"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…


I’ve read the Verducci-Torre book and have an article up at SI.com discussing, who else?  Alex Rodriguez:

Rodriguez takes up only a small portion of the narrative — the 22-page chapter devoted to him (“The Problem of Alex”) comes halfway through a book that is just shy of 500 pages. And while the tone of the chapter is often sharp, Verducci and Torre don’t simply rip Rodriguez. They admire that he was the hardest worker on the team, even if he was also a high-maintenance star. “Nobody works harder than Alex,” says Torre. “He’s a workaholic.”

Still, Rodriguez is held up as a symbol of the Yankees’ recent failure to win a World Series. He’s forever the un-Jeter, especially in the eyes of many Yankee fans.

“He may be the most underappreciated great baseball player in the history of the city,” says novelist Kevin Baker, who is currently writing a book about New York baseball. “Has any athlete ever kept as clean a nose in New York and gotten more flack? He hasn’t shot himself in a nightclub or turned over numerous cars like Babe Ruth or been accused of statutory rape like David Cone. [Jason] Giambi was forgiven for being a drug user. Rodriguez devotes himself to the game and the complaints never stop.”

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1 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 28, 2009 2:53 pm

Very nice summary….following are a few thoughts:

Borzello describes the time that Rodriguez visited Jeter's home and was shocked to discover that Jeter didn't subscribe to the baseball package or watch any games that he wasn't playing in.

That’s interesting. Did this come from the book? Maybe that’s why I am actually drawn to like Arod…I see in him someone who is as crazy about baseball as I am. Also, I don’t think it’s simply a personal mania either. While some point to the Arroyo chop and the Ha! Incident as moments of derision, I see it as someone casting aside perception in order to win at all costs.

It’s funny…in many ways, Arod is so much more like the “fans” than a guy like Jeter. Not only is he a baseball junkie like most of us, but he is also neurotic about the game. On the one hand, fans complain about players who don’t really care about the game, but when someone like Arod, who not only cares about his sport, but also what the fans think about him, comes along, people resent it. Could it be that more people can relate to someone like Arod, because of his vulnerability and insecurity, and therefore resent him for it? After all, aren’t we more apt to be jealous of those whom we perceive to have the same flaws we do?

"He needs the game," Torre says. "He needs all of those statistics. He needs every record imaginable. And he needs people to make a fuss over him. And he's always going to put up numbers because he's too good. It means a lot to him, and good for him."

Why do I have the feeling that you could say the above about most great athletes, actors, politicians, musicians, etc.

"When it comes to a key situation," Torre says in the book, "he can't get himself to concern himself with getting the job done, instead of how it looks. He always wants it to look good. That's never going to happen, because you can do some things in an ugly way and still accomplish something too."

The irony with this comment is that everyone else also isn’t satisfied with results…they want it to look good too. Even though every stat imaginable suggests otherwise, people still have a negative perception of Arod’s performance. Even in Verducci’s article, Giambi had a quote suggesting that a few bloop hits by Arod was not evidence of him doing his job. If enough people judge you not by performance, but how you look doing it, isn’t it reasonable that you’ll start doing the same thing yourself?

"Mays is simply above statistics," continued Hano. "There is a quality about his skill that defies the grinding camera or the tape measure."

That is non sense. Mays is not above statistics. His greatness is defined by them. His style was just the exclamation point.

Is he truly unconcerned with what has been written about him or is he just living in his own little bubble?


But Rodriguez could have come out with a classy "no-comment" and scored some points with the public, something he seems to greatly desire.

Here you lost me. On the one hand, you state he is living in a bubble for not expressing concern, and on the other you suggest he lost an opportunity to score points with a classy “no comment”. Is there really a difference between saying “no comment” and actually not making a comment? Also, doesn’t someone actually have to ask you a question to respond “no comment”. One can read into and characterize Torre’s motives all they want, but I think it’s unfair to cast further judgment on Arod based on his response, or lack there of, to this book.

