Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thin-Slicing Alex Rodriguez

I actually wrote this in two minutes, which is probably apparent. But I like it as an intellectual exercise. It's unfiltered even by myself, and exposes true feelings and/or biases on a subject. Today's two-minute drill is on Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Alex Rodriguez is the Yngwie Malmsteen of baseball. Masterful ability matched with absolutely zero soul. You can't deny that as a ball player he's amazing, maybe the greatest to ever play the game. But you might as well cheer for a robot. Nomar was the same way, actually. That's why Jeter has always been the most popular of the three: he's also a character. Plus, while I think that A-Rod gets unfairly treated in the playoff performance category (no one goes after Vladdy that way), the fact is he's never taken a team to a championship. And in both Seattle and New York, he's been on good teams.


At 6:56 PM, Blogger Lowetide said...

There's just too much. It isn't like he's Dick (Richie) Allen, an assclown who once walked away from the ChiSox while leading the AL in homers (I believe he won the title anyway with 32 but that's from memory) or Roger Maris who reached an amazing high for a short time and then was a useful player.

Or even Ernie Banks, a splendid player whose peak value might be the greatest in MLB history.

A-Rod is Hank Aaron with more homers playing the infield. His consistency at a high level is breathtaking and some need to discount his contributions in order to avoid the actual question A-Rod raises: COULD he be the greatest player of all-time?

Alex Rodriguez is a great, great ballplayer. The greatest of his generation and among the three best I've seen(Schmidt, Bonds).

At 7:46 PM, Blogger andy grabia said...

These numbers? Bah. I could do that in my sleep.

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

A-Rod could be the best player of all time...eventually.

How many of us thought that Griffey Jr was a lock to break 755? Before this year, how many would have ranked Pujols the best slugger in the game not named Bonds? The wheels could fall off at any moment.

I'm no A-Rod hater, and I think he gets a bum rap on the 'clutch' business. But I agree with you, Andy, that watching his game is a joyless affair. He may feel passion within, but he's no good at projecting it.

I'm not sure that Schmidt should figure into the 'three best I've seen' conversation. If that's a proxy for 'three best players in the past 35 years' (rather than a literal statement), then I think he's very good but not in the best three.

Where do I think Schmidt fits in?

Well, he's definitely one of the two best third basemen in the Hall of Fame. But Boggs is the other, and the memory of his contribution is even more recent.

And should either Schmidt or Boggs rank ahead of Pujols, McGwire, Thomas, and A-Rod?

If we're ranking over that period, there's also an argument to be made for including Berkman and Manny and Vlad in the conversation.

I haven't lost my mind though. There are a whole lot of HoF inductees who played in that period who I don't think should be considered up there with Schmidt and Boggs (although I've soft spots for George Brett, Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew, built more on reputation than personal experience).

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Jays fan, and not a huge A-Rod fan, but my opinion of him improved substantially as a result of that "controversial play" in May.

I readily admit to not knowing the baseball code, but that seemed to me to be a heads-up, veteran, very unrobotic play... and Gibbons and Howie Clark (long since cut btw) sounded like whiny babies. It's bushleague if the other guy distracts you? Is this golf?

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Agree with you Matt. Don't see how it's controversial to mislead or distract the competition with a yelp (jinx!), but faking that you have the ball in order to slow down a runner is fine.

Baseball's whole 'moral code' is screwed up anyways. I think that A-Rod's slap was contemptible -- it was deliberate interference (7.08b) -- but I know lots of people who think he was entitled to try and see if he could get away with it.

And there is no consistency. Sign stealing is considered wrong (especially when done from outside the field of play), but everyone does it. Yet when an opposing coach or batter spots the pitcher's grip, the hurler is said to have 'tipped his pitch' and it's his fault. Glance down at the catcher's signs, though, and you might as well be violating urinal etiquette.


Makes you long for these days:
“I understand that a curve ball is thrown with a deliberate attempt to deceive. Surely that is not an ability we should want to foster at Harvard.”
-- Charles Eliot, President, Harvard University

At 9:08 PM, Blogger Lowetide said...

Schmidt was an outstanding power hitter and played one of the toughest positions in the game incredibly well and did both for a long time.

He also played in the era of those cookie cutter parks, which were good but not great hitters parks (Riverfront, Three Rivers, etc).

Boggs was a fine hitter but played in Fenway Park. Boggs for the BA, but Schmidt with the leather and the longball and the baserunning and the speed.

As an aside, and I do not know the answer, how many career games did Boggs DH?

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Andy, when you linked to A-Rod's baseball-reference entry you missed the best part...the page sponsor:

We're Posse N Effect, NYC's Beastie Boys tribute band and we have shows coming up in April in both New York and Boston! Click the link or go to!

How is it that we've gotten so old that the bands of our youth have tribute bands already? And while they're still producing new music.

At 9:20 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

As an aside, and I do not know the answer, how many career games did Boggs DH?

3B: 2,215 games
DH: 108
1B: 67
Fielding %: .965
League Avg F%: .955

3B: 2,212 games
1B: 157
SS/2B: 30
Fielding%: .961
League Avg F%: .956

Tough to tell apart.

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Lowetide said...

Interesting. I don't know where to find this, Avi, so don't feel I'm sending you on a wild goose chase here, but Schmidt iirc had a nice range factor for 3b for much of his career and I honestly don't recall that Boggs was at that level.

Neither was Brooks Robinson but who was?

At 9:53 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

No worries. And I should have thought to toss in range factor, because it's a great way to differentiate how Schmidt excelled. I'd never argue that Boggs was a comparable fielder.

