Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Summer of Alex?

pg2_arod_cover_200Based partly on Evan Grant's post yesterday about Alex Rodriguez and the shocking revelations involving toothpaste (seriously), I think I have turned the corner on Alex.

For years, I have remained Switzerland on most issues regarding Alex Rodriguez.

That's right.

I don't foam at the mouth when he rolls through town, nor do I order T-shirts that display the latest evolutions of his nickname.

I guess I just don't get as worked up about him as I might for someone else who has made money for delivering very little in this city.

Hey, we all pick our objects of obsession differently, right?

But, in this week where newstands will sell this new Selena Roberts book where we will soon understand that Alex Rodriguez tipped off pitches to opponents, used steroids in high school, and then no doubt thought about drowning puppies for sport and once considered ripping the tags off of mattresses, I have caught myself almost pulling for the guy to escape from the terrible mob.

Am I alone? Am I the only one who thinks this whole "Get Alex" movement is becoming insane?

If we are going to make him the next criminal who we burn, could someone explain (with substance, Selena) what the charges are? I am no lawyer (although Hindman is) but what sort of prison sentences do we normally give a criminal who is guilty of the following charges?

He is not liked.

He is not clutch.

He is another who used substances when the sport itself didn't seem to care.

He does not appear to be very good at marriage.

He seems to be dishonest.

He is disingenuous.

Isn't it true that if Alex had helped the New York Yankees fight off the evil Boston Red Sox and won a few World Series these last several years that he would be another over-celebrated New York Yankee that is carried about on shoulders? But, because all he has done has not been enough to pull the Yankees out of their annual October gags, and because he stands next to Mr Icon himself,and because he makes an absurd amount of money, he has slowly become the favorite target of the "style over substance" media and blogosphere?

I am not protecting him Like Chris Crocker or anything. I just am amazed at how the stories have become so regular and so over-the-top that those who wish to "get him" are going to slowly turn him into a sympathetic figure - which is the last thing they wish to do. You watch. I have seen this movie before. The A-Rod rebound is about to go down, and I think Selena Roberts (among MANY others) will have done a nice job of actually turning the public into people who want to see A-Rod do well.

Think I am crazy? Here is a small list of a growing number of media pieces in the last 48 hours that are starting to turn the tide in the case against Alex Rodriguez:

Steve Politi, NJ Star-Ledger :
Rodriguez is making the shift from serial screw-up to sympathetic figure. You hear it in the calls to sports radio. You see it in the blogosphere. No one enjoys kicking a dog when he's down, even one making $30 million a year who brought most of his problems on himself.

He comes across not as evil but as helplessly flawed, a not-so-bright celebrity who tried to please everybody and ended up alienating them instead. This is a diagnosis that any amateur psychiatrist sitting in the bleacher seats at Yankee Stadium could have made a long time ago.

"Many fans celebrated his obvious talent but were alienated by three hardened perceptions," Roberts writes. "He was disingenuous; he failed in the clutch; and, most of all, he wasn't a leader like Derek Jeter."

Those fans have had six years to come to grips with the fact that Rodriguez will never be Jeter. Ironically, it seems the more flaws that are exposed about A-Rod, the quicker fans are to come to his defense.

He doesn't have to win them over anymore. He doesn't even have to stay out of the news -- short of being paid with TARP funds, there is nothing we haven't seen already.

A-Rod Fatigue has given this flawed superstar a big opportunity. His high-priced team is muddling along in third place, barely hovering above .500. He just has to start hitting home runs again.

Howard Bryant, ESPN :
So much of the Rodriguez affair is mere sensation, an infatuation more with a nickname than a person. In both "A-Rod" and "The Yankee Years," a certain phenomenon is taking place beyond Rodriguez's fascination with himself and numerous strippers and madams: The players with whom he has shared clubhouses have little respect for him as a man. They laugh at his desire to be loved, at his flimsy attempts to seem distant, intellectual, mysterious, unaffected, when the truth is that Rodriguez's greatest crime is caring more about what the people around him think than caring about himself, about who he is as a person. His teammates ridicule him for his affair with Madonna, which apparently appealed to him mostly so he could tell the world a star of her caliber was interested in him. And within all this narcissism is weakness. They laugh at him because of it, and because his emotional frailty seems so pitifully obvious.

A-Rod's greatest shortcoming might be caring too much about what people think of him.
He is, in short, a cartoonish figure easily lampooned because he comes off as so absolutely unaware of how much his superficiality undermines his accomplishments. That is the most damning revelation of both books.

All of this might be titillating in a painfully ghoulish way, but what of the important subjects that make a person, and more importantly, a legacy? The book does not attempt to place Rodriguez in the pantheon, opting instead for the short-term fascination with the car wreck that is his persona.

Randy Galloway, FW Star-Telegram :
Young played second base, next to Alex at shortstop, when they were teammates. Then Young moved to shortstop when Alex left for the Yankees.

"I played beside him for three years here, and never saw anything close to him signaling opposing hitters on what was coming. It’s crap. All crap," said Michael.

Based on what I was told Friday by three other members of the Rangers when Alex played here, Young is right.

These people asked to remain "unnamed," for a variety of reasons, one of them being my favorite:

"I never saw anything like that, and believe me, I would have eventually picked it up if it was happening," he said. "But Alex is the kind of person, I wouldn’t put anything past him. So I don’t want to say publicly he didn’t, and then the proof come in that he did, and I’d look naive and stupid."