2 The Hawk   ~  Jan 28, 2009 3:27 pm

I'll be glad when he's off the team.

3 rbj   ~  Jan 28, 2009 3:34 pm

[2] Why? Don't you want the best player in baseball on your team?

Here's a crazy idea, why not root for the players on your team to do well. Heck I hate Pavano as much as the next guy, but when he finally did make some starts I wanted him to do well. Because that could translate into a Yankee win. And that's the statistic I care most about: Yankee wins.

4 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jan 28, 2009 3:37 pm

RBJ, Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball . . . but Rodriguez is definitely in the top five.

5 The Hawk   ~  Jan 28, 2009 3:40 pm

[3] Who doesn't want the players on their team to do well?

6 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 28, 2009 3:45 pm

Hey, good points man. I wasn't so confident in that portion of the article myself, and though I stand behind it because it was published, your points are well taken.

Also, yeah, that part about A Rod visiting Jeter's house is true. Apparently, he's an incredible baseball nerd and according to Borzy would be addicted to watching games whether or not he was a major leaguer.

7 bp1   ~  Jan 28, 2009 3:49 pm

Alex, your line:

"it's as if you can feel his self-awareness burn through the TV screen."

nails it for me, especially after a strike out or an error in the field. You know he knows the cameras are on him, and he always does something. Bites the baseball, stares off into the distance in just the right way, whatever. You know he knows we're looking, and it makes me a little uncomfortable. Makes me wanna scream "forget the cameras, man!".

But I want the guy on my team. Best player in the game. A monster in every respect. Anyone remember that ninth inning home run of Schilling the Closer? One of my favorite non playoff moments of all time. How about his walkoffs in April '07? Sizzling month. Off the charts. He's better than Tino. Better than Paulie and Bernie. Better than Reggie. He's one of the best in the team's history. He is must watch TV, 'cause either you're going to witness true greatness, or a train wreck. Very seldom something in between.

But yeah - that very obvious self awareness is off putting.


8 Will Weiss   ~  Jan 28, 2009 4:37 pm

[1] Jeter has said in numerous interviews over the years that he doesn't watch baseball at all when he's not playing. He's only concerned about playing the game. Basketball, however, is a different story. ... I'm curious if Cal Ripken took the same stance, because Jeter has a lot of Cal characteristics.

9 Bum Rush   ~  Jan 28, 2009 4:41 pm

@ 4

I'll take Hanley, thanks. After all, Pujols still plays the least important defensive position. The drop off from him to Teixeira or Berkman isn't as great as the drop from Hanley to the second-best SS. Futhermore, Pujols is already at his peak. Hanley is just approaching his.

@ 7

What would you do if the cameras had been on you, non-stop, since you were a teenager? I, for one, think it's remarkable Arod has delivered as he has even with all the pressure to be one of the best baseball players of all time. THAT pressure has been there his entire professional career.

10 Bum Rush   ~  Jan 28, 2009 4:49 pm

@ 8

You mean like losing all range in his mid-thirties but failing to see how much he was hurting the team?

11 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:00 pm

[8] I was aware of Jeter's aloofness toward the game (when he isn't playing) and had heard Arod was a real fan, but I didn't realize both were to the extreme illustrated by the stroy in Alex' article. Even though Jeter os the homegrown Yankee, the fact of the matter is that while we probably know too much about Arod, we really don't know anything about Jeter. Maybe it's familiarity that is breeding contempt?

12 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:05 pm

[11] We know too much about A-Rod because everyone loves to talk about A-Rod (including A-Rod). We know almost nothing about Jeter because no one (especially Jeter) ever really talks about Jeter.

For example - Alex, is there anything about Jeter beyond what you'd expect there to be in "The Yankee Years"? My guess is no. In fact I think that's true for every book that's been written about some part of the '95-'08 Yanks, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.

