It would be a stretch to say that “60 Minutes” stooped to a new low last night with its long, smarmy segment on New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. It’s hard to get much lower than the television newsmagazine’s discredited Benghazi report or its recent puff piece on the National Security Agency. But "The Case of Alex Rodriguez” -- which should have been titled “The Case Against Alex Rodriguez” -- was a journalistic embarrassment in its own right.
The show was built around “exclusive” interviews with a con man, Anthony Bosch. Why would Major League Baseball cooperate with such a piece? Because “60 Minutes” is becoming the ideal outlet for large institutions seeking to rehabilitate their images. The program gave baseball commissioner Bud Selig -- who is trying to salvage his steroid-tainted reputation by coming down extra hard on the reviled Rodriguez -- a platform from which to characterize his overzealous pursuit of the slugger as a “battle to save the game.”
Bosch, of course, is not even remotely credible. This is a man whose “anti-aging clinic” was apparently a front for a PED dispensary. His first public comment on the then-breaking Biogenesis doping scandal was: “I’m a nutritionist. I don't know anything about performance-enhancing drugs.”
Now that Major League Baseball has secured Bosch’s cooperation -- after first threatening to sue him -- we’re supposed to believe what he tells us about his relationship with A-Rod? Where is the evidence? Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” limited his skepticism to a single aside: “One thing is certainly true -- Bosch has lied about this case.” Yes, well, here’s another thing that’s certainly true: No self-respecting news organization would treat this man as a reliable source, let alone the primary one for a big story like this.
There may have been no more ridiculous moment in this ridiculous piece than when Pelley tried to establish that not only was A-Rod taking banned substances, but also that these substances were materially improving his performance. Pelley recounted a text message from Bosch to Rodriguez before a 2012 game, when A-Rod apparently needed some medical direction: “One click of night cream at night, one cohete at night, one click of night cream in the morning, one gummy in the a.m., four clicks of day cream before leaving the field, one cohete in a.m., pink cream before the game, any oral pills in the a.m.”
Pelley did some shoe-leather reporting, checking the next day’s box score. Bingo! “Alex had a great game,” Pelley said. “He doubled; he scored twice.”
“What did his performance tell you about what you had told him to take?” Pelley asked Bosch. “That we had the right protocol,” Bosch replied. There you have it. If one of the best hitters in the history of baseball doubled and scored a couple of runs in a game, it must be proof of the illicit power of super-creams and pharmaceutical-grade gummy worms.
Let’s assume that Bosch is telling the truth -- that he really did load A-Rod up with creams and pills. How do we know that this liar wasn’t supplying Rodriguez with placebos?
It’s pretty easy to imagine Mike Wallace, R.I.P., insisting on such rigor. Picture him, with that crenelated hair, coolly taking it to Selig, too: "Mr. Commissioner, you presided over what will forever be remembered as baseball’s Steroid Era. You are also just one year away from retirement. How much of this prosecutorial fervor is about the past of Alex Rodriguez, and how much is about the legacy of Bud Selig?" But that would require an alternative reality, one in which a phone call from “60 Minutes” is still something to fear for those with something to hide.
(Jonathan Mahler is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)