Another of the three said he "definitely" thinks there has been pitch tipping to the opposition in the majors, for the very reasons associated with A-Rod in the book, but he never had a reason here to think Alex was involved.

In Alex’s Texas days, the closest thing associated with any of this involved a controversy that swirled around him in 2003. But it was pitch calling, not pitch tipping. Without informing manager Buck Showalter or pitching coach Orel Hershiser, Rodriguez told new catcher Einar Diaz he would call the pitches for him.

"Buck and Orel caught on in a hurry, and a big blowup happened, particularly between Alex and Orel," said one person. "That story hit the papers, but it was bigger than even reported. Buck and Alex totally split because Alex wanted Buck to fire Orel and Buck didn’t."

Young: "I backed Alex on that. Heck, yes, I did. We had a catcher who was struggling. Alex was trying to help the team. He knew more about it than the catcher. If the pitching coach didn’t like it, he should have been on top of it."

That was then. And since then, Alex has lost his legacy, his image and is working on the loss of his dignity.

If the pitch-tipping story can be proved, A-Rod should be banned from the game for life. For now, however, the proof seems very murky.

Jim Caple, ESPN :
I'm no huge fan of Rodriguez. I frequently find his responses insincere, calculated and vetted by a PR firm. He is so worried about his image and so anxious to come off just the right way that he invariably comes off the wrong way. In fact, he has a knack for coming off the worst way possible. He needs affirmation to an annoying degree. And this new charge that he tipped pitches is potentially more serious than any of the steroids stories. Frankly, it sounds almost unbelievable -- if teammates don't like him that much, how would he convince opponents to cheat with him? -- but if true, that's a very serious offense that would warrant a suspension at the minimum.

But has he bitten off the ear of an opponent? Has he been convicted of sexual assault? Squandered a couple of hundred million dollars? Organized a dog-fighting ring?

No. When a writer reports that the game's highest-paid and perhaps best player has taken steroids, that's news; no question about it. What he does on the field, and whether it violates the rules, is important news. But strippers, poker and sitting in the park without a shirt? Please. And yet the media spin on his personal life makes it seem like A-Rod is such a deviant he should play third base with an ankle bracelet.

Although, admittedly, one of those bracelets would be convenient. It would allow the tabloids to more easily track him on his latest trip to the dentist.

"What?!? You're not flossing every day?!? Wait 'til TMZ gets ahold of this!"

And finally, a column that was linked in the comments of Evan's story yesterday:

Jason Whitlock, KC Star :
Not long ago, sports writer Selena Roberts compared the Duke lacrosse players to gang members and career criminals.

She claimed that the players’ unwillingness to confess to or snitch about a rape (that did not happen) was the equivalent of drug dealers and gang members promoting antisnitching campaigns.

When since-disgraced district attorney Mike Nifong whipped up a media posse to rain justice on the drunken, male college students, Roberts jumped on the fastest, most influential horse, using her New York Times column to convict the players and the culture of privilege that created them.

Proven inaccurate, Roberts never wrote a retraction for the columns that contributed to the public lynching of Reade Seligmann, Colin Finnerty and David Evans.

Instead, she moved on to Sports Illustrated, a seat on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and a new target, baseball slugger Alex Rodriguez.

Last week, the New York Daily News and The New York Times acquired “leaked” copies of Roberts’ soon-to-be-released biography, “A-Rod.” In it, according to the two New York newspapers, Roberts paints a highly unflattering picture of Rodriguez as a human being and, among other things, speculates that Rodriguez used steroids in high school.

Roberts’ speculative opinions are deemed as so credible by ESPN and others that the Worldwide Leader ran all-day updates stating that Selena Roberts believes that it’s “irrefutable” that Rodriguez used performance-enhancing drugs while a teenager.

At no point did ESPN’s TV anchors or radio broadcasters mention that Roberts was the same person who led the media charge against the Duke lacrosse players. I listened to Roberts’ interview on Dan Patrick’s radio show. Patrick never asked her about Duke lacrosse or why we should trust her reporting.

In its news story about her book, The New York Times failed to allude to her position on the Duke lacrosse case. I’ll give the Times credit for including one sentence of clarification in its news story:

“Some of the accusations in the book are based on anonymous sources, and others are simply presented as knowledge the author has without an explanation of how the information was obtained.”

Translation: the majority of the stuff written in her book is information the National Enquirer might reject.

I am not suggesting that Alex is a saint. Nor, am I suggesting that these 5 writers have everything right, while Selena and friends are all wrong. But, the collection of these columns all have pushed me in a direction where I feel the mob mentality of the media has gone too far with Rodriguez. Not saying he is not to blame for much of what he gets, but I now catch myself wanting to see Rodriguez stick it in the face of those who want to get him so badly.

That is right. They (those who wish to bring him down) may have actually made me feel something that I can never remember feeling; A mild interest in following New York Yankees baseball to see what Alex can do.

I don't expect you to join me on this side of the fence, but I wanted you to know my prediction on the controversial 3rd baseman. I think his summer of redemption may be upon us. It honestly isn't that crazy. His stock is due to bounce, as it has surely hit rock bottom.

So, yes, I am bullish on shares of Alex Rodriguez. It is too cheap right now not to own.

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