13 Will Weiss   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:05 pm

[11] I don't necessarily think so. I think it's a difference in how they want to be perceived. Jeter has followed the Jordan line; he doesn't really care if people like him. His ego comes from winning. He doesn't give anything of himself. ... A-Rod's obsession with being liked has compromised everything else. It's self-assuredness and security vs. insecurity.

14 Bum Rush   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:11 pm


He does have a way of selling books.

Chad Curtis said something about Jeter once. Anyone see him since?

15 The Hawk   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:19 pm

[13] Yeah that more or less sums it up. Personally, I don't WANT to know so much about A Rod. It's just too much - he's too high-maintenance for me, eve, just as a fan.

Jeter might be an jerk/psycho on the order of Jordan, but like with Jordan, you gotta look for that stuff. It's not in your face all the time.

16 Bum Rush   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:23 pm

I'd love to know how folks - fans, teammates, the media, his manager - would have responded to DiMaggio.

17 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:30 pm

[12] [13]True, but doesn't everyone always state at some point that they like players to be more "genuine" and "human"? I am not criticizing Jeter...he is true to himself and is comfortable in his skin...that's good for him. Arod, on the otherhand, does care what other people think. I guess I just find it ironic that a lot of people seem to prefer a personality who couldn't care less about what they think over one who cares too much.*

*In discussing Arod, I do think we need to make a distinction between the early and current Arod. I can't pinpoint it exactly (maybe it was the HA! incident), but I do think Arod stopped caring so much about what other people think and I think it reflected in his comportment. Now, part of not caring has resulted in some peculiar off the field behavior, but at least you can say that a man who divorces his wife for an aging pop star can't be consumed with his image!

18 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:33 pm

[15] Needy is an interesting term...now that I think it about, Jeter is kind of like the girl who plays hard to get, while Arod is the one who hangs on your every word and waits on you hand and foot. Who is the one most men would prefer? To borrow another cliche, maybe it is absence that makes the heart grow fonder, and fans have been drawn too close to Arod.

19 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 28, 2009 5:58 pm

[18] I think people are drawn to confidence in any regard. A stated or overt need to please or impart on people implies a need to assure yourself that you're worth something. Right or wrong, the perception is pretty clear, even if the reaction isn't.

20 Will Weiss   ~  Jan 28, 2009 6:09 pm

[17][18][19] ... A-Rod's perception comes down to the contract he signed eight years ago. He knew it put a bulls-eye on him, and he tried to make people like him to cover the arrogance that he chased a huge paycheck. ... Will nailed it with the implication of a need to assure yourself that you're worth something. A-Rod has a Roy Hobbs fascination with being the best that ever lived. Quick poll: you guys up for an A-Rod vs. Roy Hobbs the book character vs. Roy Hobbs the movie character?

21 The Hawk   ~  Jan 28, 2009 6:12 pm

Ultimately, I don't think the Jeter/Rodriguez thing plays out very well in a tit-for-tat manner. It's not like they're two sides of the same coin. By all appearances, Jeter is a normal-ish guy and Rodriguez is a weirdo.

22 Bum Rush   ~  Jan 28, 2009 6:14 pm


Coming from nothing to legitimately become the greatest that ever lived is an accomplishment, no?

23 Just Fair   ~  Jan 28, 2009 6:18 pm

[19] You're the movie dude. I am gussing you have seen a late Sat. night HBO movie? Or Skinemax for that matter. Alex reminds me of those "actors." They just appear cheesy when they're talking. Sure I love to watch him mash and he tends to play a pretty good 3rd base, but personally, whenver he speaks.....ugh.

24 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 28, 2009 6:22 pm

"A simple-minded savant."
heh heh heh


Very nice, Alex.

25 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 28, 2009 6:53 pm

[23] I don't have HBO and Skinemax for that very reason, though I highly admire the "HBO Street Productions" division (Soul of the Game for example). That said, I don't think either one of them would have a strong second career as actors, though A-Rod would probably get a lot more mileage out of it. But A-Rod, if you do ever decide to act for whatever reason, don't ever ask Madonna for advice!

