ESPN New York writers speculate that A-Rod took PEDs last year

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Over at ESPN New York Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand talk about Alex Rodriguez‘s rebound 2015 and the fact that he was not involved in any controversies or snafus in the past year. And, of course, rather than merely note it and note how that is different than the past, they decide to be cynical and skeptical about it and ask whether or not Alex Rodriguez is “truly a changed man.”

Not just from a P.R. perspective, mind you. They seem to each suspect, on some level, that A-Rod is still using performance enhancing drugs. Here’s Marchand:

The other thing that can’t be ruled out is how the heck did he do it last year? I mean, two hip surgeries, his 40th birthday and basically two years of inactivity and A-Rod was great for three-quarters of the season. My mom taught me a long time ago, if it is too good to be true, it usually is. That said, maybe A-Rod was doing things on the up and up — but at this point, it would be naive not to at least wonder if he still had some extra help.

Here’s Matthews:

Unfortunately, baseball and all professional sports have made this dirty bed for themselves and it’s not only naive, but irresponsible for us as journalists not to suspect hanky-panky when an athlete of an advanced age does something it seems unlikely he would be able to do. I’ll give Alex the benefit of the doubt on 2015, but would be very surprised if he were able to remain healthy all season and produce like that again in 2016.

A-Rod has a drug history, obviously, and if he were to be caught using again it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing ever. But at the same time this sort of exercise is pretty distasteful. And it is undeniably ignorant and cynical.

Who cares if A-Rod is “truly a changed man?” Even if we do care, who can really know? As I said yesterday, we never can really know these guys so personally so as to say whether they truly are bad dudes or good dudes. We can only see what they do, we only see very little of what they do and we can only talk intelligently about what is public and what is known. If A-Rod is caught with a U-Haul full of HGH next week, fire away. Unless or until that happens, what are we really doing here other than laying the groundwork for a big “I TOLD YOU SO!” later? Or rehashing some old stories about the guy in order to cast some new aspersions? “Put up or shut up” is a cliche, but it’s a pretty damn useful one, especially when it comes to a person with whom the press has a decidedly arm’s-length relationship and about whose life they really don’t and can’t know.

More broadly, was A-Rod Satan incarnate as a result of what we knew he was doing before? No. Are other players who are not publicly revealed to have been involved in controversy Archangels? Certainly not all of them. We think we know these guys because they play sports on our TVs a couple hours a night and talk to the press for five minutes, but we don’t. We don’t know these guys and certainly don’t know everything about them. The same can be said of any and all public persons, from Alex Rodriguez to Pope Francis to Bill Cosby to everyone in between. In almost no cases is one’s public-facing persona who they “truly” are.

But still we judge. Or at least the Matthews and Marchands of the world do. It’s a negative feedback loop fueled by heavy helpings of ignorance, predispositions and myopia. It’s a process fueled by the belief that a person’s athletic exploits say something critical and important about their character. It’s a process fueled by the belief that an athlete’s good deeds or transgressions are bellwethers of their character, which is not at all the case unless those good deeds are not offset by equal transgressions or unless those transgressions are truly vile.

Ultimately, of course, this process is fueled by a belief that if a columnist flaps their lips about these sorts of things with respect to a person who is famous enough, readers will flock to it.

At least they’re right about that last part. Which is why, even though things would be much better if we simply watched sports and commented on what happens and opined on what about these athletes is both relevant and known, there will always be those who try to dig deeper. Who play armchair psychiatrist/psychic an in effort to validate their predispositions or to cast aspersions on those they simply dislike.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.