Idiocy about A-Rod

By | November 17, 2007

It looks like maybe A-Rod is going back to the Yankees after all, despite Scott Boras’s best efforts. I find myself hoping he does, because the longer he’s a free agent, the longer I am bombarded by stupid, stupid people writing and talking about him.

Look, there’s only one good reason (and one decent reason) you wouldn’t want your favorite team to sign A-Rod. The decent reason is that your team already has a good third baseman, but it’s only a decent reason because no matter who you are, your team doesn’t have a third baseman as good as A-Rod. The only good reason is you know your team couldn’t afford to pay A-Rod what he will get and still pay other players to make a great team. Back in 2001, the Rangers took an interesting approach: pay A-Rod $100 million more than anyone else was offering, then spend the next three years complaining that you can’t afford anyone else. If you feel that your team would do that, that’s a good reason to not want A-Rod.

I am not kidding here. If you don’t want A-Rod on your team for ANY reason not mentioned in that last paragraph, you are a fool with absolutely no understanding of the game of baseball. Your name just might be Mike Philbrick, and you just might write an article for with a headline of “Your team should just say no to A-Rod.” Let me break this article down, in true FJM fashion:

Alex Rodriguez is going to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He’s going to make everyone forget Barry Bonds’ home run record. He’s going to win his third MVP award in a few days. That’s great, Alex. Now do me one more favor … don’t come anywhere near my team.

Yeah, totally. Why would I want the best player in baseball on my team?

Apparently, I’m not alone in my thinking. Last time I checked the Page 2 poll results, 61 percent of you agreed with me. And here’s why: While he may put up ri-friggin’-diculous numbers, he’s much easier to boo than to cheer and will deliver countless awards that keep your team relevant but won’t deliver what you want — a World Series.

Okay, Mikey, so the first bit of evidence you use to support your ridiculous position is that the majority of people who took an online poll agree with you? And then the reason you give for WHY they agree with you really presents a Catch-22, because if that reason really IS the reason 61% of people don’t want him on their team, you should be using that as evidence that those 61% are clueless. Maybe you didn’t know this, but the regular season results are actually what determines who goes to the postseason (and, just to be clear, the World Series is played in the postseason). If you think the Yankees would have had a better chance of winning the 2007 World Series with Scott Brosius or Wade Boggs or Brooks Freaking Robinson manning the Hot Corner, you are sorely and laughably mistaken. The question has been posed elsewhere already, but do you really think A-Rod’s .820 postseason OPS (which, while below the standard of excellence he set in the regular season, would have put him in the top 40% of the league in the regular season) hurt the Yankees’ World Series chances more than Chien-Ming Wang’s 19.06 ERA or Derek Jeter’s .176 batting average? Do you realize that Jeter’s postseason OPS this year (.352) was one point less than A-Rod’s OBP (.353)? No matter how you slice it, A-Rod does not make the “Top Five Players to Blame for the Yankees Not Winning the 2007 World Series” list. And if you remember that they wouldn’t have made the postseason at all if he hadn’t put up one of the greatest seasons in history, your argument officially gets flushed down the toilet.

A-Rod defenders will recite career numbers and averages to you. Yes, they’re great. We never said they weren’t. But when are they great?

In 2007, A-Rod carried the Yankees in the early months with a record-setting offensive explosion … but in the ALDS he could manage only four hits in four games. A-Rod did manage to hit one homer … a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh inning while down 6-2 in an elimination game.

In 2006, A-Rod put up a 35-HR, 121-RBI, .290 performance … but in the ALDS against the Tigers, his .071 average so crippled the Yankees that manager Joe Torre dropped him to eighth in the lineup in Game 4 (he went hitless and the Yanks were eliminated).

In 2005, A-Rod won his second MVP award … but in the ALDS against the Angels he hit .133 with two hits and no RBIs. The Angels eliminated the Yankees in five games.

In the 2004 ALCS, A-Rod did hit .258 with five RBIs … but in Games 4 to 7 had only two RBIs and two hits. One of the defining moments of that series was when he slapped the ball out of Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s hand in Game 6, helping to kill a potential Yankee rally in a game they would lose 4-2.

Ah, selective memory. First of all, he jumps straight from the “early months” of 2007 to the 2007 postseason. So either “early months” is referring to the entire regular season (remember, the record-breaking one), or he is just glossing over the 1.058 OPS A-Rod put up after the All-Star break this year.

