Numerical Nightmareby John Brattain
October 13, 2006
At the moment with playoff coverage in the capable hands of my fellow THTers I am free to do what I do best. If I only knew what that was.
Oh well. I guess a post-mortem stream-of-consciousness monologue will have to suffice. (Takes hearty pull from two-liter bottle of Diet Mountain Dew High Energy drink)
Okay, I’m really ready this time.
A-nother day, a-nother playoff flame out. He came, he saw, he got conquered. Carpe Diem became Suffoco Diem.
Granted, misery loves company and Rodriguez had plenty of non-Rafael Palmeiro company in the limp lumber department.
Of course none of them came into this postseason under the microscope A-Rod did.
Believe it or not I see a bit of a parallel between Alex Rodriguez and Roger Maris, and they both involve numbers. Maris often stated that his baseball career would’ve been a whole lot more fun if he had never hit 61 home runs. Since nobody could live up to that status—besting the Bambino—Maris could never live it down, especially in New York.
I can’t help but wonder if A-Rod now feels that his career would be a lot more fun if he hadn’t signed the $252 million contract with the Rangers, since he is forced to read and hear so often that he isn’t worthy of it—after all, the average Joe feels that for that kind of jack you should be positively godlike each and every October.
Of course how can you not sign a quarter-billion-dollar contract? By the same token: if you’re sitting on 59 home runs how can you not try to hit 60—then 61? Maris’s 61 became a nightmare just as has A-Rod’s 252. As long as Maris was in New York he could never shake the repercussions of 61.
Let’s face it, if A-Rod had opted for a shorter deal as a free agent and was in pinstripes now, chances are good he wouldn’t be under this kind of scrutiny. Gary Sheffield is a phenomenal hitter and potential Hall of Famer, yet over Rodriguez’s vaunted skid, Sheffield went just .160/.236/.160 in 50 at-bats.
Nobody complains much about that, but then again Sheffield isn’t associated with 252.
Hideki Matsui, while not as bad as Rodriguez or Sheffield, over A-Rod’s skid hit (in 55 at-bats) .236/.288/.400; most of that damage came in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, when he went 2-5 with a double and a triple. In his last 12 playoff games, Godzilla is just .220/.264/.340—this from a position where you expect big offense.
Nobody complains much about that, but then again Matsui isn’t associated with 252 either.
Since 2004 the Yankees have paid Sheffield and Matsui a total of $64 million, and over A-Rod’s postseason troubles they have combined for .200/.263/.333 in 105 at-bats and they’re corner outfielders.
Where’s the outrage? But they don’t have the 252 to live up to or live down.
As of this writing there’s so much spinning coming out of the Yankee organization that it’s become the Bronx Centrifuge. So far A-Rod has made numerous statements about wishing to stay a Yankee. So far Brian Cashman has made numerous statements that A-Rod will stay a Yankee.
That’s not news; that’s spin.
To begin with there is an excellent chance that come Opening Day A-Rod will be playing at the hot corner in Yankee Stadium. Having said that, it’s not because of what Cashman and Rodriguez are saying at the moment.
The Yankee organization knows full well what’s coming with A-Rod in 2007. It’s going to be a huge distraction. They have an incredibly talented third baseman who may well hit .300, slug 40-50 home runs and both score and drive in 100+ runs. Of course, that and $16 million will get you a newspaper, possibly another early exit from the postseason, and a media circus of Biblical proportions.
Before I go any further I’d like to state in no uncertain terms that I think the Yankees would be insane to trade A-Rod. Barry Bonds was a noted postseason flameout until 2002. Rodriguez is too talented not to eventually right himself in October.
That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it.
Having said that, there's still the issue about what’s going to happen between right now and “eventually.”
Cashman’s statement indicates that he won’t shop A-Rod, but that’s a far cry from being willing to listen to offers. All Cashman is really saying is that if you’re interested in Rodriguez then you had best bowl him over with an offer because he ain’t giving him away. A directive from either Steinbrenner or Cashman stating in no uncertain terms that Rodriguez absolutely, positively must go is a terrific way to kill your leverage in a deal. Look no further than the return that Phillies’ GM Pat Gillick got on the Bobby Abreu/Corey Lidle (R.I.P.) deal. Gillick had only one trading partner because Abreu had a very small list of teams to which he’d accept a trade, and only one of those clubs was willing to assume the entirety of the contract.
That destroyed Gillick’s leverage. Not only didn’t he get any of the Yankees' minor league crown jewels, he had to toss the Phillies' most valuable trading chip into the deal just to be rid of Abreu’s contract.
Cashman understands leverage and will under no circumstances surrender it by saying A-Rod must go.
A-Rod said he wanted out of Texas to go to a contender and got all kinds of static from it. There’s no way he’ll repeat that mistake. He also realizes that Cashman will not trade him simply to trade him, so there’s an excellent chance he’ll be wearing pinstripes next year. He’s got to answer over and over again about his October struggles and the fallout from the media and fans from it, and there’s no way he’s going to give them any further ammunition with which to launch broadsides.
