A-Rod and the Apology

Spring Training for Major League Baseball teams begins this week with the opening ritual of pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective warm-weather training destinations. In baseball world, this week should have been punctuated by the optimism that accompanies a clean slate. Baseball fans everywhere are hoping that this year will be the year their team wins the World Series. However, another baseball story has stolen the headlines from an otherwise blissfully optimistic week. The story is A-Rod.

Alex Rodriguez is one of the most polarizing figures in Major League Baseball today. By most standards, his 20-year career, 654 home runs, and 3 American League MVP’s would ensure that he be enshrined in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. But there is one problem—he was suspended for the entire 2014 season for using performance-enhancing drugs and attempting to obstruct the investigation into his use of PED’s.

Today A-Rod issued an apology to the fans. The perception of that apology is characterized by just a few tweets and headlines. The Associated Press called his apology “vague.”

Local Dallas-Fort Worth sports journalist and former host of the Texas Rangers radio show Bryan Dolgin pondered:

Rodriguez has played for the Mariners, Rangers, and Yankees and has been part of some dramatic moments in postseason baseball. Yet, his apology for using PED’s has apparently fallen flat. The AP described his apology this way: “Alex Rodriguez has issued a handwritten apology ‘for the mistakes that led to my suspension’ but has turned down New York’s offer to use Yankee Stadium for a news conference and has failed to detail any specifics about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.”

Even Rodriguez acknowledged in his apology that some would not believe his sincerity. He stated, “I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me.” Rodriguez will return to the New York Yankees this season and fight for a job at third base or designated hitter. He has three years left on his record-setting contract and stands to make a fortune these last few years. But his once hall-of-fame image has been tarnished—perhaps forever.

What can we learn from A-Rod’s mistakes and apology?

First, we need to admit our mistakes. One of the reasons A-Rod finds himself in the difficult position of being one of the most hated players in baseball is that he lied about his actions. It was bad enough that he used performance-enhancing drugs to elevate his already spectacular game. Plenty of players have done the same through the years. But A-Rod compounded his problem by lying about his actions when faced with the evidence and attempting to obstruct the investigation into his misdeeds.

Scripture gives us some good insight on admitting our faults. In 1 John 1:8–9 we read, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Ultimately, we are responsible to God for our sin. Denying that we sin is simply self-deception. When we confess our sin to God, he forgives us.

Second, our reputations are worth more than we can imagine. A-Rod still has millions left to be paid on his contract. He has made more money than any other baseball player in history. However, he seems to have lost the trust and respect of the fans and his fellow players. No amount of money is worth losing a good name.

Solomon knew the value of both wealth and a reputation. He writes, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold” (Prov 22:1). We often sacrifice our reputations for the perceived value of success, but it is not worth it. You can always find another way to earn a living or sign another contract, but it is almost impossible to rebuild a reputation that has self-destructed.

As Christians, how should we respond to this apology? Despite the headline that the Associated Press offered, I believe we should take his apology sincerely. His future actions will determine how sincere he was, but it is not our place to judge his heart. I may not cheer for A-Rod and his Yankees (a.k.a., the Evil Empire), but it has nothing to do with his apology. We need not pile on more pain and disgust when he appears to be trying to do the right thing.

Rodriguez will go down as one of the most talented baseball players of this generation, but his tarnished legacy will serve as a reminder to us that we can lose it all when we set our sights on success at all costs.

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Ronald Blum, “A-Rod makes vague apology, turns down news conference,” The Associated Press, February 17, 2015.

Alex Rodriguez Statement Text,” The Associated Press, February 17, 2015.

*Image Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

Money or Moniker: The Ryan Braun Scandal

Image Credit: Steve Paluch on Flickr

The sports world was in an uproar last week over the Ryan Braun scandal and his 65-game suspension from Major League Baseball. For those less invested in the MLB than myself, Braun plays left field for the Milwaukee Brewers and was the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player. In October 2011, he appealed a positive drug test and won on a technicality. Then he declared that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and gained the vocal support of his teammates and friends. Now Braun has accepted a 65-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy—basically admitting his use of PEDs.

During the back-and-forth analysis of the suspension, one of my favorite sports talk radio personalities, Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s Mike and Mike, raised the question of whether Braun got off easy. Here’s why. Braun accepted a 65-game suspension without pay. He loses a little more than $3 million from his salary for the year. However, Braun signed a huge contract extension a couple years ago and the “big money” doesn’t kick in until next year. Since MLB player contracts are guaranteed, Braun will not lose any of the money owed to him after his suspension has been served.

As part of the analysis, Mike “Greeny” Greenberg sent out the above tweet giving his take on the issue. Essentially, Greeny said that Braun’s reputation is more important than the money. He can, and will, collect millions of dollars through 2020 on this contract. But his reputation is permanently tarnished.

When he fought the positive test back in 2011, Braun staked his reputation on the idea that someone had tampered with his test sample. When the MLB could not verify the security of his sample, Braun proclaimed his innocence and expressed vindication in the face of what appeared to be a false accusation. Now we find that it was Braun who lied all along.

When I saw the tweet from Greeny, the text of Proverbs 22:1 immediately came to mind. In this proverb we read, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.” Even with all his millions, Braun has lost his good name. We idolize sports stars for their immense talent, and we often long to have their riches. We may even be willing to deal with the fallout of a bad reputation if we could earn over $150 million. However, Scripture clearly states that we should desire a good name more than wealth. What does this look like?

First, we should value our own integrity over riches. There are many opportunities in life to sacrifice our integrity and name for the sake of getting ahead in life. Most of us will never have the opportunity to sign a contract worth nearly $150 million, but we are faced with choices between our reputation and greater wealth or prestige. When faced with these choices, the biblical response is to choose integrity over riches.

Second, we should be content with our lives, especially if it means that we have kept our integrity. Proverbs 19:1 reads, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” A fool with riches is not to be honored—he is to be pitied. The poor man with a good reputation and integrity is wise. This does not mean that poverty and integrity nor wealth and foolishness always go together. However, given the choice between poverty and integrity or wealth and folly, the former is always the preferable option. Thus, we can be content with little as long as we have our good names.

Greeny followed up his previous comment with the following:

For Christians, the answer must be “no.” Since we claim to be followers of Christ, it is more than just our name on the line. The name of Christ is to be honored as well, and that should be a motivating factor in choosing a good name over great riches.