Thursday, September 21, 2006
Former Steroid User, Watchdog Comebine to Ponder A-Rod
What do you get when the Yankees aquire a expensive future hall of famer and then turn on him at the slightest sign of weakness? Certainly not news, right, unless you're Sports Illustrated.
Do you hate Alex Rodriguez? Take a number. Even The Onion now reserves ink for jabs at the Yankees' mysterious superstar. So, why should SI’s head baseball writer Tom Verducci miss out on the fun? His article featured in this month’s edition reveals Rodriguez to be a self-obsessed weirdo whose own teammates are more than happy to criticize behind his back. But, uh, what's the problem?
Baseball has done its part, producing compelling stories this year, but instead the focus is on A-Rod is doing wrong, and why people don't like him.
The best part is that A-Rod doesn't seem to care, which, of course, pisses people off even more. To me the story reveals the real problem: spoiled Yankess fans, candid teammates, and writers incapable of focusing on anything but the negative.
To get some insight into A-Rod’s mind Verducci taps Yankee slugger Jason Giambi for some good quotes. Giambi turns his insight and integrity onto Rodriguez; what ensues is a cathartic linty.
He says A-Rod displays a “false confidence.”
He told manager Joe Torre it was time to stop “coddling him.”
"We're all rooting for you and we're behind you 100 percent," Giambi recalls telling Rodriguez, "but you've got to get the big hit."
He ended by saying “Alex doesn't know who he is. We're going to find out who he is in the next couple of months."
You might remember Giambi as the guy who once used steroids. Now he’s busy making hey criticizing fellow teammate Rodriguez, a guy who has always put up better numbers without being on the juice. In-fact, without Giambi’s quotes there would be almost nothing to talk about in this article.
Ironically, Verducci has cast the brightest light on the steroid scandal and routinely talks about how it taints the game. With rhythmic timing he lobbs shells at Barry Bonds and now he’s using a former steroid user as his star witness?
But any hypocrocy involved is quickly absolved; Verducci is ready to grant a pardon: “For all the scorn heaped upon Giambi for his ties to the BALCO steroid scandal, he is a strong clubhouse voice because he plays with a passion that stirs teammates and even opponents. This season, for instance, he reprimanded his former Oakland A's teammate, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, for occasionally showing up late to games out of frustration over another losing Baltimore season. ‘You're better than that,’ he told Tejada. So Giambi's gripe about Rodriguez sounded an alarm with Torre.”
To read Giambi in the article you’d think he was some kind of champion. He speaks with the sense of authority, Yankee authority, I’d expect from three time world champion Derek Jeter. The Yankees hauled Giambi over from Oakland in 2002; he didn’t win anything in Oakland and he hasn’t won anything for the Yankees either.
Giambi World Series rings: 0
Rodriguez World Series rings: 0
Giambi ever on juice: yes
Rodriguez ever on juice: no
Verducci’s stance on steroids: ruins the integrity of the game
Verducci’s stance on quoting steroid users: Acceptable if their name isn’t Barry Bonds.
Verducci’s stance on the McGwire/Sosa steroid fueled 1998 home run chase: good for baseball.
Rodriguez won his first MVP award in 2003, the season *after* he hit 57 home runs and drove in 142 RBIs. His value was questioned because his team finished 4th that season. Rodriguez hit 47 home runs and drove in 118. He won his second MVP award in 2005, for the first place Yankees after hitting 48 home runs and driving in 130. His team loses and his value is questioned, his team wins and his value is questioned—nothing new to read here folks.
Essentially, here we have a player, Rodriguez, who—barring a Ken Griffey Jr-like tragedy—will be remembered as one of the greatest players ever. He’s just never been popular. We also have another player who has used steroids accusing another player of being disingenuous. Then there's a writer happy to put it all together for some good copy.
I’m no fan of Rodriguez’s; I could really care less. I just think it’s laughable that people like Verducci clamor for some good, drug-free athletes to celebrate and here we have one of the best pure baseball players….ever…and the focus is on why he's so hard to motivate. So he’s a loner? So he turns to God for support? So he wears suits in his hotel room at 1 A.M.? So what? I don’t know what any of that means but I think he’s better for baseball than those who criticize him.