It was rather notable to see the reports — emanating from the entertainment press, not the sporting press — about Alex Rodriguez and the allegedly high-stakes, cocaine-and-Tobey-McGuire-fueled poker games. Kind of salacious and, because most people like talking about A-Rod, kind of fun. But let’s be clear about something: the reports that Major League Baseball is looking into this and could dole out some discipline in A-Rod’s direction are kind of silly.
Oh, I have no doubt that someone at Major League Baseball is saying that they’re really concerned and may do something, but that’s a p.r. thing. Because our society is wired in the puritanical way that it is, they can’t just blow off reports of one of their players being in the same room as drugs, gambling and wicked women. I mean, this isn’t like players driving drunk or beating their wives which are apparently easy things for MLB to ignore.
So someone tells a reporter that baseball thinks it’s serious. A short meeting — complete with photographers to catch A-Rod entering the building in a penitent posture — is held. Some leak occurs in which A-Rod is described as being on double secret probabtion or something and the matter is considered closed.
And there really is no other option. Unless MLB has stopped testing for cocaine, there is no basis for it to say that A-Rod was taking drugs. Unless the cops came in, busted the card game and arrested everyone, there is no proof that A-Rod was involved in anything illegal. Unless A-Rod ran out of chips one night and, in order to call Tobey McGuire’s bluff, he threw a paper with “I.O.U. the outcome of five Yankees baseball games” on it, he did not break any rules of Major League Baseball.
This is all about baseball still possessing some vestigial concern that its ballplayers come off as heroic and clean cut young men, as if the last 50 years of American society and cultural evolution never happened. It’s actually kind of cute and endearing in some weird way.
But it’s not going anywhere. A-Rod is a big boy. If he wants to play cards, he’s gonna play cards. And if Bud Selig truly wants to punish him for it, he’s going to get into a fight with the union he doesn’t want.
And really, deep down, isn’t the image of A-Rod playing high stakes poker with movie stars cooler than most of the other off-the-field glimpses we get of the guy? Kind of manly! What a bad boy! Really, Bud, let this one ride. It’s better for everyone.