Then he lists all the huge, monumental, colossal postseason failures A-Rod has had. Of course, he discounts the good parts, like that A-Rod batted .368 in the first four games of the 2004 ALCS immediately after he batted .421 in the ALDS against the Twins. Oh, but at least he mentioned the worthless home run Rodriguez hit in game 4 of this year’s ALDS. Because, you know, if your team is down by four runs in an elimination game, you’d have to be some sort of selfish jerk to only hit a solo homer when your team obviously needs a grand slam. Jerkface.

And the Bronson Arroyo play. To hear this guy talk, you’d think A-Rod’s blunder cost the Yankees the two runs they needed to tie the game. Of course, what ACTUALLY happened is that because of the interference call, Derek Jeter was sent back to first base, instead of being on second. But when Gary Sheffield popped up to the catcher to end the inning, Jeter wasn’t going to score even if he was standing halfway between third and home. A-Rod’s groundout helped to kill the potential rally; his interference did virtually nothing.

You will get All-Star appearances (he already has 11 of them), Silver Slugger awards (nine of them) and home run titles (five so far). But you won’t get to the World Series. And in the end, isn’t that late October parade what you really want?

That’s quite a leap. Because the Yankees haven’t been to the World Series in A-Rod’s four years with them, your team won’t get to the World Series if they get A-Rod. Did you know that A-Rod’s career postseason OPS — even after the lousy performances everyone talks about — is only two points lower than Derek Jeter’s career postseason OPS (.844 to .846)? Somewhere in Mike Philbrick’s mind, there is some fundamental reason that A-Rod has struggled in a few postseasons, and he is convinced that he will ALWAYS struggle in every postseason from now until the end of time. Of course, Rodriguez struggled in April 2006, too; and in April 2007, he set records. People who want to look only at past performance sure do conveniently overlook the past performance of A-Rod being the best player in baseball the past ten years.

Philbrick then goes into a discussion of the money, which, remember, is the only good reason to not want A-Rod on your team. So I won’t argue that point, although I will pick a quick nit with this paragraph:

No debate over A-Rod would be complete without discussing his contract. If you’re going to argue the reality of his gaudy numbers, you need to discuss the reality of how much it will cost your team. Conservative estimates have A-Rod getting a $300 million deal (10 years at $30 million per).

Mike Philbrick made up this “conservative estimate.” Well, maybe Scott Boras made it up, but Mike Philbrick believed it. Is/was 10x$30M within the realm of possibility? Sure. Was it a conservative estimate? No. I read many estimates and opinions that had teams only wanting to sign him for seven years.

So after making the point about locking up too much money in one player, Philbrick gets back to silliness:

It’s not just the long-term financial implications — the reality is that his contract will forever be a story. Three years in? It will still be discussed with every spring training opening and every early October exit. You’ll get the writer who fires up the calculator on his laptop and tells you how much money A-Rod got for each one of those many homers he hit. And if he hits 50 home runs, there will be cries that he should have hit 60. Ask Alex about his treatment in New York: Two MVP awards in four seasons and he still couldn’t win over the fans.

Make up your mind, Mikey! Just a few paragraphs ago, you talked about what a failure A-Rod is. Now you act incredulous that he hasn’t won over the New York fans? Maybe the New York fans are as dumb as you are.

Then there’s the issue of chemistry. Many people will tell you it’s all bull and that it doesn’t matter. If you have talent, chemistry will come. Really? How did talent work out for the Yankees this season? Or the Dodgers? The Mets seemed pretty talented, too. Sure, everyone seems to get along when you’re winning. But if you’re a clubhouse divided, winning can be more difficult — and don’t look to A-Rod to eliminate that issue.

I have never heard anyone say “If you have talent, chemistry will come.” What people actually say is that “chemistry” comes from winning, not vice versa. Yes, the Yankees had a lot of talent this year. They also had a lot of adversity with their pitching staff, AND the Red Sox and Indians both had a lot of talent, AND they drew the Indians (with the best 1-2 pitching punch in baseball) in a short series. Do you really think A-Rod comes to the plate with Jeter on second and thinks, “Well, back in 1997 when we were best friends, I totally would have driven him in right here. But now that we don’t like each other very much, I think I’ll just go ahead and ground out to third”? Exactly what role does chemistry play? The Red Sox have “great chemistry” because they won the World Series. If they had lost the World Series, they would have bad chemistry. Cause and effect get mixed up for some people.

