This is a guest post by David Robinson, a Washington, D.C.-based PR professional.
“You had pocket aces! Pocket. Aces. And somehow you blew the hand.” – Alex Rodriguez
The click of the mouse echoed and the PR team sat in silence as Alex Rodriguez’s apology letter was sent to an official at Major League Baseball. The biggest question looming over all of their heads was, “Will this work?”
Nearly 5,000 tweets, 1,500 retweets, and 875 comments later, the one positive draw from Rodriguez’s apology letter is that it forced the sports world to pay attention. Social media trolling was to be expected, but did Mr. Rodriguez really have any more effective options on the communications front?
Some questioned why he didn’t schedule a standard press conference, especially when the Steinbrenner family was willing to lend Yankee Stadium as a backdrop. Others asked why former teammate Derek Jeter’s new website, which proclaims to be a real voice for athletes, didn’t score the scoop. Some even wondered why other traditional forms of apology communique like a press release or a taped statement weren’t used.
The better question is, “Would it have mattered?” And the answer is “no.”
All angles and replays will tell you that Rodriguez’s brand is damaged; most of his career successes are lies. The PEDs Rodriguez took so greatly enhanced his career that he’s now become a shell of his former self.
According to sabermetrics expert J.C. Bradbury:
“[Rodriguez] averaged 33 percent more homers in his dirty Texas years — from 2001 to 2003 — than in the other 10 full seasons of his career.”
Benjamin Hoffman’s New York Times article on the topic reminds us that many athletes have made less-satisfying apologies after engaging in far more egregious acts. However, Rodriguez’s mistake dwells in that rare space in which the man cannot be separated from his career: we now wonder whether he would even have a career to speak of without the drugs.
Despite everything, Rodriguez now finds himself playing offense in the later innings of his career. The good news is that his brand COULD still be repaired: his best option is to focus on being a solid player and using what’s left of his personal “brand value” to help others.
In order to make a comeback, he must be perceived as unselfish — and he can only accomplish this by donating a generous portion of his remaining time and money to charities, community volunteer work, and perhaps even anti-performance drug advocacy campaigns.
The potential home run is there; all he needs is the right pitch.