26 Yankee Mama   ~  Jan 28, 2009 6:55 pm

I think that self-consciousness is the death nell of excellence. I know if I had all that attention on me, I would be a basket case. Of course, nobody pays me 27.5 million dollars a year to be excellent.

I really want to like Alex. I want to defend him. His vulnerability is frustrating because we know how it limits us and we expect him to be above that.

Neurosis is not suitable to the mechanisms of a baseball team where to make it in the Bigs you need one-in-a-million type talent. It can impede performance, but there have been plenty of head cases through the years. Consequently, they make me feel neurotic, as I want to pull my hair out. Don't be like us. And definitely don't be more pathetic than us.

As for the classy no comment line, I agree with WilliamNYC. making no comment is the same as saying no comment. He's choosing to not engage.

Nice piece, Alex. I almost feel sorry for the guy.

27 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 28, 2009 6:58 pm

[20] I'm a sucker for happy endings, Will. I preferred "Forrest Gump" the movie far-far more than "Forrest Gump" the book. However, book adaptions are usually very difficult and more often than not unsuccessful; that's why there's an Oscar category specifically for them.

So yeah, what would I spend my money on? Movie Roy Hobbs. Who would I think is more sincere? Novel Roy Hobbs.

28 rbj   ~  Jan 28, 2009 7:04 pm

Heck, many times I'll come home from watching the Mudhens and flip on the late games. I really like watching baseball (I'd like playing, but there's the whole being able to hit and field and throw thing.) That tidbit about A-Rod makes him seem more normal to me (or else I'm even more of a weirdo myself).

I'll say it again, would you rather have the A-Rod way of dealing with insecurity or the Billy Martin fighting and drinking way of dealing with it.

29 Yankee Mama   ~  Jan 28, 2009 7:13 pm

rbj- I agree. It's Jeter and his ability to stay consistently in a state of being detached and above it all is the anomoly. That's not normalish at all. It si impressive. That said, Alex is still a weirdo. He just is.

30 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 28, 2009 7:14 pm

[28] To be blunt and not at all negative, A-Rod's method has not diminished or curtailed his ability. His personality isolates him. Billy was physically and emotionally isolated and isolating all at once.

31 The Hawk   ~  Jan 28, 2009 7:20 pm

Ha yeah - well, making it a choice between A Rod and Billy Martin is a false premise methinks. I mean, how about would you rather the Rodriguez method or the Pol Pot way?

"I find him unlikable, but can anybody say that they think the Yankees wouldn't have won all those World Series in the '90s if they had him and not Scott Brosius playing third base?"

Sure, why not? I'll say it right now or at least I'll say "probably not".

32 rbj   ~  Jan 28, 2009 7:44 pm

[30] True. But should we, as fans, really get all that worked up about A-Rod's personality?
I almost typed [300]. Only a couple more months to game threads.

[31] Hawk, I think the Martin comparison is a bit legit -- they're both baseball players, Yankees, who dealt with insecurity. Lots of athletes turn to the bottle.

I guess I just don't get all the dumping on A-Rod simply because he's insecure and kind of socially awkward. Yes he needs to relax more in post season situations, but I don't think everyone harping on his flaws is going to help.

16 days to pitchers and catchers. And I had to dig out from another 6" snowstorm today.

33 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 28, 2009 8:36 pm

This A-Rod discussion a bit dull..it's not exactly Bronx Zoo-era personality confulct between him and the team..I still say I don7t give one flying-wahoo about most players personalities, just play good ball and I'll love you. And in that department I'm ready to join the Kabbalah with A-Rod if he hits 50-dingers again!

Jeter and his Cal Ripken-like persona is actually more interesting anyway! just ONCE would like to know what he really thinks..the guy seems like a walking Bull-Durham cliche at times..

34 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 28, 2009 8:40 pm

oh..I can't see the Billy Martin comparisons at all personally..A-Rod is quirky and neurotic, sure. Billy Martin had serious psychological problems which led to alcoholism and self-destructive behavior..if A-Rod starts beating up salesmen then yes, maybe he's on that path..