We’ve all seen the interviews and the postgame comments delivered with the sincerity of a robot. We’ve also experienced the times when A-Rod needed a teammate to back him up and the silence was deafening. He comes across as an awkward CEO trapped in the body of a Hall of Famer. And while other teams may win with guys who are flaky or arrogant, there’s still something there that allows them to connect with their teammates. Is A-Rod capable of that? No. And for $30 million of your team’s payroll, you need a clubhouse leader.

Sorry, dude, but I think driving in those teammates 102 times, and being on base for them to drive you in 89 times, is probably going to connect with them. Is he best friends with all his teammates? Probably not (although I submit that the vast majority of people writing about it don’t have any idea what they’re talking about). But who cares? Teams don’t need their highest-paid player to be a clubhouse leader; they need him to produce on the field. And if a guy has one of the best seasons anyone can remember, I suspect that has more of a positive impact on the clubhouse than negative.

Finally, there’s the issue of being a fan. It sounds crazy, but people want their team to win a certain way. They don’t want to win with cheaters. They don’t want to win if the opposing team was without its staff ace or team MVP. That just wouldn’t feel as good. And you certainly don’t want to be accused of buying a title. If your team brings A-Rod on board, let the unfriendly dollar sign e-mails begin. You don’t want any part of a situation in which your friends can toss in the dreaded conversational asterisk while you bask in your championship glory.

What world does this dude live in? What fan cares about “buying a title”? Has he ever heard how much the fans in San Francisco adore Barry Bonds? Has he ever been to Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park? I could see this argument being valid if a team bumped up their payroll to $800 million or something outrageous and won the World Series, but not in today’s atmosphere. The Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, etc., have proven that a huge payroll doesn’t necessarily mean a World Championship (I have a lot more to say about that, but I’ll save it for another day), so no fan in their right mind would feel bad winning with the best player in baseball as their third baseman, no matter how much he was paid.

I asked Phillies fans Justin Isabell and Brian Waldron if they would want A-Rod for the chance to put their team over the hump. Remember, these guys are from Philadelphia, which is Iroquois for “city where the sports teams shred your soul.”

“I wouldn’t want A-Rod on my team, because it’s just that — a team,” said Isabell. “As nice as his glove and offensive production would be at the hot corner in Philadelphia, the most fun teams to watch and cheer for are true teams, not one player.”

Waldron added, “If they signed A-Rod I would be totally pissed. That means there’s no way they’re getting any pitching. Besides, there’s no way I can root for that guy.”

Brian Waldron makes a good point, the same point I made above: if your team can’t afford to put players around A-Rod, they shouldn’t sign him. But Justin Isabell is flat-out wrong. “The most fun teams to watch and cheer for are true teams, not one player.” Well duh. Every team has the same number of players, and I guarantee you no one would enjoy watching a team of 25 average players play the game (and finish in last place). Find me a team that has EVER won the World Series with no big stars on the team. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I didn’t think so. It’s easy to say you want to watch a “true team” play, but “true teams” are just “lousy teams” unless they have a big star or two.

Since Alex reached the majors in 1994, the Braves, Yankees, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Angels, Red Sox, White Sox and Cardinals have managed to win the World Series without him. The Indians, Padres, Mets, Giants, Astros, Tigers and Rockies have reached the World Series without him.

The Mariners, Rangers and Yankees — the three teams he’s played for — have never reached the World Series with him on their roster.

Which list do you want your team on?

First of all, I will knock the Braves off the list of teams that have won the World Series, since A-Rod didn’t play his first full season until 1996. So seven teams have won the World Series in A-Rod’s 12-year career, and eight others have lost the World Series. Know what this means? Absolutely nothing. TEAMS go to the World Series. No player has ever won a World Series. No matter how dominant Josh Beckett is, the best he can do on his own is a 0-0 tie game. Derek Jeter could hit a home run every time up, but if Chien-Ming Wang is pitching the way he did this postseason, they will lose every game 19.06 to 4. Teams win World Series.

I will not say A-Rod has been outstanding in the postseason the past few years. He has struggled, especially compared to his excellent regular season numbers. But looking into the future, I would much rather have the best hitter in baseball on my team than some “proven winner” who happened to play for a lot of good teams.

In 1986, Don Baylor played for the Red Sox, who lost the World Series in seven games. In 1987, Baylor played for the World Champion Minnesota Twins. In 1988, Baylor’s A’s lost to the Dodgers in the World Series. So obviously, Don Baylor was the most dominant player of the late 1980s, right? I mean, he went to the World Series three years in a row, with three different teams! That guy turns teams into winners!

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