alex Rodriguez cheated on baseball. He took performance-enhancing drugs for at least three years, from 2001 to 2003, while a member of the Texas Rangers. Baseball's last hope for redemption, a clean superstar destined to wipe the asterisk from the home run record, was dashed.

But you know that. Selena Roberts knows you know—after all, she was the one who told you, breaking the story for Sports Illustrated in February with her colleague David Epstein. And she knows that the mere fact of Rodriguez's guilt is insufficient; it threatens to minimize his story, to simply slot him in between Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa as yet another thoroughly unsurprising revelation that baseball has gone rotten.

Selena Roberts. Photo by L.E. Price.
"The point of the story originally was just to say who Alex Rodriguez was. And then the steroids stuff added another layer to what was a complicated and compelling figure."

Selena Roberts. Photo by L.E. Price.

Accordingly, Roberts's magnum opus, A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, does not harp on how, when, or whom—but why. Roberts tells us that Rodriguez's road to 'roids began at age 10 when his father abandoned him, setting Rodriguez up for a lifetime of always trying to please, to overachieve, so as to never be abandoned again. Being a once-in-a-generation talent was not enough; Rodriguez had to be better than that. Roberts reveals Rodriguez as alternately tortured and terrible: driven by his desire for acceptance to gush to the media about sleepovers with Derek Jeter, keeping a life coach on speed dial to cope with the pressure, and eschewing the "good boy" act to cavort his way onto the back pages with some help from Madonna. We see Rodriguez as preening, immature, and insecure—ultimately, the kind of athlete who would seek chemical solace. Along the way, Roberts comes to three new conclusions: that Rodriguez was doping in high school in Miami, that he was pitch-tipping during his time with the Rangers, and that he was still on drugs during his time with the Yankees.

Befitting such a complex subject, the circumstances surrounding A-Rod have assumed a life of their own, with Roberts herself cast in the central role. Roberts has attracted a healthy number of detractors, including former colleagues, peers in the media, the blogosphere, and Rodriguez himself, and the criticisms range from overuse of anonymous sources to the absence of statistical validation. Through the firestorm, Roberts defends her reporting, and worries the focus on her is allowing Rodriguez to avoid more hard questions.

In this interview, which was conducted by phone and edited for length and clarity, Roberts discusses her goals in writing the book, defends her newest conclusions, and responds to her critics.

Gelf Magazine: What was your goal in writing the book? What does it achieve that your reporting for Sports Illustrated did not?

Selena Roberts: From the outset, for Sports Illustrated, we set out to write a profile about Alex based on several different factors. He was coming off the winter [of 2007], when he re-signed with the Yankees under a lot of controversy. He certainly had a bit of a jackknife in his life at that point. He was going from being the family man to being more like Madonna's man. Almost overnight, he became this tabloid staple of the gossip pages. And in parallel to that, the Yankees were going nowhere. So there was a lot of stuff going on with Alex, and we just set out to find out who the real Alex was now. He had changed so much and so dramatically in a year. That was the point of the story.
The more we talked to people, the more we heard about the steroids stuff. That came after I had agreed to do a book on Alex based on just profile material, a bit of a father/son tale about Alex and his dad and how complicated that relationship was, and then afterward we were able to nail down the steroids information we had started to receive. We were able to verify that he'd failed a test in 2003. The point of the story originally was just to say who Alex Rodriguez was. And then the steroids stuff added another layer to what was a complicated and compelling figure.

Gelf Magazine: Indeed, while steroids are the clear subtext of your book, A-Rod might be best described as an extensive portrait of the ballplayer, one that paints him as an insecure, vain, and puerile superstar. It sounds like the book was in motion before you learned of the steroids connection, but once you had that information, why continue to write the broader profile, rather than focus more explicitly on A-Rod's drug use?

Selena Roberts: Because he's more than just drug use. When you write a book you want to write the whole story and the bigger picture of somebody, not just a tale of steroids use. And given the material that I already had, I could really write a full arc of "why." Why would somebody who was such a great talent, why would someone who had so much and who was on such a high pedestal get involved with steroids? What role did his insecurities and the issues he has always dealt with as a player in the spotlight play? I think it would have been unfair and pretty diminishing to say this guy is just steroids. He's so much more than that.
It's not an unsympathetic tale of him in some parts. There are a lot of parts that are not sympathetic, but by getting at the root of the insecurities, by getting at the root of what he grew up with in childhood and certainly everyone who was ready to pounce on him as the next golden child, that creates a situation where people can say, "I understand. I may not agree with what happened, but I see how it happened."

