Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SPORTS: A-Rod: Alone and lost on an island of self delusion.

"Reggie hit .230 one year," Rodriguez said. "That's awful. He struck out 170-something times in a year. I don't care who you are, extremes are just part of the game. I was awful [in Anaheim], but Jeter was 0 for 32 [in 2004], Mo blew three games in one week [last year].... Everybody goes through it."
Alex Rodriguez - from Sports Illustrated (issue date 9/25/06) article (A-rod Agonistes) written by Tom Verducci

Alex Rodriguez doesn't get it. He doesn't get why New York fans have not accepted him yet; why they didn't support him during his disastrous slide earlier this year; why he hasn't, in their eyes, earned his pinstripes. This should be evident to anyone who has read Tom Verducci's article in this month's Sports Illustrated.

In it, A-Rod literally comes up with more excuses than hits he had during his now infamous slump from June 1st to August 30th. A slump which saw the Yankees third baseman hit .257, with 81 strikeouts and 13 errors in 80 games, culminating in a disastrous West Coast trip to Anaheim in which Rodriguez went 2-for-20 with 14 strikeouts.

The Verducci article (which should be read by every Yankee fan) is incredibly insightful, and displays almost unprecedented access to the Yankee clubhouse. Verducci peppers the interview with several disarmingly candid quotes from other Yankees (including Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon) that seem to represent A-Rod as a guy who hasn't even fully earned the trust of the players around him. Verducci also recounts closed door meetings Rodriguez had with Yankee manager Joe Torre, as well as personal conversations with 1st baseman Jason Giambi.

Above all else, the Verducci article portrays Rodriguez as a man who is very concerned, perhaps obsessed, with appearances. Specifically his own. The article quotes one unnamed Yankee veteran, "It was always about the numbers in [Seattle and Texas] for him. And that doesn't matter here. Winning is all you're judged on here."

Verducci goes beyond A-Rod's self-importance on the field. He notes an instance back in December 2003, "when the Red Sox were frantically trying to acquire Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers, several Boston executives called on Rodriguez in his New York hotel suite after 1 a.m. Rodriguez answered the door in a perfectly pressed suit, tie knotted tight to his stiff collar. The Red Sox officials found such polished attire at such a late hour odd, even unsettling."

But, perhaps the most damaging evidence of A-Rod's self-delusion comes from his own mouth. The Verducci article is littered with direct quotes in which A-Rod blames his salty situation with the team, the city, and the media on everything from the flu to his good looks. Here’s just a small sampling of why A-Rod just doesn’t get it:

- "I can't help that I'm a bright person," he said last month. "I know that's not a great quote to give, but I can't pretend to play dumb and stupid." (A-Rod, on his obsessive work ethic)

- "I was absolutely on fire in Detroit early in the year. Then I got sick and I didn't play for three or four days. And then the whole month was kind of lost. It took a while to get my strength back. I'm not explaining that June, the month I stunk, was because I got sick. Let's make that clear. You ask, 'What's the turning point, going from Player of the Month in May to June?' That's the only thing in the middle." (A-Rod, on the reason for his season turning sour)

- "My agent, Scott Boras, was talking about [Oakland third baseman] Eric Chavez, who's a great player. He's hitting .235. He's got 16 home runs, 43 ribbies? This guy is getting cheered every time he comes up to the plate. If I can look back on 2006 and see I made 25 errors, hit .285 and drove in 125, I mean, has God really been that bad to me?"

- "Mussina doesn't get hammered at all," he said. "He's making a boatload of money. Giambi's making [$20.4 million], which is fine and dandy, but it seems those guys get a pass. When people write [bad things] about me, I don't know if it's [because] I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team...."

The Verducci article is the Rosetta Stone, so to speak, in unlocking the mystery of why A-Rod has been a piece of the Yankee puzzle that has never quite fit. It’s not his good looks, it’s not how much money he makes, and it’s not that he’s a bright guy. It’s his ego. It’s the chip on his shoulder. It’s his blatant lack of consideration, in throwing other players (including his own teammates) under the bus by making unprofessional comparisons.

With this article, A-Rod had a great opportunity to reach out to his critics; to be the bigger man in all this nonsense. All he had to to was just keep it simple, keep it humble, and keep it about himself. But instead chose a more petty and juvenile approach. The big league equivalent of a spoiled child who, when he doesn't get his way, screams at his parents "You love Cindy more than you love me!"

Inevitably, with the New York media as ferocious as it is, the fallout from this article is already being felt throughout the sports world. With the Yankees poised to make a big run in the post-season this October, fans of the Bombers are left to hope the negative impact of this article does not adversely affect the team's mindset. Not to mention, A-Rod’s already questionable ability to remain focused come playoff time.

In closing, I’d like to offer a word of advice to Alex Rodriguez. Please spend less time focusing on the kind of season The A's Eric Chavez is having, or how much Mike Mussina is making, or what Reggie Jackson’s batting average was twenty years ago. Instead, assign this new found time in your day to focusing on your own problems. Everyone will be a lot happier.


To read the Verducci article in it's entirety, click on the link below:


G.I. Jeff said...

A-Rod will come around hopefully but we might not win any championships until he figures this out. He can be a real asset if he'd stop thinking and just play the game.

Excellent points my friend, maybe, like Joe A-Rod will see this article and fix his problems.

Captain Mike said...

What would really make Yankee fans happier is 52 home runs.

Cody Dee Williams said...

Big Papi can hit all the home runs he wants this season. He's not going to the playoffs and he's not winning the MVP. The only he gets to be... is jealous of Derek Jeter:)