Monday, October 29, 2007

The Devil's Advocate

I mean, just look at that cover, the cover of an issue of what once considered itself (and was considered by many others) to be sports journalism's paragon. I'll be the first to admit that A-Rod always seemed a little flaky for a star of his diameter, but I have trouble believing there's an even remotely sane human being who could have handled the press he received in N.Y. without turning into a whiny bitch. I mean, even Sports Illustrated got involved with the True Yankee shit! Good lord.

It was surprising to see a majority of writers I actually respect opine in the past few weeks that A-Rod was a safe bet to stay in N.Y. I was strongly in the camp that opting-out was a no-brainer, regardless any threats by the Yanks that they weren't going to chase if he did so. In addition to the fact that he'll likely do better over the next eight years signing a free agent contract than he would have by taking the Yankees' extension offer, I think Boras really wanted A-Rod to reset the market, since he'll have some extremely valuable free agents coming up the next couple of years (no, I'm not suggesting Boras "controls" A-Rod, just has his ear) and the last time we saw a noticeable spike in salaries was right after A-Rod's first free agent deal.

But, more than anything, I think A-Rod just wanted the out of New York, and I can't blame him. As a bonus, he'll get the opportunity to tell a lot of people that they can go fuck themselves; you've got to believe, by this point, that Rodriguez has got to have that irrational, pregnant-woman anger at the Yankees, if not everyone in baseball. Why, you ask? Peep Exhibit No. 657,266,282:

"It's clear he didn't want to be a Yankee," Hank Steinbrenner, a son of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and now the figurehead of the club's baseball operations, told the New York Daily News. "He doesn't understand the privilege of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to put a winning product on the field.

"I don't want anybody on my team that doesn't want to be a Yankee."

First of all, it's impressive that Hank already appears to be less capable of shutting his fucking mouth than his father. Looking past that, I find it incredible that A-Rod has constantly been accused of not appreciating the "privilege" to be the best player on the Yankees. Here is a short list of things that prove A-Rod appreciated it just fine:

  • Constantly said to everyone who would listen that he loved being a Yankee;
  • Did not murder Jason Giambi when the steroid-addled, .275 EqA-ing asshole called him out in the media for not being "clutch" enough;
  • Sacrificed the opportunity to be known as the single-greatest shortstop in the history of the game (by a wider margin than one that's seen at any other position, with the possible exception of center field) so a lesser, more egotistical yet mysteriously more beloved player could continue costing the team 1 to 2 games by way of abhorrent defense;
  • Has hit 1,700 gazillion home runs for the Yankees in a very short period of time;
  • Did not murder Joe Torre when the manager attempted to humiliate him in the playoffs by batting him eighth;
  • Did not murder George Steinbrenner for not immediately firing Torre after the latter tried to humiliate the team's best player in the playoffs by batting him eighth;
  • Did not murder random dog for being batted eighth by manager in playoffs;
  • Did not have building of New York Post bombed.
It's evident that to whatever degree a player should show his appreciation for being a Yankee, A-Rod has far surpassed it if only in terms of patience. If Paul O'Neill took 1/10th of the shit in the media that A-Rod has, there wouldn't be a single functioning toilet in the clubhouse to this day. Probably the only player in recent memory to get savaged in the New York press like A-Rod was Chuck Knoblauch, and — while this is admittedly a cruel way to look at it — at least Knoblauch did something so incredibly and blatantly scorn-worthy that the coverage was to be expected. I mean, he couldn't make a throw to first base from 50 feet away. A-Rod's biggest crime is that he doesn't hit titanic home runs at exactly the moment everyone wants him to. Because, you know, he's selfish.

But here's the real problem: Why is it that the Yankees still think players should be grateful for the opportunity to be Yankees? I get the history and shit, but really that's for fans. And, even if playing in front of a bunch of plaques for dead crackers Monument Park is a big deal for players, is it a big enough deal to put up with the rest of the shit (Steinbrenner, Steinbrenner's kids, the New York media, Joe Girardi's teeth, New York fans, the homosexuals and minorities on the subway, Derek Jeter's cockblocking, etc.) that goes with it? Maybe when the Yankees were the clear favorite every season (relative to the rest of the field) to win a World Series title. But that ain't the case anymore; believe it or not, folks, there are places you can go these days to win a World Series while growing a beard at the same time.

The Yankees should be kissing Alex Rodriguez's Turtlewaxed ass right now, or at least show a little tact regarding his departure. That franchise has just received four seasons of the best player in baseball for, per annum, approximately what the Angels paid Bartolo Colon this season for the pleasure of watching him get fatter. At that price, the least they could have done was was protect him a little bit, and let the guys who were getting paid more by the team — namely Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter — take a little more of the heat. Instead, they treat him like a piece of shit for four years, let him take the fall for every series loss, and then tell him when he decides to hit the open market that he's an ungrateful asshole who doesn't appreciate the opportunity to be employed by such a classy and storied franchise. Like they did him a favor by letting him don the most overrated uniforms in baseball.

I, for one, am thinking this is the first few dots of a forming pattern. The Yankees' approach to dealing with the end of this season is downright Oedipean so far. Regardless of any particular critic's view of Torre's ability as a manager, he deserved better than that embarrassing outburst by the senile Steinbrenner — that interview should never have been granted by the Yankees — and the insulting contract offer. And say what you want about A-Rod and Boras, the younger Steinbrenner's classless comments as his best player (a player they've paid well below market value for) opts out of his contract will not only likely affect negotiations with Rivera and Posada negatively, but also send out a clear signal to top free agents that they'll have to give up more than long hair if they wish to play for the Yankees. I suspect that Hank Steinbrenner is going to be told, perhaps not politely, to shut the fuck up and let the non-amateurs handle media relations, but the damage might already be done. If I was an agent, the only way a top-line free agent of mine would be advised to sign with the Yankees is if they are offering well beyond what the competition is. I suspect real agents feel the same way.

Whether Yankees fans are willing to accept it or not, this is not the same franchise that became the official landing spot of every premier veteran free agent who wanted to win a ring before calling it a career. The "mystique" went out the door when the Red Sox mounted the most improbable comeback in the sport's history, and the fa├žade of professionalism evaporated when players in the clubhouse started sniping to the media like a gaggle of drunk sorority girls when the subject of the team's best player came up. That A-Rod can probably get more money on the open market is only a part of his reasoning, I imagine. In terms of accomplishing his secondary goals — winning a World Series title and being adored by his fan base for his superlative talent — it's entirely likely that he and Boras have determined there are better settings out there. Make no mistake, teams like the Giants, Cubs and Angels will make sure he's commensurately compensated for his play, but almost as importantly, the fans in those cities won't stupidly claim the team's better off without him.


b said...

Diesel, you should have listed "Man Landing on the Moon" on the poll to the left. That shit never happened.

Good commentary piece, though.

Jeff said...

I couldn't have said it better.

I can't wait to see what happens next year assuming he's not in NY. Who will they blame? What if they win the wild card and Derek "double play" Jeter shits the bed again? Will everyone turn on him? Who will they blame?

However, he of course loses big-time with the detractors if:
A.) The Yankees do anything in the playoffs without him.
B.) He doesn't make the playoffs, or makes the playoffs and doesn't tear shit up.

Diesel said...

@ B
Exactly. I was only willing to list things that might be true. Moon landing? Forget that noise. Dinosaurs, too.

@ Jeff
While I often use the expression myself, for some reason the term "shitting the bed" in conjunction with Jeter immediately made me visualize it actually happening, followed by three supermodels, who will have to pay for their own valet parking, running out of a hotel suite in a frenzy.

A man can dream, can't he?

big c said...

Dino-saurs? The fossil record is just a myth; like leprechauns and eskimos.