Gelf Magazine: How much do you think Alex's insecurity directly fueled the drug use?

Selena Roberts: In Alex's case, the insecurity was from this early moment when his father left him, and he never wanted anyone to leave him again. He never wanted to feel that kind of pain again. So he wanted to please. And I think that that pleasing mentality grew out of control, in a way. He wanted to be too good to be true, because the better he got, the more attention he got, and I think that goes dovetailing into the steroids era. That was all about being outsize; that was all about the surreal; that was all about exaggeration. And that played right into those issues that Alex had from early childhood. So I think in his case, it was certainly something that can be rooted in that moment with his father.

Gelf Magazine: Does that motivation make Alex unique among steroids users?

Selena Roberts: I wouldn't know. We have so little information as to why guys do it, because very few guys have ever talked about it. You talk about Ken Caminiti, certainly Jose Canseco, some of those guys have just said it was a reward situation—the bigger your stats, the better the reward. I think in Alex's case it was more complicated than that, but I can't say that he's alone, because we have so little information about why these guys do what they do.

Gelf Magazine: Beyond the main story you broke in February, that Alex had tested positive for steroids in 2003, there were three new revelations in A-Rod: That Alex was taking steroids in high school, that he was pitch-tipping when he was with the Rangers, and that he was still doping beyond his time in Texas. To start with the first, how much evidence is there that Alex was taking steroids during high school?

Selena Roberts: What we have in the steroids era when we don't have testing is physical evidence: You have body change, and you have strength change. You have dramatic differences in Alex's case; he went from a 100-pound bench press as a sophomore to 300 pounds as a junior, and that was within six to eight months. That's pretty dramatic improvement. It's dramatic enough that when I went to someone—Fernando Montes—who had worked with Alex, who had worked with high-school students and college students, and asked him straight up, "What could cause that? Is that puberty, or is that something else?" he said, no, you cannot get that from puberty. That's a strength change so dramatic that you couldn't do it without steroids.
Those are the kind of people I went to, experts who dealt with kids in high school, and who dealt with Alex's own body, who knew his own body well. I went to those people and reported the information. He went from a 100-pound bench press to 300 pounds; to me, that's pretty dramatic evidence of steroids use, but you can see it as you want to see it.
His own high-school coach, Rich Hofman, said that when Alex was a junior, scouts didn't recognize him because his body had changed so much. And it's more than just a bench press. It's also the entire scope of what was going on with him in high school: how his batting average dramatically changed from sophomore to junior year, and how his power stats dramatically changed from sophomore to junior year.

Gelf Magazine: A recent New York Times article analyzing Alex's alleged pitch-tipping concluded that if he was pitch-tipping, he was doing so very ineffectively. They have since run a correction, but regarding the headline, which was too strong; the overall conclusion is largely the same. Does that dent the pitch-tipping theory? And did the Times handle this poorly?

Selena Roberts: The Times reporter never called me to get the underlying assumptions, so I don't know where he was able to draw his information from. And then he made conclusions on the mindset of a team that he never talked to. So to me, that was pretty poor reporting on their part. I don't know whatever evidence he was using to run what was a square stat into a round hole. His conclusions had nothing to do with the book. So, again, they did correct their headline, I talked to them subsequently, and they did agree that, yes, the reporter should have called me.
That aside, when you look at the information in the book, and also, if you look at the reporting that's been done afterward, [there is a lot of evidence]. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has written a story about the likelihood of the pitch-tipping that was going on. They quoted a player talking about the dramatic use of signs that he would use out there, that were indicating to the other team exactly what pitch was going to happen. So some reporting has backed up the reporting in the book, and the reporting in the book was pretty simple. I talked to a variety of Rangers players and personnel, people who saw Alex on a daily basis over his three-year stint. They saw very curious—and what they would say was irrefutable—evidence of pitch-tipping. They would see him, in games that were blowouts, start tipping the pitches ahead of the pitcher's windup, and that's very critical. A lot of shortstops indicate what's coming to the defense during the windup so everyone knows what's coming. During the windup a batter can't see you; during the windup the batter has no idea what the shortstop is doing, because he's focused on the pitch and the release point. But Alex started doing this before the pitch, before the windup. That was a key indicator, and the Rangers realized to whom he was tipping pitches. He was doing it to friends of his, and to other middle infielders who could be involved in the quid pro quo. And they witnessed this over a period of time.
I'm convinced because I checked these guys out over and over again. I went back to them and made sure their stories were consistent. They were indicating the same kind of signals that were going on. When he would screw around with his glove, it was a changeup. They were all consistent with each other, and I interviewed them separately. They gave information that was credible, that was accurate, and that I could verify. I put them through the litmus test that I would put anyone through. So that's the reporting that I use in the book.

Gelf Magazine: Was it disappointing, how the Times handled the situation?

Selena Roberts: It's not disappointing, but you're always a bit curious as to why a reporter who is writing about a book doesn't call you, especially if he's trying to find out what the underlying assumptions for the statistics are. But that's the way they decided to handle it, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Gelf Magazine: And coming to the third of the three big issues in the book, how much evidence is there that Alex used steroids beyond his three years with the Rangers?

Selena Roberts: The physical markers, that's what we have. We don't have a test for human growth hormone, so all you have is physical markers. I talked to Yankees who knew Alex well, and they saw the physical markers. They saw the gynecomastia, which is translated in layman's terms as man-boobs or bitch tits. They saw water gain in his face; his face would be round at times. They saw physical markers that are consistent with use of HGH and a low dose of steroids. That's what they believe, and that's what I reported. One of the issues that came up with players over and over again is that once the drug testing started, you saw a lot of bodies shrinking in MLB. And in 2005 Alex, it's well documented, came back 15 pounds heavier, in one offseason—15 pounds of muscle that he added in an offseason. Again, those are the physical markers you look at in the steroids era. That's what you have in front of you, and that's what you have to go by.

Gelf Magazine: So regarding both the steroids use in high school and with the Yankees, are you confident that physical markers are a strong enough indication of steroids use?

Selena Roberts: Yes—that's what you have. You have the evidence that is put forward. With Barry Bonds, for years, the physical markers were talked about over and over again. That was before there was any sort of testing information to go to. That's an issue that is too bad in so many ways, because you're looking for physical evidence on players because you don't have a testing program that was there and that's been reliable enough to catch guys. Maybe there's a bit of a turning point in Major League Baseball with the Manny Ramirez case, because that wasn't really a positive drug test. They went back into the files and found that he was on a fertility drug. Maybe there's been a turning point as far as shaking up a few guys who believed that you had to test positive to be caught. Maybe all you have to do is have some suspicion in your sample to get caught. I think that is a pretty dramatic change in how baseball is being proactive about testing.

Gelf Magazine: Leaving the content of the book, one of the most fascinating elements of the A-Rod story is how much you have become a featured actor. A-Rod himself has called you out to the press, as you describe in your book, and several of your peers in the media have criticized you. Why has the criticism become so intense, and why have you become such a figure in this story?

Selena Roberts: I don't know. I don't know what the root of it is. [A recent] New York Observer story reported how Alex had a camp of people who wanted to make me the issue and wanted to, in effect, demonize me. I don't know how effective that was; I have no idea of the scope of things. I just know from what I read in the Observer story that it existed. As far as everything else, Alex is a polarizing figure, and I think the response was very polarizing. You mentioned some criticism; I think it's also fair to mention to mention the book has been lauded in some corners, too. There is a reaction when you take on any athlete that has a high profile like Alex. You're going to get a sort of love-hate phenomenon. As far as the criticism goes, I was a columnist at the New York Times for five years; I criticized and scrutinized people on a daily basis. So when it comes back to me, it's OK. I'm OK with answering the questions about it. I'm OK with going through the book, and going through any of the issues that have followed me through my career. Maybe I'm more OK with it than other people are. I don't know. I think it's interesting that there is criticism, but there has also been a lot of support. I think it goes both ways, and I can't whine about it, because that's just life in our fishbowl now.

Gelf Magazine: How difficult has it been to be the target of so much criticism?

