I want to like Buster Olney. He seems like a nice guy, he grew up a Dodger fan, and he has a dream job. And to be fair, he doesn’t say stupid things nearly as often as Joe Morgan does. But if he was banned from ever mentioning Alex Rodriguez again, his STP (Stupid Thing Percentage) would go way down, as he seems to have some sort of intelligence block when talking about A-Rod.
Let me put a disclaimer first. I don’t think Olney has it out for A-Rod. I also don’t think anyone who disagrees with me is automatically an idiot. I think there are probably some valid reasons not to like A-Rod as a baseball player; I just don’t believe that 99% of the people who dislike him don’t do so for any of the valid reasons. People either dislike him because he is paid so much (for real, people: if your boss offered you $25 million a year to do the same job you are currently doing, would you really turn him down???) or because he’s good looking and one of the best baseball players of all time.
So there’s my disclaimer. Now, for Buster Olney. This is actually from his blog from March 17, but I just got around to reading it this weekend:
David Cone always told players in A-Rod’s situation that the instinct of fans is that they want to cheer you. They want him to do well. If he does well, they will cheer him, and the stories will reflect that. And if you think that this is entirely media created, remember that it wasn’t the media’s decision to bat him eighth in the lineup in the playoffs last year (that would be Joe Torre, after a summer’s worth of frustration with A-Rod’s inconsistency), or to have teammates come out and say he needs to get his head right (which is what Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi said, in so many words). It would be pure fiction to suggest that all is well in A-Rod’s world.
A lot of people have jumped on this bandwagon, pointing out A-Rod batting eighth in a playoff game as proof that he had a lousy season. This revisionist history — as if the Yankee fans didn’t start booing him until he struggled in the 2006 postseason — is ridiculous, and anyone who uses it loses a ton of credibility in my eyes. But the really bad part is the part about A-Rod being inconsistent all summer. Allow me to quote myself from October 11:
He batted .290 with a .392 on-base percentage and a .523 slugging percentage. Despite all the talk about his failures in the clutch, he batted .302 with runners in scoring position, .313 with RISP and two outs, and .474 with the bases loaded. Despite all the talk about how he was lousy most of the season, he had only one truly bad month: June. In every other month of the season, if you quickly multiply his numbers by six to emulate a six-month season, you will get between 30 and 48 homers and between 96 and 168 RBI. Yes, he had a lousy season defensively, tying his career high with 24 errors. And no, no one is going to argue that he had a great offensive season by his lofty standards. But anyone who thinks he had a terrible year is simply a fool.
So Buster, in short, when you say, “[Yankee fans] want him to do well. If he does well, they will cheer him,” you are either being naive or willfully stupid. Yankee fans want a World Series. If they don’t win the World Series, they want to blame it on the highest paid player (or perhaps the player they see as the biggest threat to their resident pretty boy, Derek Jeter — and I mean no disrespect to Jeter, only to Yankee fans). You live in a pipe dream if you really believe all A-Rod has to do to be loved is to play well; he won an MVP award in 2005 and played very well in 2006.
Buster Olney, I want to like you. But I need you to stop being an idiot.