TAMPA, Fla. - Apology accepted?
If he hits home runs, Alex Rodriguez will find that to be the case with Yankee fans, seemingly the audience he's currently most interested in courting.
Rodriguez decided to forgo the mea culpa news conference he indicated to the Yankees he would hold, instead releasing a 216-word handwritten letter to fans Tuesday afternoon, in which he apologized to them, Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family and the Players Association.
"To the Fans," the letter began. "I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season. I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be . . . I can only say I'm sorry."
Tuesday's letter continued: "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. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology but I decided the next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job."
Rodriguez, suspended all of last season by MLB for his involvement with Biogenesis and the use of performance-enhancing drugs, met last week with Yankees hierarchy, including managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman, and expressed a similar sentiment.
Among the topics discussed that afternoon was Rodriguez holding a news conference in which he would apologize, though the Yankees made it clear they did not want him to hold it in Tampa, lest it distract from spring training.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Friday, with position players, Rodriguez included, slated for five days later.
The Yankees did offer the use of Yankee Stadium if Rodriguez wanted to hold it in New York but as he huddled with his advisers in recent days, the decision was made to scrap the idea of a news conference, the group perhaps realizing he had little to gain by such a back-and-forth.
Rodriguez, however, months ago agreed to a lengthy ESPN The Magazine story that is set to be released Wednesday.
According to ESPN, among the nuggets in the story: Rodriguez considered retirement early in his suspension for the 2014 season.
Rodriguez also told the piece's author, J.R. Moehringer, of his PED use: "You had pocket aces! Pocket. Aces. And somehow you blew the hand. You could've walked away years ago. You could've grown a beard, gotten fat, and you'd have had a career to be proud of, and you'd be a lock for the Hall. But no. You had to . . . had to . . . "
The Yankees did not have any comment regarding Rodriguez's letter.
"He did what he wants to do, so that's it," said one source with knowledge of the club's reaction.
Robert Boland, a professor of sports management at NYU, said Rodriguez left plenty of questions unanswered but didn't criticize the method.
"He probably did the right thing. He said, 'Look, I'm here to play baseball,' without admitting a lot of wrongdoing," Boland said. "He did a bit of mea culpa, saying 'I don't know if you'll ever forgive me, but . . . ' He never sort of put his money where his mouth was as in 'here's what I stand for.' If we were thinking about the extreme of making a full admission and an apology versus 'I have a contract and I'm here to play,' he chose one from column A and one from column B rather than going the distance with either approach. It doesn't answer the many questions we have, but it was an interesting approach."
Teammates asked about Rodriguez throughout the offseason have offered nothing but support, with righthander Michael Pineda doing so again Tuesday.
"Everyone must understand that we are professional athletes but also human beings, and we all make mistakes," Pineda told ESPN Deportes. "Anyone can make a mistake, and we should not judge him for it . . . We are going to welcome him as a team . . . He does not owe me any apology. On the contrary, I feel more than proud to stand beside him and share the same clubhouse with him because he is a star. I respect Alex Rodriguez and when it comes to him I will always feel nothing but respect."
With Steven Marcus