A-Rod still has support

Marie-Joelle Parent , SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:26 PM ET

NEW YORK — For most New Yorkers, Alex Rodriguez is a liar and a cheat. The newspapers call him things as A-Hole, A-Roid and A-Fraud. But in the north Manhattan neighbourhood where he grew up, Rodriguez can still count on the unconditional support of his fans in the Dominican community.

“It’s not like he killed anyone,” said Gina Maldonavo, the owner of a dry cleaners in Washington Heights. “We all make mistakes, I’m still crazy about him.”

Rodriguez spent the early part of his life in this very Dominican area, when he lived in a small apartment on 190th St. before moving at age four to the Dominican Republic and then to Miami. This is home turf, steroids or not.

“He’s the best thing to happen to the Yankees. He apologized, we all makes mistakes when we’re young. New Yorkers know how to forgive and also, he’s so sexy,” said Maldonavo, whose store is plastered with photos of A-Rod, his nickname from the Yankees.

The media here is having a field day with this scandal. Rodriguez is everywhere on newsstands, and his mug is all over the subway in the morning.

The Daily News went the extra mile yesterday morning, when they ran a shirtless picture of the player with the title, “Body of Lies.”

The New York Post headline screamed “LIAR. CHEAT. ” Other papers ran A-Rod’s picture next to that of the pilot from the Hudson River airplane crash to disgrace him even more. And that’s not counting all the articles from recent months chronicling his divorce and relationship with Madonna. No, A-Rod hasn’t exactly had great press in the Big Apple.

In a Washington Heights barbershop, another Yankee fan isn’t ready to abandon his idol.

“So what if he took steroids, he’s been clean since he’s been with the Yankees and that’s what counts. Plus, he’s good,” said 53-year-old Radhames Estades, sitting in his chair reading the sports section.

Around the corner at the Dominican restaurant El Conte, one regular doesn’t share the same opinion.

“For me, it’s finished. What’s done is done. He should have admitted it from the start,” said Tony Rodriguez. He’s talking about the interview that #13 did with Katie Couric a year ago, where he repeatedly denied taking illicit substances.

On the other side of the street, in another restaurant, A-Rod was the hot topic at lunchtime.

“He lost my confidence, apologizing isn’t enough,” one employee said. “It doesn’t change anything for me, I still love him,” answered the manager, Cesar Blanco.

They were all talking about “A-Rodgate” down on Broadway at the El Malecon eatery.

“It’s sad because baseball isn’t what it used to be. It’s just about money and glory. We can’t imagine the pressure on these players today. It didn’t even surprise me,” said Alfonzo Fernandez as he put on his Yankees cap.

At lunchtime in Mid-Town, the businessmen smoking cigarettes outside building entrances were also discussing the scandal.

“Shame on him,” said Neil Koenig, before walking away in a hurry.

“I’ve been a Yankees fan since I was a little boy and it disgusts me to see this. He knew perfectly well what he was doing. He’s guilty and his excuses aren’t enough.”

“No, it’s not OK. Don’t come and tell me the team managers didn’t know anything. They closed their eyes and they’re guilty too,” Ron Baudanza said.

“It’s bad for baseball’s image, but at the same time I think people will keep going to see him play out of curiosity,” added his colleague Mike Naccari, standing outside the official Yankees store on 59th St.

Inside, a manager noted that sales of jerseys and other paraphernalia haven’t been hugely affected. Up on the wall, Rodriguez’s #13 jersey is marked down 50%.

On a street corner nearby on Park Ave., everything seemed normal in front of the Trump Park Avenue building where Rodriguez owns a 4,600-square-foot penthouse valued at US $14 million. The doorman refused to comment on his tenant’s situation.


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