So just because he says he’s committed to the Yankees and wishes to remain doesn’t mean it’s true. Rodriguez simply cannot say anything but that without opening a party pack of grief (defined as 12 cans of worms, 12 cans of whoop ass) for himself.
Another point: as I understand it, there’s the slight complication (although I’m still searching for a citation) that the Rangers' obligation to A-Rod becomes null and void if he’s dealt to another team. In other words the Yanks will be trying to move a $25 million-a-year contract as opposed to a $16 million-a-year deal.
(update: the Yankees pay A-Rod his entire salary while the Rangers send the Yankees the agreed to amount. This doesn't change if the Yankees deal Rodriguez so the Yankees are only dealing with a $16 million obligation to Rodriguez if they want to make a trade. They receive the money from the Rangers regardless if the Yankees keep or trade A-Rod)
So if the Yankees want talent back they’ll have to eat a chunk of change.
If there’s to be a parting of the ways it won’t be easy.
Rodriguez could probably use a change of scenery, and the level of distraction and possible division he causes might make a divorce mutually beneficial. However, the Yankees would want pitching, pitching, pitching. Absent A-Rod New York would still have a top-shelf offense.
I’m guessing it’s not gonna happen.
So, after 1200-odd words we get to everybody’s favorite part: where I propose my own personal solution to this mess, and you get to tell me why it’s a really bad idea. Then we dance, we kiss, we schmooze, we carry on and everybody goes home happy.
- The Yankees keep A-Rod (duh).
- A-Rod fires Boras (spare the e-mails; we both know it ain’t gonna happen, but I’m going to forge ahead and explain my reasons). A-Rod issues a statement to this effect:
“While I’m extremely grateful to my friend Scott Boras for the money he has made for me, I personally feel that in certain matters I’ve allowed him to have too much influence over my decision-making process. I think it’s time I take more control over my career. While I’m grateful for the money and I enjoyed my stay in Texas, I think, being a young man, that I let the glamor of the contract blind me to the things I wanted to accomplish as a major league baseball player. This has set back where I hoped I’d be at this point in my life. I will always consider Scott a friend, but I think it would be in our best interests if we parted ways so that I am better able to concentrate on winning a World Series with the New York Yankees and focus less on the marketing aspect of my career. I’d hoped that the money I make would be simply the icing on the cake of a career that would be filled with World Series championships. It’s time I forgot about the icing and focused on the cake.”
Scott Boras isn't well liked by the average baseball fan. Of all of his well-known clients, people associate Rodriguez with Boras. Distancing himself from Boras would win points for A-Rod. It's not right and probably not fair, but it's reality. Let's not forget Rodriguez has made Boras a lot of money; he works for A-Rod, not the other way around. If Boras' employment is causing problems, then Rodriguez is within his rights to fire him.
- Call a press conference and re-apologize to Derek Jeter over his comments in Esquire magazine and state that he considers it an honour to play alongside him and hopes that Yankee fans would one day hold him in half the regard that they hold Jeter and hope that they can put his “stupid remarks” in the past. Don’t be ambiguous. Put the onus on Jeter to end the dissension.
- Have Steinbrenner tell his captain in no uncertain terms that A-Rod is a Yankee and that he expects Jeter to do his job as captain and publicly support his teammate and stop acting like the alpha female in a high school sophomore class.
- Tell Joe Torre to forget about A-Rod’s contract and his past accomplishments and treat him according to his play. Nothing drives me crazier than when somebody says “he makes too much to sit on the bench.” Playin g time should be according to merit not money. If A-Rod is not producing well in the third or fourth spot in the order, bat him sixth, seventh, or eighth. Make him earn the honor of hitting in the key spots in the lineup. Baseball is a “what have you done for me lately” sport. A-Rod’s $252 million contract, or his 464 career home runs are things in the past. Play A-Rod according to how he plays right now and treat him like any other player—put him in situations where he’s most likely to succeed.
- Have Torre and Steinbrenner sit Rodriguez down and put it to him straight: “People don’t like you. Every time you open your mouth they like you less. Stop trying to please everybody because it’s not working—you’re even ticking us off. Kill the ball, help us win some rings and they’ll love you here.”
- Stop trying to look like the cover from GQ. Grow out your hair, wear some scruff or grow a goatee. Scratch yourself early and often, even the hard-to-reach places. Dizzy Dean once said “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it;” act like it and not like you’re on a runway modelling the latest line of Jockeywear.
- Tell the media to kiss off occasionally and do it with a sneer. They’re gonna blast you anyway. Hey, you’re human—humans get ticked off occasionally. Hey, my dad used to tell me to stop complaining or he'd give me something to complain about. If they're going to blast you anyway, make it worth your while.
Roger Maris had to leave New York to escape the shadow of 61. Hopefully Alex Rodriguez won't have to escape New York to escape the shadow of 252.
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.
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