Selena Roberts: That's where we are. We are in a situation where whatever you say, whatever you write, whatever you believe, there is going to be a counter to it. And it's going to be strong, and it's going to be, at times, venomous. That's the blogosphere world, where things catch fire and have a life of their own sometimes. That's the media world, where everybody is trying to be very provocative, and so it's easier to say things and write things that are provocative to get attention. With the absence of accountability in the blogosphere, a lot of things are said, when nobody knows who the heck [is saying them]. And there is very little accountability to talk radio at times.
I think those kinds of things certainly are just reflective of where we are in the media. I knew that going in. I certainly got a taste of it right after the A-Rod story broke. It's an irrefutable story, it's something that was accurate and correct, and still there is criticism. Certainly, Alex started it by basically accusing me of three crimes in 30 seconds, that as we know never happened. That is the world we are in. We are in a shoot-first-ask-questions-later kind of mentality. And that certainly has followed this book. But I can tell you that if you look at whoever's writing books these days, and whoever's writing books that take a hard line on something, the reaction is very passionate and sometimes venomous. I think that's where we are.

Gelf Magazine: You are speaking a lot to the blogosphere, but the criticism goes beyond that.

Selena Roberts: It's not just the blogosphere; there's talk radio and columnists, too, who have provocative opinions out there. I think it's all a part of wanting to be heard. There is so much noise out there that to be heard is a difficult thing. The more provocative, the more animus — those kinds of opinions are heard above the others.

"There is criticism, but there has also been a lot of support. I think it goes both ways, and I can't whine about it, because that's just life in our fishbowl now."
Gelf Magazine: To get into some of the more specific criticisms …

Selena Roberts: Are we going to get into what nice things people said? [laughs] I think I have [replied to the criticisms]. I don't think there's one question that I haven't been willing to answer. As far as any of the issues that have come my way, whether it's Duke lacrosse or whether it's an opinion I wrote—someone brought up when I took on the smoking industry when I was covering NASCAR in the early '90s—anything that I've done in my career, I've been open about, even my sexuality. It's been a nice strategy on the part of either Alex or the people who are on that wave to make it about me, because that way, he doesn't have to answer any questions. He doesn't have to answer the question of how did you go from 100 pounds to 300 pounds on your bench press. He doesn't have to answer the question of what were you doing with your signaling when you were with the Texas Rangers. He doesn't have to answer the question of how did you come back 15 pounds heavier in 2005 when everybody else was losing weight after steroids testing. All those kinds of questions that he would have to answer if it were about him have dissipated because it's become about me.

Gelf Magazine: Do you think that that strategy was intentional, and did it work?

Selena Roberts: If you look at that New York Observer story, yes, it was a strategy. Has it worked well? It has become about me. But I'm OK with talking about whatever anybody has questions about. They had weeks to come up with a strategy and the book still did very well, especially the first two or three weeks it was out. So I think whether it was effective or not is probably unanswerable at this point.

Gelf Magazine: To finish talking about the criticisms, I wanted your views on two of your more prominent detractors, and their complaints with the book. A common criticism of your book, most notably from your former colleague at the Times, Murray Chass, is that A-Rod makes too much use of anonymous sources, to the point where your work seems less credible. How do your respond to that?

Selena Roberts: Murray and I worked together at the New York Times for the bulk of 10 years. We spent time together, and he never said anything to me about any of this. The only issue that Murray and I ever had was that he thought that I sat in a seat that was for him and he was very upset about that. I didn't know, obviously, that I had sat in his seat. That became a huge issue. He sent me a very long and detailed email that was pretty critical. That, to me, is the only issue I ever had with Murray, is that I sat in the wrong seat at a playoff game once. So I don't know where everything else is coming from.
What I do know, and what is probably very painful for Murray at this point, is that he was the caretaker of baseball for many years. He was in lockstep with the union; he resisted drug testing. Murray was of the belief and the philosophy that it was an invasion of privacy, and I respect Murray's point of view on that. But he also was a great caretaker of a game in which baseball writers have a lot of influence. He saw the steroids era happen, and did nothing about it. I think that maybe there's a reaction here of projecting onto me some of the issues that he had in covering the steroids era. I don't know. That's just a guess on my part.

Gelf Magazine: Do you think the older generation of sportswriters is showing an inability to come to grips with the revelations of the steroids era? And is that leading them to demean your work, and that of others, rather than acknowledging it as the necessary policing of sports?

