And it begins

Sometimes I wonder if anyone understands that the New York Yankees are in the baseball business rather than politics or public relations:

Nine more years. Nine long, bold-headlined years. That is how much longer the Yankees are contractually obligated to put up with always-something Alex Rodriguez. With his celebrity distractions, his need to be noticed, his clubhouse-integration issues, his Derek Jeter envy and, yes, his prime-time failures.

Nine years, and now, it appears, without the authentic historic payoff that Hank Steinbrenner and the Yankees were so seduced by, they couldn’t wait to sign A-Rod to a deal that would carry him well past his 40th birthday and could cost them $300 million . . .

. . . The Yankees were the most ardent admirers of Rodriguez and are also positioned to be the biggest suckers, given the contract they gave him, along with promises of bonuses for every home-run hero he passes. They convinced themselves that A-Rod was the man for the 21st-century reclamation of baseball’s tarnished record book — except they conveniently forget he was taking major league swings as early as 1994.

As much as anyone, he is a product of a decade in which the sport took a pharmaceutical path that, for too many reputations, has become the road to ruin.

This screed — in the New York Times, not the tabloids — only makes passing mention of the fact that people care about the New York Yankees because they are a baseball team, and that to the extent they care about Alex Rodriguez, it is because he is the best player on that team. Yes, many people will complain about the latest steroid news. I suppose even a few may give up on Rodriguez and the Yankees altogether, though if they do they are drama queens of the first order.

But to suggest that the Yankees are somehow suckers and Rodriguez somehow worthless in light of all of this is to misunderstand why anyone pays attention in the first place. It’s baseball. It’s a game. Alex Rodriguez will continue to play it better than just about any player. The Yankees will continue to win games at a clip surpassing just about any team. And the fans will continue to show up and root for them both — the latter far more than the former, of course — just the way they have for the past 109 years.

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Comments

  1. pete said...

    On the bright side, as long as the Yankees fans keep hating ARod I can keep rooting for him in good conscience. Hate on, New York.

  2. Joepro said...

    Ok, 2 questions:

    1. How many players were “surveyed” in 2003?  Because if in fact 104 tested positive, there is a serious flaw in the mitchell report:

    However, it is a fact that between 5 and 7 percent of the major league players who
    participated in anonymous survey testing in 2003 tested positive for performance enhancing
    substances.

    This would reflect a sample size of over 2000 players.  If this included the minor leagues, maybe, but nothing indicates it did so.  Therefore, the percentage cited in the mitchell report is incredibly low.

    2.  How did just one name out of 104 get out?

  3. lar said...

    @Joepro: I read somewhere (maybe the original SI article) that it was something like 1045 players tested…

    Everyone in New York seems to think that A-Rod is forever ruined and that he’s not going to be worth that $300million to the Yankees, and that his milestones, etc. won’t be celebrated. People seem to forget that even the universally loathed Barry Bonds was loved and cheered and celebrated in San Francisco by his hometown fans.

    Now, maybe New York fans are quicker to turn on their own guys, or maybe enough people didn’t like A-Rod in the first place that this just gives them more ammo, or maybe the fact that this is a positive test changes things, I don’t know… I just thought it was important to remember that even someone as hated as Bonds had legions of fans..

    —lar
    http://wezen-ball.blogspot.com

  4. lar said...

    @Joepro: I read somewhere (maybe the original SI article) that it was something like 1045 players tested…

    Everyone in New York seems to think that A-Rod is forever ruined and that he’s not going to be worth that $300million to the Yankees, and that his milestones, etc. won’t be celebrated. People seem to forget that even the universally loathed Barry Bonds was loved and cheered and celebrated in San Francisco by his hometown fans.

    Now, maybe New York fans are quicker to turn on their own guys, or maybe enough people didn’t like A-Rod in the first place that this just gives them more ammo, or maybe the fact that this is a positive test changes things, I don’t know… I just thought it was important to remember that even someone as hated as Bonds had legions of fans..

    http://wezen-ball.blogspot.com

  5. lar said...

    @Joepro: I read somewhere (maybe the original SI article) that it was something like 1045 players tested…

    Everyone in New York seems to think that A-Rod is forever ruined and that he’s not going to be worth that $300million to the Yankees, and that his milestones, etc. won’t be celebrated. People seem to forget that even the universally loathed Barry Bonds was loved and cheered and celebrated in San Francisco by his hometown fans.

    Now, maybe New York fans are quicker to turn on their own guys, or maybe enough people didn’t like A-Rod in the first place that this just gives them more ammo, or maybe the fact that this is a positive test changes things, I don’t know… I just thought it was important to remember that even someone as hated as Bonds had legions of fans..

  6. Pete Toms said...

    @ Joepro – I don’t recall the number but I do recall I did the math and came up with a percentage of 8.6% positive tests, up from the 5-7 % previously reported.  Not certain why either….I know the feds retested Bonds’ pee and it came up positive when it hadn’t in 03..but that’s due to the always evolving testing….to complicate matters there are more “tests” than players because some were tested more than once, IIRC.

