There wasn't much chance Alex Rodriguez was going to get through Tuesday's press conference smelling like a rose. Everyone had too long to prepare after the Peter Gammons interview that left too many avenues open to attack. Instead of playing dumb when confronted with these inquiries, Rodriguez's approach was to insist that he was, in fact, dumb.
He claimed that he didn't know what he was taking, didn't know whether it would help him as a player and that he didn't even know if he was doing the drugs the correct way. He just did it because his mysterious cousin said that it would give him an energy boost, which was a choice he made because he was "young and stupid."
As the press conference played on, it became clear that "young and stupid" was his prepared answer for anything. Any time the questioning veered toward a place where that wasn't going to be an appropriate response, Rodriguez struggled for answers or just evaded the question. And the defense could only go so far when it's clear that Rodriguez knew he was doing something wrong because he kept it secret and "knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs."
The only reason that you can't just ignore the whole thing as a naked grab for sympathy is because of Rodriguez's background. He said, more than once, that he wished he had gone to college instead of going straight into baseball. That's a reminder of how little of his life has taken place outside of Major League Baseball, and explains why he thinks he could say, at 25, he was too young and stupid to know any better.
Was there a better route? Rodriguez got killed for talking about the "loosey, goosey era" during his Gammons interview, but he was onto something there. Baseball turned an absolute blind eye to steroid use, use that was, by all accounts, rampant. Players were using it to make the majors, to get ahead once they got there and because, to a man, they believed it would help their game. Obviously every individual has a choice about what they will or won't do, but it's a perfectly reasonable, if not particularly likable, explanation for using steroids.
Maybe none of those reasons applied to Rodriguez, but it's doubtful. As A-Rod said on Tuesday, though, "baseball is about more than Alex Rodriguez." Rodriguez is bearing all the weight of the steroid era right now, which isn't right and isn't particularly fair given how much more forthcoming he's been than so many of his peers.
He looked like he was feeling each and every one of those pounds today, especially when he tried to change the subject to the season that starts in April. The idea that he'll be left alone to concentrate on that season, however, might be the stupidest thought that's entered his mind thus far.