35 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 28, 2009 8:43 pm

There was nothing about Jeter in the book that surprised me, no.

Torre was against the Giambi singing. He prefered that they go after Damon at the time. He wanted them to resign Tino for a year to help break Nick Johnson in. Torre didn't like how Giambi's poor fielding would impact the team.

The one thing that Verducci does detail is Johnny Damon's depression in 07. He had serious thoughts about retirement that off season, came into camp out of shape, and it took him some time to get his head back in gear. According to the book, Damon's teammates were really pissed about it and he was none to popular for while there.

36 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 28, 2009 8:53 pm

[35] Always wondered if Damon wished he had stayed in Boston..but then again they pretty much shipped out all the "idiots" anyways..

37 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 28, 2009 8:59 pm

[32] Me, I'm not worried at all about A-Rod in any respect. You know me; See the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball, eat the ball, tell them to STFU, play the game. He actually started doing that two seasons ago and people are still cuckoo for coco-puffs. I'm with the Frosted Flakes >;)

[35] I agree with Torre on that, and it signified Steinbrenner's full return to the bully pulpit.

I would not be thrilled about someone else detailing my depression in a "tell-all" book, to be honest. Was it Damon's own account of his depression, or second-hand observations?

38 lisaswan   ~  Jan 28, 2009 9:02 pm

[16] I think Jeter is the DiMaggio, and A-Rod the Ted Williams, of this era. And if Torre had managed Williams, he probably would have put him in his place for so openly wanting to be the greatest hitter who ever lived.

And why we're all psychoanalyzing A-Rod, can we put Torre on the coach for a second here? Because his hatred of Rodriguez is, oh, I don't know, like something out of "Single White Female" or something.

Joe criticizes Alex for trying to achieve individual numbers, while he adored Roger Clemens, the guy who wore a 300-wins patch of himself on his glove. Torre complained Alex obsessed too much over his failures, although watercooler destroyer Paul O'Neill was a Joe favorite.

Speaking of Clemens, while Torre was worrying about the propriety of A-Rod having a clubbie get him coffee and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, he let the Rocket put his own clubbie of sorts, Brian McNamee, on the Yankee payroll.

I thought A-Rod did a terrible job over the last year with the opt-out thing, the Madonna scandal, and even leaving the All-Star Game early, but I thought he has handled the Torre book perfectly - just by saying nothing.

39 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 28, 2009 9:08 pm

[35] I think Torre's observations are fair, but they can easily be rebutted. Take Giambi for instance...for several years, he was an immense producer. If Torre really thought Tino's defense made up for the differences in their bats, well, I think that points to a flaw in how Torre perceived talent in the later years.

[38] Some interesting thoughts...here one from me...if Alex really likes Madonna, wouldn't he be a fraud for staying with his wife to keep up appearances? Also, if Arod only stayed at the ASG because he thought it's what everyone would want him to do, wouldn't that make him a phony? I think those two events point toward a divergence from the Arod Torre talks about in his book to the one the emerged in the 2007 season.

40 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 28, 2009 9:11 pm

The Madonna Scandal? I equate that with the Noodle Incident >;)

41 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 28, 2009 9:39 pm

[40] hmmm...not catching that one..sounds like a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode title..

[38] good points all..never understood the Paul O'Neal love-fest, guy seemed very unbalanced and while a very good player, was highly over-rated..

42 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 28, 2009 9:52 pm

Paul O'Neal? The Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush? Looks like you're right about that, no argument here...

But you may have forgotten I am a cartoonist as well... with my sense of humor and that hint, where would The Noodle Incident come from?

43 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 28, 2009 10:00 pm

[42] Oh Damn, man..of COURSE I remember now..C&H was awesome..how fun would it have been to play Calvinball??

thinking about it, isn't Cashman a bit like Calvin's dad?? :)

44 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 28, 2009 10:12 pm

[43] I remember recently commenting on something that either Alex or Cliff said recently that reminded me of something Calvin's Dad would say. I have to find that one...