I'm guessing that a big part of that 'top three' debate would centre around the relative weights we give to batting and fielding. My list of candidates was heavy on the sluggers.

Anyways, here are their RFs...

Boggs: 2.81
League Avg: 2.51

Schmidt: 3.35
League Avg: 2.87

They both had 11 All Star appearances, and of course Schmidt was a 3-time MVP, which puts him in pretty rare territory. It's a shame Boggs never won the MVP -- especially in 87 and arguably in 88. But those are the breaks.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Tangentially related comment: I never realized how ugly the MVP award was.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Lowetide said...

I remember those Boggs years very well, and I think that the '86 BOS loss had a big impact on that whole team in terms of how history regarded them (Clemens of course having gotten clearance from the rest).

It would have been very hard to argue that Boggs WASN'T the MVP a couple of times during his career, but he suffered from consistency and in at least one of those seasons having his accomplishments somewhat blurred by a teammate.

At 10:27 PM, Blogger andy grabia said...

Some other reasons to not like A-Rod:

1) His agent is Scott Boras (I even like Varitek less because of this).

2) He's a drifter, available to the highest bidder. If his career ended today, what team would he be linked to for all time? The Mariners? The Rangers? The Yankees? If he's going to play till he's 45, like Boras says, how many other teams will he be on? Will he stick with any? Will he win the big one with any? Will a single fan base ever get to call him one theirs?

3) He smacks baseball gloves. That to me is the enduring image of A-Rod.

LT, I thought you weren't watching baseball anymore? Have you slipped?

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Lowetide said...

Is there baseball? I thought we were talking about Mike Schmidt and 1970s baseball?

I watched tonight's game, even thought I have zero feel for the two NL teams. That's my league too, but everyone is so young on that PHX team and for that matter Colorado. I'm fascinated with how the current crop of Rockies' pitchers deal with the air up there in Denver.

The first year the Rockies played I didn't have a closer so had to go $24 at the draft on Darren Holmes. FIRST freaking game I see Holmes pitch in he comes in for the save with a two run lead.

Gives up a hit, then another and THEN the next batter hits the damn ball so hard it screams down the left field line SO HARD IT PASSES THE LEFT FIELDER and is picked up and thrown in by the centerfielder.

In maybe 1995, I ruined my roto team when I traded Carl Everett at $27 for Billy Ashley at $28 and was a dollar over, so I traded Vinny Castilla JUST BEFORE HE STARTED HITTING HOME RUNS and I had him for $3. Got Dave Hansen and his 50 ab's for $2 in return.

All summer I'm watching the highlights and my wife says (at least 30 times) "isn't that the guy you traded for so you could get that Billy Ashley loser?"

I hate baseball.

At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A-Rod is a perfect politician.

The surface (superb baseball player) is nearly flawless, as he does everything well. But watching him play is like watching a perfectly engineered cyborg. Everything is well done on the field, with maybe a few glitches, but once you see him interact it's as though he has a focus group in his head that he uses to vett every comment he makes to determine how it will play with the masses (voters) before he actually says anything. It would be more spontaneous if he just reflexively spouted cliches like most other ballplayers.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I haven't followed baseball closely since my childhood, but sometimes I like listening to people talk about it on the radio. The game seems to be built for that.

Anyhow, I caught a terrific Dan Patrick interview a couple of years ago. He was interviewing Orel Herschiser (sp?) and a retired catcher, an ex-Yankee whose name escapes me right now. Both had just signed on as new reporters in the ESPN fleet.

Dan Patrick brings up the topic of Ozzie Guillen's comments on A-Rod. Apparently he told SI that A-Rod was a phony, or something similar. Please correct me on the details Avi.

Anyhow, Orel and the other guy (Castilla maybe?) rip into Guillen for crossing the line. They both give the old "what goes around, comes around" bit.

Dan Patrick then goes comepletely off topic and talks to the newbie reporters about adjusting to being on the other side of the mic. Asking if their finding it a challenge to ignore the old "player code" and risk losing friends inorder to be respected as journalists by fans and their new peers, blah, blah blah ...

Then he comes back to the A-Rod topic and Orel and the other guy shred A-Rod. Not in a direct 'he's a jerk' way at all, just painting an ever increasingly dark picture of the guy. Talking about how he's not a guy who is a good fit on a young team, because you don't want young guys being influenced by him. How apparently a lot of the people in his entourage are assholes, and that reflects badly (and perhaps unfairly) on A Rod.

Now I don't really remember the details well, but that was the gist of it. Before this, the only thing I had ever heard about A-Rod was how great a player and person he was. His work ethic, great role model, a credit to his community, usual stuff. After this interview with the ex-teammate and ex-coach, I thought he was the biggest dink in pro sport.

And if you think someone is an asshole, and I'm assuming that a lot of people do, then it's natural to drift toward reasons to devalue the guy. And I'd guess that left-brained baseball nuts are probably chasing red herrings for no good reason. I dunno.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Black Dog said...

Interesting stuff - I can't stand A-Rod myself but why? I didn't mind him when he was a Mariner.

A lot of it had to do with the big contract - just the way Boras presented him and the fact that he left a good team to go to Texas of all places. Then the move to NY (the rich get richer).

His failures in the postseason make me happy and also add to my contempt for him - I know the whole idea of a "clutch" player is BS to many here but for a guy to put up such huge numbers in the regular season and then to fail so miserably in the postseason is unbelievable to me.

And now the fact that he may opt out and chase bigger bucks - I understand it, I guess, but at what point is enough enough?

Great great player but he isn't even liked, never mind loved. Even Bonds gets more love then him. How does that happen? Well, as said above - ARod just seems too packaged - Barry is a dick but there's no BS.

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