Sunday, February 20, 2005

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Dumb, dumb A-Rod

[NOTE: If you don't care about baseball, just skip this post entirely.]

Alex Rodriguez reported to spring training for the Yankees today. Over the past week multiple members of the Red Sox have bashed A-Rod to varying degrees over comments he made in the offseason and his on-the-field altercations with the Red Sox during the regular season -- and most infamously, in Game 6 of the ALCS (go to this link and then click on the "Plays of the Game" for the 10/19 game vs. the Yankees).

Here's what he had to say about that play today:

Rodriguez was the face of the Yankees' ALCS loss to the Red Sox, with his "slap play" against Arroyo in Game 6 serving as the frozen moment for fans on both sides of the rivalry. A-Rod laughed when asked about that play on Sunday, saying he still thinks it was the right move for him to make.

"I thought it was a brilliant play -- and we almost got away with it," Rodriguez said. "It took a lot of guts -- and was the right call by Jim Joyce -- to make that call in Yankee Stadium in that environment. I was stuck in an alley, boys. There was nowhere to go.

"I gave my best karate, even though I only got to a yellow belt," he added. "I think Brandon [he meant Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo--DD] is a great pitcher. I played with him in high school. It's just one of those things. If that game was in June, I probably don't do that. But in Game 6, you do silly things. Perhaps it was a silly thing, but at the time I thought it was pretty smart."

To which I can only say, "Huh?"

Recall the situation -- the Red Sox were leading 4-2 with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning and Derek Jeter on first base. A-Rod hits a weak squibbler to Arroyo, and tried to slap it away. For his troubles, A-Rod was called out and Jeter was sent back to first base. If A-Rod doesn't slap at Arroyo's glove, he's advanced Jeter into scoring position with Gary Sheffield at the plate. It sounds minor, but having Jeter at second rather than first makes it much easier for Sheffield to drive in a run.

What A-Rod did wasn't silly -- it was downright stupid.

UPDATE: Speaking of A-Rod, Karen Guregian has a piece in today's Boston Herald excoriating the Red Sox players for bashing A-Rod so much. This is a bit rich -- as Murray Chass points out in today's New York Times, it's the media trying to keep this story alive:

In this new version of "Get the good guy," the Red Sox are blameless. One player, Trot Nixon, ignited the game with negative comments about Rodriguez last week and a torrent of teammates have followed. But the teammates' comments have not been unsolicited. They were at the urging of reporters eager to inflame the game to incendiary levels. They were all but handed a script.

Athletes have long accused reporters of creating stories, and, sadly, this is one of those instances. It has become one of the most distasteful instances I have witnessed in 45 years of covering baseball....

Every player who spoke with reporters last week was asked what they thought of Rodriguez, whether they agreed with what Nixon said. Extended the invitation, some players replied with negative comments, but most of what they said in response to the invitations was far less severe than the resulting articles reflected.

Hat tip: David Pinto.

posted by Dan on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM


To be fair, it's easy to say that now, sure. As he said though, at the time it seemed like a good idea... how many times have we done such things? It's not that hard to understand the reasoning, placing yourself in the moment. If he had gotten away with it, which you could arguably say he almost did, how much better off would the Yankees have been? Some might say it was worth the risk.

posted by: Justin on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

Justin raises a good point, BUT...

Professional players really are expected to both know and follow the rules. Not following the rules of a sport is "unsportsman-like".

The game of baseball--as most other sports--is not a game of "see if you can get away with a rules violation". It a game of "see who wins while following the rules."

A-Rod was a jerk in doing this. That it might have cost the Yanks the game is really immaterial.

posted by: John on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

Ultimately the Yankees didn't lose that series because of the A-Rod play, they lost because of their vastly inferior pitching and inability to get on base in the last four games. It's arguable that even had Rodriguez been allowed to get away with his naked bit of cheating, the Yankees would have lost (As Dan notes the worst part about the play Derek Jeter had to return to first base because of A-Rod's chicanery, but Sheffield's ability to hit with runners in scoring position fell off a cliff in those last four games). But I think that play was a telling exhibit of the increasing amount of confusion among professional athletes over concepts like "mental toughness" and "doing what it takes to win." Often a player's "desire" and "leadership" are merely just foolish risktaking.

The difference is even more stark in football. Freddie Mitchell might think that Tom Brady is a "robot," but Brady simply doesn't make mistakes because he is able to recognize the risks in a busted play and act appropriately. Other quarterbacks have more spectacular arms and better stats, but Brady is the only one with three championships in four years.

posted by: Tim on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

Justin, even if he would've gotten away with it within the confines of the game and umpires, everyone else in America would've known by the next day that it was wrong and unsportsmanlike. I don't know how much better off the team and organization would've been then.

And as DD already pointed out, the player needs to know the situation, getting the player over to second in the 6th inning ...

posted by: nbdy on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

Thanks for the link!

posted by: David Pinto on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

Admittedly, I'm biased, but I can't understand the allure of A-Rod.

In this ESPN article, he refers to the play as a 'smart' one and says it's something he'd do again (along with putting himself on a pedestal, but that's not what upset me so). Or, if he didn't do it again, that he'd instead have dropped his shoulder down and run Bronson over.

Insofar as whether it would have been worth the risk if A-Rod had gotten away with his 'move', perhaps. I know as a Red Sox fan, I'd be mortified by one of our boys displaying such un-sportsman-like behaviour and considering it a day well spent if it wins the game.

Cheating is cheating, whether you get away with it or not.

posted by: Tatiana on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

Oh, and also...

In this article, published on Sunday February 10th, Karen Guregan is supporting the badmouthing as she writes:

"When you try and karate chop a ball out of a player's hand, as A-Rod did during the playoffs, and throw out self-serving and idiotic remarks like he did recently, you earn the hits thrown your way."

Hypocrisy, anyone?

posted by: Tatiana on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

Fair enough, fair enough. I wasn't making any judgements about the merits of the play, just pointing out that I could understand his perspective. I hate baseball anyway, so it really makes no difference to me on a personal level.

posted by: Justin on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

What seemed strange about that incident at the time was that my first reaction was disbelief. I don't ever recall hearing comments about poor sportsmanship concerning A-Rod when he was with the Rangers (or Seattle for that matter.)

He practiced and played hard, running out every hit, refusing to showboat, and having respect for the game. As I recall, everyone in the Ranger organization complimented him on how good he was for the team, especially putting in extra time with rookies. Of course, it goes without saying that with the Rangers he was never tested in an ALCS showdown. Nevertheless, it was still surprising then and these recent comments? Indefensible.

posted by: capitano on 02.20.05 at 08:31 PM [permalink]

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