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Yankee Panky # 51: The Tao of A-Rod
2008-05-23 09:40
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

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.


RANDOM THOUGHTS: GREAT EXPECTATIONS


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. 

RANDOM THOUGHTS: SUBWAY STINKER

 

 

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.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: MORE MORGANISMS


“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.

 

Comments
2008-05-23 10:39:34
1.   dianagramr
Pssst ... Will .... check your font.
2008-05-23 12:02:40
2.   pistolpete
0 >> 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." >>

How sad is it that the one 'lucid' comment by Morgan was also the most obvious to anyone with a few brain cells in their heads.

2008-05-23 12:18:23
3.   51cq24
i think morgan was right that players aren't accountable to the media, but he didn't say that they should be accountable to the fans. whether quotations from the players are needed or wanted by fans is debatable. the interesting part of baseball is what they do on the field. what they say about it could be interesting, but probably not if they don't want to say anything at all. i don't think they have a duty to talk to all the media just because they make a lot of money. they make way too much money, but who says that they owe their time to reporters as a consequence?
2008-05-23 12:33:38
4.   tommyl
3 Because that comes with being famous, and like it or not, that comes with playing professional baseball. I'm getting sick of hearing about how players wish they could be anonymous and things like that. I understand the sentiment, but that's half the bargain of being a baseball player. I'm sure all of us have aspects of our jobs we don't love, but they come with it. Its like me saying I want to be an academic but I shouldn't have to write grants. There's always a tradeoff. If you want to make millions of dollars to play a stupid game with a stick and a ball then you have to accept some duties regarding your fans and the media. If you want to be anonymous, do something else.
2008-05-23 12:45:58
5.   Shaun P
Way off topic -

The Yanks moved Steven White to the bullpen down at SWB, and he thinks its a great idea:

http://tinyurl.com/64ndzo

I thought this was an interesting follow-up to the discussion we had about White here (http://tinyurl.com/6b5z79) a couple of weeks ago.

2008-05-23 12:49:00
6.   51cq24
4 but who decides that that's part of the bargain? no one agrees to it. i think it's crazy that they make millions of dollars doing anything, but i don't see the connection between that and talking to reporters.
2008-05-23 13:07:24
7.   tommyl
6 Baseball is in the business of entertainment. There is no one who can claim that they didn't know the bargain (media scrutiny, fans, etc.) when they decided to play the game. Whining about it now is like a politician whining about the media digging into his scandals. It just comes with the job, if you don't like it, do something else. There's no rule that people that can throw 95mph have to play sports.
2008-05-23 13:37:36
8.   51cq24
7 first of all, there's an obvious difference between the media digging into politicians' scandals and the media needing quotes from certain players after baseball games. we're quick to talk about the triviality of "just a game" when we're talking about players' salaries, but then when it comes to the reporters who cover that game it's comparable to government scandals? second of all, the people whining are reporters (or billy wagner, who was actually whining about talking to reporters in complaining that his teammates wouldn't), not the players who don't talk to reporters. while some people may think that the norm is players who talk to the media, others may disagree. since we get our information from the media, a lot of us will take its side, but that doesn't mean there isn't another side to it. baseball players are very privileged, more privileged than they should be, but there's no connection between that and the supposed duty to talk to reporters after a game. there's no rule that only outgoing people who don't mind being celebrities can play major league baseball.
2008-05-23 14:01:47
9.   ny2ca2dc
6 But don't people whine about the shit part of their jobs all the time? Everyone I know does, sadly. I dislike whining in general, but why so stoic? And why do the writers get a pass for whining about players failing to make writers' jobs easier?
2008-05-23 15:35:16
10.   Bruce Markusen
We all have aspects of our jobs that we don't like. There isn't a job in the world that is 100 per cent perfect or favorable. Many players, if not most, don't find dealing with the media particularly enjoyable, but it's one of the few drawbacks to an otherwise ideal profession. I think it's a small price to pay given the scheme of things.

Technically speaking, players are not obligated to deal with the media. But it is something that can be beneficial to the team--in terms of publicity--and to the fans, at least those who would like some insights into the personalities of players. And players, if they are smart, can benefit from dealing with the media in a proper and professional way. It's not a rule or a law, but in many ways, it's just the professional thing to do.

I see a lot of people, not so much here but at places like Baseball Think Factory express sentiments like, "Screw the media. I hope none of the players talk to the media." Aside from being an immature reaction, it's easy to say this when you've never had the experience of having to go into locker rooms or clubhouses in an effort to get quotes. When I worked in radio, one of my jobs was to cover Utica Devils hockey and get sound bites from the locker room after the game. This wasn't my choice--I had to do this. If every player decided not to talk to me, it's not just that my job became more difficult, but it became impossible to do. And I'd have hell to pay with the sports director who sent me out there in the first place.

So I guess I come at this a little bit differently from those who say to hell with the media.

2008-05-23 15:45:43
11.   51cq24
11 i'm not saying to hell with the media, i'm saying that people have a right to be major league players even if they want to keep some privacy. again, i understand the idea that if you are balancing having to talk to the media with the money you make, it's a small price. but the two are not directly related. if we believe that players are paid an absurd salary, isn't it making it worse to say that only a certain type of personality should be allowed to be major league players? the money is paid for the players' talents on the field. i understand that it's inconvenient for the reporters charged with covering the game, but if they'd "have hell to pay with the sports director" because of something out of their control, that's a problem with the sports media hierarchy and should be taken up with them, not the players. i think it's nice to have insight into the players' thoughts on their performances, and i wish more of them would share it, especially through blogs, but i certainly don't expect it from them. and if they don't want to give it, the chances are it would be uninteresting anyway.
2008-05-23 16:14:39
12.   Bruce Markusen
No one is saying that you have to have a certain kind of personality to play in the major leagues. Any player--unless he has some kind of disability--can answer questions from the media. They might not be particularly insightful or articulate, but anyone can make the effort. Anyone can at least attempt to be professional and polite. It's not a particulary difficult skill.

Additionally, for those players who struggle with the media, there are plenty of people who serve as advisors in how to better their interview skills. If a player doesn't want to embarrass himself in front of a microphone, there are ways to help avoid that scenario that are more proactive and responsible than just refusing to talk to reporters.

In terms of "taking up the issue" with the sports media hierarchy, that's nice in theory--but not very practical for sports reporters, especially those in small or medium markets. (I was just out of college, and didn't have a heck of a lot of power to change the way things were done.) Sports directors and editors don't want to hear that you didn't get the quotes from the athletes; they just want you to get it done. And if the athletes don't cooperate, that becomes impractical.

2008-05-23 16:21:53
13.   51cq24
12 it's not a particularly difficult skill (if you speak the same language, which is another issue), but it isn't about the skill, it's about the fact that certain people just aren't comfortable in front of a microphone, and i don't think they have a duty to be advised on how to handle it better. obviously i'm not saying that they should rudely dismiss reporters, but i don't think they have a duty to talk. as for the practicality of taking up the issue with the media hierarchy, i'm sure it isn't easy. but that doesn't excuse taking it out on the wrong person, and i really think the player who for whatever reason isn't comfortable talking to the media is the wrong person.

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