Selena Roberts: Well, you're reporters first. I think that's very important. I think reporting in journalism shouldn't take a holiday because it's sports. It's very important to report the truth. The fans who want to know that they're watching an authentic product and not pro wrestling have a right to know what they're watching, and what they're paying for. The steroids era really elevated salaries: For the top stars, for the big kahunas who were out there, the salaries went off the charts. And if you look at the salaries that went off the charts, and you line up the bodies that were on steroids, that we know were on steroids now, it's pretty obvious that that curve was a steroids curve, and that the fans are paying for it. The fans ultimately pay for these salaries. So when I hear fans have steroids fatigue, I would ask, well, do they have fatigue every time they reach in their wallet and pay for it? Because that's the way it is.

Gelf Magazine: One of the arguments for dealing with steroids at the federal level echoes what you're saying, that steroids users are effectively guilty of fraud, of cheating a generation of fans who thought they were paying to see pure competition. Is that fair to say? Is this fraud?

Selena Roberts: It is fraud; it is cheating. It is saying to the guy next to you who happens to be clean, "You don't have a chance, unless you're doing this." And I think that's a pretty poor message to send to anybody, that in order to get ahead you have to cheat. We just went through that with Wall Street. We always say sports are a reflection of society. In this case, it's absolutely true. The culture of excess that was in baseball is perfectly reflected in Wall Street. All the people who got upset with Wall Street over how many corners were cut on numbers, how many values were over-inflated, and how many exotic mortgages were cut—it's the same thing that was in baseball. So the people who were angry with Wall Street should be equally angry at baseball, because it happened there, too.

Gelf Magazine: To come back to Mr. Chass's specific allegation, how do you respond to his assertion regarding anonymous sources, that your use of them makes your work less credible?

Selena Roberts: Well, Murray also made use of anonymous sources during his career. What you'll find in the book is that there were more than 60 people on the record who had pretty candid things to say about Alex, including his use of steroids in high school. The issue of the dog-kennel owner is on the record, and his access to Winstrol is on the record. A lot of those issues are on the record. I think, again, it becomes a bit of projection on the part of some people, and I'm not just talking about Murray Chass. If you look at the reporting that was done over the last 10 to 15 years, maybe the people who are questioning my sources should say, "Maybe my sources weren't good enough. How come I didn't come up with the issues that have proven to be true?" It's irrefutable that he took steroids as a Ranger, and that's what we reported. Instead of questioning me, maybe there's a little bit of self-reflection needed here, and questioning themselves.

Gelf Magazine: Did some reporters just not want to know about any of this?

Selena Roberts: It takes talking to people about uncomfortable situations, and that is never easy. I would be the first to say that launching into a discussion with somebody about steroids use and about somebody specifically is very difficult work. It is not the easy thing to do. People a) don't want to talk about it; and b) fear talking about it. I think it's pretty well documented that there are a lot of baseball players who were intimidated by the union when it came to talking about steroids use. What you have here is a situation that creates so much anxiety when you have these discussions. A lot of the time, it's almost easier not to have them, and I think that's what we got into as an industry, for years, when we were watching things happen that were too good to be true. It's about asking those difficult, uncomfortable questions and taking the fact that sometimes, somebody's going to tell you, "Get out of my face." You're human beings. You don't like to have those discussions, but I think those discussions are very important to have.

"When I hear fans have steroids fatigue, I would ask, well, do they have fatigue every time they reach in their wallet and pay for it? Because that's the way it is."
Gelf Magazine: The second criticism I wanted to ask you about is that of Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock, who less criticized A-Rod than you personally, for example, citing your column against the Duke lacrosse players. You responded on Deadspin, saying perhaps his ire was fueled by homophobia. What do you think of Mr. Whitlock's criticism, and do you really think homophobia was involved?

Selena Roberts: I don't think the column was homophobic, but the comments on hardcore feminism and the comments that he made subsequently on radio about me not understanding men, I think those are homophobic comments. I think his column was an attempt to conflate my work on Duke with reportage and information that I had about Alex, disregarding the fact that I had written more than 300 stories in between. He was trying to make a link that doesn't exist. He was trying to make a link that is illogical just on the face of it. To say that disagreeing with my opinions on the Duke case means that you can't believe me on Alex Rodriguez makes no sense whatsoever.

