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Jockbeat: A-Rod, A-Rod, Selena Roberts, and all that Chass

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Selena Roberts’s credibility is dropping faster than attendance at Yankee Stadium.
 
According to a report by the Sporting News, A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, is being panned all over the place and “isn’t exactly flying off the shelves.” 
 
Since you can’t access my May 8 review of the book on Salon.com (because it is a subscription service), here are a couple of my criticisms:
 
“Roberts, a former New York Times columnist, is the Sports Illustrated reporter who broke the story that Rodriguez had tested positive for Primobolan and testosterone while he was with the Texas Rangers; he subsequently admitted that he had used the substances all three years he was at Texas, from 2001 through 2003. In terms of criminality, this is petty stuff; at the time, Major League Baseball had attached no penalties to the use of either drug, a point that the media (which has been roasting Rodriguez on a regular basis for years) hasn’t yet realized. The rest of the book seems to be an attempt to build a case that Rodriguez has done something much worse than that, but as in the old Bob Dylan song, nothing is revealed. Almost all of the book’s major assertions are unsubstantiated…

“Two players supposedly close to A-Rod (they are unnamed, sigh!) claim,
‘He has used HGH [human growth hormones] while with the Yankees based
on the side effects they’ve seen.’ Put aside the fact that human growth
hormones are not the same as steroids; what exactly are the side
effects of HGH? (Roberts never tells us.) And how would these two
players be qualified to identify them? The reader is offered no clue.”

I urge you, though, not to take my word for it.  Though the New York Times has yet to weigh in on A-Rod, Murray Chass, a Times
columnist for nearly 40 years, leveled a devastating shot at the book
and its author on his website. Chass calls A-Rod “a journalistic
abomination.” That phrase probably won’t appear in any advertisement
for the book, but it should alert prospective readers what they would
be getting.”

Roberts, writes Chass, “makes far too many serious allegations about
Rodriguez to hide them behind anonyms quotes … There is far too much
in this attack book for Roberts to expect readers to take it on faith
that her anonymous sources are real and that they can be trusted.” 
Reporters, he contends “have to establish their credibility with their
use of unidentified sources for readers to accept them.” For the
record, Chass reminds his readers, he and Roberts “were once colleagues
at the New York Times, and I can’t say she established that
credibility. She also didn’t strike me as being a top-flight reporter.
As a result, I don’t feel I can trust her book full of anonymous
sources.

“I should also disclose that after Robert became a columnist for the
Times, I found her baseball columns to be shallow and superficial, and
she demonstrates her lack of baseball knowledge in the book.”

A-Rod, Chass concludes, “is big on innuendo. In fact, her use of it should earn Roberts the title of Queen of Innuendo.”

I urge all interested readers to check out the full text of Chass’s column for details.

I take issue with only one of Chass’s particulars: “Had she written these same reports for the Times,”
he says, “very little would have made it not the paper.” I respectfully
disagree. In fact, Roberts has been guilty of some highly irresponsible
in the past, and it’s to the shame of the New York media that it was
the Kansas City Star‘s Jason Whitlock who called her on it.
“Not long ago,” he wrote in his May 2 column, “sportswriter Selena
Roberts compared the Duke lacrosse players to gang members and career
criminals.

“She claimed that the players’ unwillingness to confess to or snitch
about a rape (that did not happen) was the equivalent of drug dealers
and gang members promoting anti-snitching campaigns.

“When since-disgraced district attorney Mike Nifong whipped up a media
posse to rain justice on the drunken male college students. Roberts
jumped on the fastest, most influential horse, using her New York Times
column to convict the players and the culture of privilege that created
them. Proven inaccurate, Robert never wrote a retraction for the
columns that contributed to the public lynching of Reade Seligmann,
Colin Fiinnerty and David Evans.   Instead, she moved on to Sports Illustrated, a seat on ESPN’s ‘The Sports Reporters,’ and a new target, baseball slugger Alex Rodriguez.”

I have only one quibble with Whitlock’s column: Rodriguez was at least guilty of something, however trivial. Anyway, you can read Whitlock’s column as well as Roberts’s indictment of the Duke students.

It’s hard not to conclude that Selena Roberts is guilty of sloppy and
irresponsible reporting on two major issues.  And instead of being
called to task for it by her colleagues — especially at the New York Times,
which hasn’t found a Roberts credibility issue yet that it couldn’t
ignore – she has been inexplicably rewarded. You get the feeling
reading Murray Chass’s column that he was saying loud and clear what no
one at the Times had the guts to say.  Shame on everyone in the
New York sports media — myself included – for allowing a Kansas City
reporter to say what we should have said.

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