Lo and behold, there is a positive story about Alex Rodriguez in a New York paper this morning. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes:
He is a winner in nearly all the ways our society keeps score, notably in the areas of incredible riches and talent. Nevertherless, he often feels as if he cannot win. So his answers during a half-hour call are, as usual, long and full of insight.
…But almost all come with disclaimers that he is responding to questions because they have been asked…At this point, A-Rod recognizes his sincerity and motives are challenged enough that there is no such thing as a simple answer to a simple question.
Rodriguez is enthusiastic about the arrival of Johnny Damon. “He fits our team like a glove.” Furthermore, Sherman writes:
There is nothing cosmetic about A-Rod’s zeal during the conversation. The AL MVP loves baseball. Trust me, most players have no idea what transactions their own team have made. Rodriguez is not only aware of every move of every club, but is able to contextualize it better than most GMs I speak to. In some ways, A-Rod has the soul of nerd fantasy-league player.
It is interesting how loathed Rodriguez is for being “insincere.” There is something intense going on with him–more than just his contract–that grates on people’s nerves. For someone who can make the game look effortless in spite of all his hustle, perhaps fans are offended by how hard Rodriguez seems to try and do or say the right thing. His game appears flawless but off-the-field, he comes across as hopeless at times, and many, sensing a chink in the armor, are ready to pounce. Fans generally tolerate a star who is offensive or egotistical like Reggie Jackson (or a straight-up ditz like Manny Ramirez) because they are perceived to be honest. Like them or not, they are accepted, sometimes embraced.
Maybe all Rodriguez has to do is last: remain healthy and continue to play into his late thirties (being part of a championship team would certainly help) before the public at large truly accepts him–at which point he can have his Sally Fields moment. But it’s odd for a guy who is bright, articulate, self-aware, and an incredibly hard-worker–everything we supposedly want in a player–to be so awkward in a sense. Anyhow, say what you want about him, but along with Mike Piazza, he’s one of the few star players that you could actually sit down and talk baseball with. That, in and of itself, is notable.