Gelf Magazine: So what you're saying is, instead of taking issue with your book, he was taking issue with you, and that's a lazy criticism?

Selena Roberts: I didn't say it's a lazy criticism, I just think it's an illogical criticism. It doesn't make sense. If you did not agree with me on what I wrote about Duke, what does that have to do with the credibility of a book on Alex Rodriguez? There's a three-year time delay in there. Did he not believe anything I've ever reported in those 300 stories in between? That is the illogical leap he's asking you to make. I think we are in a society where it's easy to make links in our head about certain things and to conflate issues because it's a simple way to look at something. It's to say that if you can link A with B, then A can destroy B. Which is not lazy, but again, it just doesn't make sense.

Gelf Magazine: Coming back to the content of the book, a surprising omission from the book was how you broke the story—how you acquired the information from the 2003 drug tests. How did you find out? And why not tell that story?

Selena Roberts: You have to be very protective of sources who have a lot of repercussions that could fall on them. That's your job as a reporter: to take the bullets for people, and to protect people. So when it comes to information on how [the steroid information] was discovered, and who said what to whom, I couldn't get into that, because, again, when it comes to the steroid era, specifically when it comes to information that the feds have, you're looking at legal repercussions and career repercussions for people. So in that way, I wouldn't be able to get into exactly the tick-tock of how that happened.
But certainly, what we found was that the rumors that we heard had a reality to them. You hear a lot of things about a lot of players over the years, but there's no tangible evidence, nothing that you can go to and say, "Uh-huh, that's what you have." There was no "gotcha" moment when we said, "Oh, now we have it." It was a lot of going back to people, over and over again, and trying to make sure that all the information was accurate, that the information we could verify was verifiable, that everyone was passing the same litmus test, and that everybody was credible. Once we went through all those steps—and it's a pretty tedious process—then we were able to make sure the info we had was accurate. And then even on top of that I decided, and I think it was just the right thing to do, to ask Alex himself, "This is what we have; is there an explanation for it?" And he did not have an explanation for it; he said to go talk to the union. So then we gave him two more days. I handed him my card; I said, "Is there anything you want to talk about regarding this? Give me a call. Here's the card. Here's the number." And he declined. He went to the Bahamas instead. That was how everything broke down at the end. It sounds more dramatic than it is, to be honest.

Gelf Magazine: You have to love the parallels here. Right before he's fingered for steroid use, Alex goes to the Bahamas. Roger Clemens went to Cabo.

Selena Roberts: I think everybody just gets out of town; the idea is, "[Let's] go somewhere where I don't have to think about this." [laughs] Escapism is far easier for people with the wherewithal to do it. It's not so easy for just the regular guy who is worried about his job loss. They have to face everything every day.

Gelf Magazine: I mean, as much as I value my Bahaman retreat …

Selena Roberts: [laughs] I know you have a hut.

Gelf Magazine: Regardless of how you found the information, the leaked tests from '03 were in theory sealed by a court order. Is it fair to Alex and 103 other people that those results could be leaked?

Selena Roberts: If I were [one of those players], that's not the issue of fairness I'd want to take issue with. I would ask, "Why didn't my union destroy the test so there would be no issue? Why did my union, when given days after '03 ended, time to rip those tests up, put them in a bonfire, put them in a shredder—why didn't they do that?" What you have is information that was left on the table for the feds to get a hold of, and reporters who deal with federal issues and federal information all the time. This happened to be a list that the feds had. We were able to verify that Alex was on it, and we were able to verify that, yes, he had tested positive for anabolic steroids. That list was left on the table because the union basically dropped the ball on their end to the players. If I were them, I wouldn't be saying, "It's so unfair a reporter got a hold of this information." I would be asking, "Why was this information available in the first place?"

Gelf Magazine: A recent report on the Sammy Sosa steroids story, which was broken by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, says you stated at the time of the original leak that Schmidt was very close to breaking the story before you. Could you tell how close the Times was to beating you to the punch?

Selena Roberts: I didn't know how close Schmidt was on A-Rod. In a New York Observer story in February, the Times sports editor, Tom Jolly, said they had been looking into it, too. But I wasn't naive—I realized that I couldn't be the only one looking into it.