    I think they Yankees and MLB will weather this ok.  Us chattering classes (and I’m at the front of that line) follow this in minute detail, but the vast majority of fans that attend games don’t and won’t, they enjoy the ball, the diversion, the weather, the beer, the food, the company of friends, co-workers, family….they don’t know Radomski from Novitsky from Conte.  And the tactic that MLB has employed with the MR – acknowledge the problem, act on the problem, assure the fans that the problem has been resolved, the steroid era is behind us – worked wonderfully, there has been no backlash from fans, will continue to work.

  7. YankeesfanLen said...

    I, too, find it very suspect that ARod’s name is the only one of 104 players who got the “leak” treatment. And it shows the general integrity of government to deal with supposed “sealed info”
    WCBS, the all-news station in NY, interviewed Mets and Yankees fans this AM.  This is completely unscientific, but no one cares.
    Nor do I (unless he hits less than 40 HRs THIS year).

  8. Rob said...

    I have to disagree with your premise here.  Above all else, the New York Yankees are a brand.  The Mets play baseball, the Red Sox play baseball, and so so the other 27 teams that come through New York City every summer.  The only reason people root for the Yankees instead of these other teams is proximity and brand.  The last thing that brand needs is nine years of its best player constantly hounded by steroid talk as he gets paid millions in bonus money for hitting #600, #661, #715, #756, and #763.

  9. Craig Calcaterra said...

    And the brand was built from winning lots of freaking baseball games.  If they continue to win lots of freaking baseball games, the brand will not be sullied.  If they continue to win lots of freaking baseball games over the next few years, it’s because A-Rod has continued to hit the cover off the ball.

    The only time in history that the Yankee brand suffered was between 1965 and 1976, when they lost a lot of games.

  10. Aaron Moreno said...

    I can’t wait for the “void the contract” talk to begin.

    Also, as far as I know, the Yankees are actually a baseball team.

  11. Pete Toms said...

    I can think of no other objective measurement of fan backlash than attendance.  Up until this season the saturation coverage of steroids in baseball has not resulted in any decline in attendance.  For obvious reasons attendance could (or likely will) decline noticably this season (it’s a given that ticket revenues will decline).  I’ll be shocked if the Yankees don’t remain the top road draw in 09 and in fact by a wider margin than previous.  We all love the Yankee soap opera and it’s reached new heights (or lows).

  12. Craig Calcaterra said...

    “But they’re also known for the class and dignity that they purportedly represent (hello facial hair.) The idea that the Yankees as an organization aren’t going to be stung by this because they play (and win) baseball games is ludicrous.”

    The only people you ever hear talk about Yankee class and dignity (and actually take it seriously) are people on the Yankees’ payroll and Kool-Aid drinkers on fanboy message boards.  Most people—including most Yankees fans—know that just because their team is the most famous and most successful in baseball history, doesn’t mean that they’re different in kind or are mighty and exalted in any real way.

    Aaron gave the list of previous Yankee PED users.  Many other shifty characters have worn the pinstripes in the past.  The Bronx Zoo era was the antithesis of dignity and class, but dammit they won, and people loved them for it. Quick: ask any Yankee fan my age (35) and they’ll tell you that they fell in love with those fussing and fighting and—guess what—facial hair wearing Yankee teams of the late 70s.

    Then there were the hard drinking Yankees of Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford’s era.  I suppose you had about 20 years of class during DiMaggio and Gehrig’s reigns as team leader, but Babe Ruth wasn’t exactly a poster boy for any virtue besides sheer domination.  And before Ruth? They were losers, often considered dirty losers.

    What of Yankee dignity and class? It’s a fiction.  A fiction in which many traffic, but a fiction all the same, and no one has bought tickets or merchandise for the Bombers due to some alleged Yankee dignity and class in our lifetimes.

  13. Rob said...

    You guys sound like the Supreme Court decision that defined MLB as not a business.

    Look, the Yankees are known for their success, no doubt.  But they’re also known for the class and dignity that they purportedly represent (hello facial hair.)  The idea that the Yankees as an organization aren’t going to be stung by this because they play (and win) baseball games is ludicrous.

    Fair or not, every home run that A-Rod hits will be an opportunity to remind everyone that he failed a steroid test.  And not just for any-ole PED like water pills or ephedrine.  He got nailed with real anabolic steroids.

    As he approaches the hallowed numbers of Mays, Ruth, and Aaron, the Yankees will be painted as team of PED-infused cheaters.  That may not play in the tri-state area, but the rest of the country is going to get a full helping of steroid talk every time he steps to the plate.

    A-Rod was MLB’s golden boy.  He was anointed as the cleansing wash to rid the sport of Bonds’s legacy.  The Yankees paid to be the team that brought that clean image back to the game;  They wanted that golden boy in pinstripes.  Instead they have nine years of their best player being linked to a positive steroid test.

  14. Aaron Moreno said...

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. As an Angels fan, I’ll remind Yankee fans of Rodriguez’s transgressions at EVERY opportunity. However, I’ve never known him to be considered a golden boy or messiah. Yankee fans seemed to considered him an overpaid womanizing choker.

    Before A-Rod, there was Knoblauch, Pettite, Clemens, Sheffield, and Giambi. What changes now?

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