They dressed well, sat rigidly, and talked politely. Yet, when the interview was done, Alex Rodriguez and Peter Gammons had left a mess behind.
Dubious allegations and contradictory statements on the floor. Deceptions, quasi-truths and illogical conclusions splattered on the wall. And a pile of unanswered questions beneath the coffee table.
So, with broom in hand, we sift through the rubble. Clean up the muck, and wash out the grime. And, hopefully, avoid stepping in anything foul.
What was said
Rodriguez gets credit for confirming his guilt. You could say he was cornered, and you could say it was in his best interests to come clean. But others have been in similar situations, and have stonewalled themselves into indictments.
A-Rod also gets credit for admitting more than what had been alleged. Implausible as it may have sounded, he could have claimed it was a one-time dalliance with steroids in 2003. So that, too, was admirable.
Otherwise, the interview was a farce.
Rodriguez explained his steroid use as if it were a youthful indiscretion. A mistake of naivete. Sorry, but this was not a one-time bong hit by a teenage rube. Rodriguez was 25 and owner of the richest contract in sports history when he claims to have begun his use of performance-enhancing drugs. And he continued using for at least three years.
He claimed to have seen the light while nursing an injury in bed in 2003. This very neatly ties up his steroid use to his three seasons in Texas, keeping his time in New York and Seattle unbesmirched. It also means he conveniently saw the error of his ways right around the time Major League Baseball started its drug testing program.
He said he "had never even heard of a player taking a substance, a steroid of any kind in my Seattle days" yet said the steroid culture "was pretty prevalent" and it was a "loosey-goosey era" when he got to Texas. That's a mighty big cultural shift in one offseason.
And, in classic shoot-the-messenger vein, he repeatedly trashed Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts. Said she was cited by police for trying to break into his home — yet offered no evidence. Said she was thrown out of the University of Miami gym by police — yet offered no evidence. Said she was "coming out with all these allegations, all these lies" — yet did not dispute anything that was written in the SI piece.
The best guess?
This was a preemptive strike by Rodriguez because he knows Roberts has written a book about him (Hit and Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez) due out on May 19.
What was unsaid
Just about everything else.
We are led to believe that a young man fanatical about his workout regimen took drugs for three years without knowing what they were. We are led to believe that these illegal drugs were on the counter of the local nutrition store.
We are led to believe that Rodriguez was willing to lie to protect his name in every interview about performance-enhancing drugs during the past eight years, yet we should accept him at his word that he has been absolutely clean the past five seasons. As if undetectable designer steroids do not exist today.
We are led to believe he felt enormous pressure when he signed his groundbreaking contract in Texas but did not feel a similar pressure playing on baseball's grandest stage at Yankee Stadium.
We are led to believe that he lied to Katie Couric on national television because he wasn't being truthful with himself about steroids, yet he was worried "completely, absolutely" and living with "this gorilla and this monkey" on his back.
What is left to say
The biggest surprise of this revelation is that it has been treated as a surprise.
Like the dead ball period, the war years, the higher mound in the 1960s and the proliferation of artificial turf teams in the 1970s and '80s, the steroid era is an undeniable part of baseball history. It's more shady. It's more distasteful. But it does not mean it did not have a major impact on the game and its records in the past 15 years.
We were slow to recognize the influence of performance-enhancing drugs in the late 1990s but, if you were shocked by Rodriguez's revelation, you have not been paying attention lately.
Look at it this way:
Of the past 26 Most Valuable Player Awards, 14 have gone to players tainted by the steroid scandal.
Former players' association chief Marvin Miller blasted the Rodriguez story as part of a witch hunt. Miller is a brilliant man who has shamefully been denied a place in the Hall of Fame, but he is hopelessly out of touch on this topic.
You know why witch hunts have a bad name? Because there were no witches. They did not exist. Steroid users, on the other hand, do exist. And it appears, when it comes to baseball, they ran in hordes.
So call it an investigation. Call it an inquiry. Call it an exploration for the truth.
Do not call it a witch hunt.
The all-time home run leader has been implicated. The only pitcher in history with 350 wins and 4,000 strikeouts. The last player to get 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. The only player with three 60-homer seasons. The reliever with the consecutive saves record. The current single-season home run leader and the player whose record he broke.
Now Alex Rodriguez has joined the crowd. It doesn't mean he was the biggest cheater and it doesn't mean he deserves to be called baseball's biggest villain. It also doesn't mean the players' association, the commissioner's office, hundreds of baseball writers and 30 team owners weren't somehow complicit in this tale.
It is what it is.
A never-ending mess.
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com.