And I don't know about the rest of you, but Bantering here is like playing Calvinball sometimes to me >;)

45 Dimelo   ~  Jan 28, 2009 10:20 pm

One thing that a whole lot of Dominicans can agree on, it is hard for Dominicans to identify with ARod. If anyone knows anything about Dominicans and how they feel about their baseball players is that they are crazy loyal, there have been a plethora of Dominican baseball players who have lied about their age, who have beat their wife, who have taken PEDs, who have beat up pitchers with a bat (Awfulman), etc. ARod has never done any of those things, but the Dominican community can't identify with him.

One thing the Dominican community can't stand is someone who is a phony, they don't even admire his skill - and he probably has more skill than any player in baseball. I'm not speaking for all Dominicans, obviously there are some who like ARod, but in my last trip there 6 months ago I was amazed at how many Dominicans really despised and hated him for not being like Pedro, Manny, Papi, etc.

He's not a bad guy, he's just such a hard guy to identify with. What other athlete, in any sport, uses Warren Buffett to negotiate a peace agreement with the team he just turned his back on? Who understands that shit? No one!!! I don't disagree with anything Torre said about ARod because it's true and he had a first hand account.

I will always root for ARod to help the Yankees win, but if I had a choice, then I'd wish he wasn't on the team - just like The Hawk. I used to make excuses for him, but ARod brings too much of that on himself.

Jeter to me is exactly what I want out of an athlete, I don't want to hear too much from him other than about winning, focusing on winning championships and not hearing too much about their religious and political beliefs. Keep it moving and don't bring too much extra attention on yourself. Look at how Jeter handled the comment by George Steinbrenner about partying too much, he addressed it, said it wasn't true, and said he wasn't going to change. Nuff said. He was comfortable with his own skin, isn't that what we should be admiring?

I love that people want to blame Jeter for ARod's nutty emotional issues, but before ARod got to NY there was nobody that needed Jeter's pampering, but now comes the "great" ARod and Jeter is somehow responsible for not coddling him. Pah-lease!

46 lisaswan   ~  Jan 28, 2009 10:54 pm

[35] - Alex, was Damon interviewed for the book? I'm curious as to if he were the one to reveal battling with depression, or was that just Joe's doing? If it was just Torre's doing, that's pretty unconscionable for Joe to be telling tales like that.

Neil Best reports that one teammate, near tears, went to Torre about Damon, saying, "Let's get rid of him. Guys can't stand him." Oh, is that the standard now - not that you can play, but whether you're in with the in crowd? No wonder this team was so dysfunctional.

-39] I tend to think that A-Rod is (mostly) showing the real him over the past year, and it's not always very appealing or likeable. But that's what we get for asking him to just be himself!

47 The Hawk   ~  Jan 29, 2009 9:26 am

[45] Sans the insights on the Dominican community which I couldn't supply, this post might have been written by me. Just sayin'. Even the part about agreeing with me.

48 naguaboy   ~  Jan 29, 2009 6:03 pm

Dimelo i'm dominican and i can tell you that the only reason dominincans dont like Arod is because when the season ends he goes to Florida instead of The Dom Rep., dominicans dont like Arod because they are stupid, because they only like players that are drinking, using drugs, etc. all the time and Alex doesnt do that stuff

You people say all those things about Arod because he has not send all of you to hell, the only bad thing i would say about Arod is that he doesn't have cojones if it was me i would have tell you people to shut the F.. up

if the Yankess give Jeter 200 then is ok he is a winner, he deserves it, bla bla bla bla bla bla, but because its Arod that to much money, right?

You people don like Arod because you are too in love with Jeter and are afraid of loving somebody else

My message to Arod is: send everybody to la MIERDA and play your game, so I would say thats he only thing missing on Arod as a player. Some cojones to send everybody to hell

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