Gelf Magazine: What did you think of Schmidt's work on the Sosa story? Did it surprise you? Do you think this is a particularly big steroids story, or was this so inevitable that it doesn't mean much?

Selena Roberts: It wasn't a surprise. I think most of the writers who watched his performance at the hearings believed he was carefully crafting his answers so as not to self-incriminate. I don't think there are "big" steroids stories anymore, if you're talking about resonance with the public. A numbing has unfolded. Even Manny's 50-game suspension didn't seem to jar the Dodgers fan base.

Gelf Magazine: Do you expect legal retaliation from A-Rod?

Selena Roberts: It hasn't happened so far. I don't think so. Everything in the book, as much as some people want to criticize it, as much as people want to try to take it on, is accurate. It's what the reporting shows. There are no leaps of faith here; it's what the reporting is. I did not go dumpster-diving on Alex Rodriguez. I did not go into any corners of his life and rummage through his personal issues. I went through everything that was a public record, that's been out there for the public consumption. I think that in the larger scope, given that I kept everything above board, it was pretty fair.

Gelf Magazine: The most recent news has been the book's fall from the bestseller lists. Why do you think the book has not fared well, after its initial success?

Selena Roberts: I don't know if I'm crazy or what, but as an author, you're always happy when you hit the bestseller list. Very few books do that. So I don't have any sort of disappointment. If you're looking at that AP story, they didn't talk to me about any disappointment. They reported some numbers, and the numbers are around 16,000. As an author, as someone who had written a book before, that sounds pretty good to me. I don't have an issue with those numbers. As an author, all I can do is write and report, and then everything else is up to something that I don't have control over. But I would say that I was very humbled and pleased that it went to the best-seller list. I think as any author will tell you, a lot of times, you write books and they go nowhere. I wrote a book and it went nowhere, so I know what that's like. You do the reporting and you have a lot of pride in your work and you want people to read it. But I think that given the circumstances, I've tried to answer every single question, and that's all I can do. That's all the control I have. At the end of the day, what it does sales-wise is something that I have no control over. All I can do is my part. And I think that I've done my part the best I can.

Gelf Magazine: Are you worried that if sales of the book continue to wane, that that will diminish the impact of the reporting?

Selena Roberts: No. Again, I'm not sure what we're defining as success and failure. Success, to me, is writing a book that is reported, that you've done your best work on, and that is something you can be proud of. That, to me, is success. I wrote a book before this, and I understand the numbers games; I understand how some books catch fire and some books fizzle. Some books out there, that I think are incredibly well-reported and good books, have fizzled—have not gotten off the ground. I just think that all you can do is your work on the book, and then everything else just happens as it happens.

Gelf Magazine: So thinking about your success as determined by more than just sales figures, how does this book and breaking the A-Rod steroids story rank against your other journalistic achievements? How proud are you of this story?

Selena Roberts: I'm very proud of the work that Sports Illustrated reporter David Epstein and I did in making sure that we did our due diligence on what was, to a lot of people, very surprising information, that certainly came from a very long and meticulous and dedicated effort to get the truth. And I think that's what we do as journalists—that's all you can do—is pursue the truth the best you can, do it in a way you can be proud of, and then everything else is everything else. You cannot control that. All you can control is the information you put in front of the public, and then the public decides whether or not the information is something that's worthwhile to them or not. I think in this case it certainly was information that the public wanted to consume. They wanted to know more. And they wanted to know how this could have happened, that the greatest player, in many people's eyes, was a product of steroid use. The highest-paid player was someone who cheated on baseball. That is an important story, it's a powerful story, but it's up to the public to decide what legacy that story has.

Gelf Magazine: That segues into my final question. Speaking of legacy, how do you think Alex will be remembered? What is his legacy?

Selena Roberts: I can't say how everybody will remember him, or what his legacy will be, because he's still a work in progress. He still has nine years left of a Yankees deal that will go a long way into finding how he is remembered. But I think it's fair to say that here was an incredible baseball player who had tremendous talent, and would have been an incredible achiever without steroids, but the steroids he decided to take, the path he decided to take, has greatly diminished that underlying value that he had as a baseball player. And I think that's the ultimate tragedy, is that he never needed it. He was already good enough. He never needed to be too good to be true.

Dan Adler

Dan Adler is a freelance writer.

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Article by Dan Adler

Dan Adler is a freelance writer.

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