Alex Rodriguez finally said he was sorry, though his handwritten apology on the eve of his return to the New York Yankees seemed to fall flat.

Not really surprising, but give A-Rod some credit for trying. Doesn't anyone realize how hard it is to write in cursive these days?

Surely it seemed like a nice old-fashioned touch when the scorned slugger sat down to put pen to paper. You could almost picture him laboring over every paragraph — all five of them — while wadding up draft after draft and tossing them into an overflowing wastebasket.

Unfortunately, Rodriguez forgot to say exactly what he was apologizing for in his missive. Was it his serial steroid use? His years of defrauding fans? The fact he once dated Madonna?

Maybe next time he could try email. Easier to do, and much more room to get all the sordid details out there. Or spend some of the $500 million or so he will earn as a baseball player on a public relations firm that might advise him to finally tell the truth.

Apologies can be a hard thing to do, as evidenced by the difficulty Lance Armstrong has with them. He went on with Oprah to confess that he cheated to win all seven of his Tour de France titles in an appearance that was widely panned as staged and bereft of contrition.

"I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people," Armstrong told the talk show host.

But it was Armstrong's girlfriend doing the apologizing a few weeks ago after the cyclist hit some parked cars after a party in Aspen. She initially told police she was driving because Armstrong had been drinking, but in the end it was Armstrong who pleaded guilty to careless driving.

Mike Tyson was still recognized as among the baddest men on the planet when he was forced to apologize for biting Evander Holyfield's ear. Unlike A-Rod, Tyson didn't hand write his apology or even write it at all. A former image maker for President Reagan produced it in a desperate attempt to keep Tyson from being banned from boxing for life.

Tyson promised to seek both religious counseling and sessions with a shrink to deal with his anger issues, though Nevada boxing officials didn't seem terribly impressed.

"Something bad happened in the ring," Nevada Athletic Commission chairman Elias Ghanem said at the time. "The apology doesn't change what happened in the ring."

At least Tyson acted quickly. It took Pete Rose 15 years to finally admit he bet on baseball, and only then because he had a book coming out that said just that. Saying he was sorry took years longer, though Rose seems to now be making up for lost time.

As he waits for some indication from new commissioner Rob Manfred on his possible reinstatement to the game, Rose is autographing baseballs in Las Vegas. For $299 you can get a ball with the personal inscription "I'm sorry I bet on baseball."

Rodriguez probably won't be reduced to selling apologies on baseballs, if only because he doesn't need the money. By the time he's done playing, he will have made nearly $500 million, even while taking a hit for sitting out last season because of his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

As Rose did with his gambling, though, he scarred the game by using PEDs, then brazenly using them again after begging for fans to judge him on his future actions. He shamed himself and discredited a Yankees organization built over the years with so much pride by great players who came before him.

Five paragraphs that express regret and say he is sorry aren't enough to make up for that. What Rodriguez should have done — and was invited by the Yankees to do — was hold a news conference, and this time honestly answer the questions he lied about the first time around.

Then he should declare he won't accept the $6 million bonus in his contract for hitting the six home runs he needs to catch the great Willie Mays on the career list at 660.

Because just being mentioned in the same conversation with Mays is something Rodriguez should really be apologizing for.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg