"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky # 51: The Tao of A-Rod

Injuries or prolonged absences tend to spring the mainstream media into a mode of touting the exploits of a superstar player and his value to a team (the value not quantified by Baseball Prospectus’s VORP stat). This was especially true over the last week while the Yankee offense was comatose.

Talk about a 180-degree turnaround. When Alex Rodriguez first came to the Yankees, there was the stigma of his exorbitant contract and the fracturing of his friendship with Derek Jeter. Three seasons later – seasons that included two MVP awards and team records for right-handed power hitters, playoff series of subpar performance and strange/lurid/bush—league behavior both on and off the field, Alex Rodriguez was still portrayed as an outsider.

Then he went on the disabled list and the Yankees became the Tankees, plummeting to mediocrity, struggling to beat the Tampa Bay Rays.

Had the Yankees been pitching well, hitting in a representative manner and winning, the perception would not have taken shape that the Yankees had become reliant on the production of A-Rod to kick-start the team. Three games into his comeback, Rodriguez is writing the stories for the beat, with two home runs in each game, which can hopefully kick things into gear and give Joe Girardi some lineup stability. With Jeter out of the lineup, A-Rod’s presence and the need for him to succeed are magnified. The writers and detached local TV reporters won’t let him forget it.

Watching A-Rod, though, he seems to be at peace with all of it, finally.


Does it roil anyone else to hear “fans” discuss baseball and then say something asinine like this?

 “I don’t really watch a lot of baseball, but for the money these guys make, they shouldn’t make any errors, I’m sorry.”

I heard that yesterday morning at the gym and nearly gave myself a headache from biting my tongue.

Equally ridiculous – and I admit this – is something I’ve said for years : No major league hitter should ever strike out looking. That comes from years of watching and playing the game, and covering it. I know if I was a Major Leaguer, I’d be up there to hit and swing the bat, and if I go down, I’m going down swinging. Of course, I’d only swing at strikes, so that I could increase the odds of boosting my OBP and OPS. 




How far has the Subway Series fallen? I don’t mean the Yankees’ performance, which was akin to watching a loop of American Idol rejects. From the media radar, I mean. The hype was tepid – largely due to the absences of Jeter and A-Rod. The anticipation, as usual, was greater from the camp of Mets fans, and the media coverage was bland.

The only thing that came out of it, in my opinion, was that on the heels of Carlos Delgado’s three-run home run that was ruled foul, MLB could – and perhaps should – give serious consideration to Instant Replay. Joe Morgan had one lucid comment about the incident: “The job of the umpires is to get the call right, and in this case, they didn’t get it right.” When Jon Miller set him up to give his thoughts on Instant Replay in baseball, Morgan always came back to, “No, I don’t think there should be instant replay, because then you’ll see umpires go to it in the fifth inning, like tonight.” Huh? That call would have given the Mets a 6-0 lead. Was it not a critical time in the game?

More curious was that Miller did not challenge is broadcast partner or ask the question: “Well, Joe, you said that the job is to get it right. If there’s a questionable call and none of the umpires get it right, why does it matter when IR is used?” No solutions were presented. It could have been a great discussion, and it fell flat.


“That’s what I mean when I’m talking about accountability.”

I bet this kept the guys at firejoemorgan.com busy on Monday morning.

The Hall of Famer said that at least 15 times in a 3 minute span Sunday night when analyzing the locker room controversy that Billy Wagner started, when he called to attention the fact that the Latino ballplayers had left before the media could interview them about the game. David Wells used to do this occasionally when he had a horrible outing.

Morgan’s quote referenced Delgado apologizing to Wagner, and then whenever he did something positive on the field, that tied into his accountability for shirking reporters. Actions on the field make you accountable to your teammates and nothing else.

Morgan didn’t have a problem with Delgado and Carlos Beltran ducking. As a reporter and fan, I do. The first rule is you get the quotes from the people who most closely influenced the game.  If they bail, you mention that they left early and work around it.

On the broadcast, Morgan theorized that players “only being accountable to their teammates, not to the media.” Maybe that was true 35 years ago, when there wasn’t a 24/7 news cycle and players were making good money, but not eight figures a year, but not now. Leaving without explaining matters is selfish and it doesn’t help a player’s standing with fans, or as Wagner showed, in the clubhouse. Barry Bonds was icy with the media, but at least he told writers he wasn’t going to talk.

The papers are not free from blame here. The tabloids blew the incident out of proportion, made Wagner the story and turned it into the Sharks vs. the Jets, which was wrong. It was a revenge play to sell papers and create drama within the team, and it worked.

Until next week … Enjoy the holiday.


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver