Thursday, February 17, 2005

There's No Place Like Home

Right about now I'm guessing that Alex Rodriguez wished he had never left the comfy confines of the Pacific Northwest. Instead of signing a $250 million contract with the Rangers, and subsequently landing smack dab in the middle of the until-last-year-a-very-one-sided Yankees - Red Sox rivalry, A-Rod might instead prefer to be the best shortstop in baseball who spurned big-time offers to stay in Seattle.

Fast forward several years and A-Rod is a Yankee who now has people questioning his sincerity, his leadership as well as his parenting skills. Here's what Jose Canseco says in his new book about A-Rod:
"Phony was the description Jose Canseco chose in his best-selling tell-all book when chiding Rodriguez for speaking as if he test-runs his thoughts through 'some kind of focus group beforehand.'

'Alex, in particular, leaves most corporate spokesmen looking unpolished and overly sincere,'"
First of all, there's no way in hell Canseco wrote this. After watching parts of the "60 Minutes" interview, I'd be more inclined to believe that Canseco actually communicates using a series of grunts coupled with hand gestures. How he progressed from that to, "Alex...leaves most corporate spokesmen looking unpolished and overly sincere" would be a miracle along the lines of Kevin Millar's job title being "professional athlete," or J. Lo making a decent living as an actress and a pop singer (in the immortal words of Don King, "only in America"). And before anyone points out that every sports figure has a ghost writer, I'm contending that Canseco didn't even have that thought. In fact, I could very easily see Canseco sitting in his one bedroom apartment in only sweatpants and house shoes, yelling at some nerdy ghost writer to get him another beer so "I don't miss the last 10 minutes of Montel." And in between fetching beers the nerdy writer makes up a bunch of stuff for Canseco's tell-all book.

That said, Canseco (or the nerdy ghost writer) is right. Whenever you watch A-Rod talking to the press, you get the idea that he's been rehearsing his answers backstage for the past few hours. Still, that's no reason to call the guy out. I certainly prefer a really boring A-Rod to some contentious malcontent like Barry Bonds. Of course, Canseco's comments were the nicest thing anyone said about A-Rod this week.

Tuesday, Trot Nixon said some things that you might expect to hear on a grade school playground (or from Kevin Millar):
On Tuesday, Boston's Trot Nixon singled out Rodriguez for failing to be a genuine Yankee like the true-blue Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams.

He also mocked Rodriguez for bragging about his workout regimen in the off-season. "Like Rodriguez says, he's running stairs at 6 in the morning while I'm sleeping and taking my kids to school," Nixon told reporters. "I'm like, well I'm not a deadbeat dad, Alex."

Nixon's hit streak continued as he added this kicker concerning Rodriguez's entrance into fatherhood: "He's got a kid now, too, so I guess he'll have his limo driver take her to school."
It's funny how A-Rod so easily riles up the Red Sox. And this is the guy that really didn't do much against them all season. I mean, Enrique Wilson is a more likely candidate for lambasting than A-Rod, isn't he? Incidentally, I notice no one calling out Gary Sheffield. He's about as new as they come in the Bronx, but not even the seemingly dim-witted Millar is dopey enough to give him the business. I suspect that has something to do with the fact that Sheffield seems like the type of guy who would walk up to you -- no matter the situation -- and punch you in the mouth ... hard, for any percevied transgressions against him. A-Rod might want to ask him for some advice.

Anyway, I mentioned yesterday that Trot's comments seemed kind of weird, but I'm sure the other Yankees will come to the support of A-Rod and his importance to their team:
"That's between them," Jeter said of the Nixon flap. "I have nothing to do with that one. That's Trot and Alex."

But wasn't Jeter offended by the brazen swipe taken at his fellow infielder?

"Alex will be here soon," Jeter said. "Ask him if he's offended by it."

Even an old Yankee turned new again, Mike Stanton, revealed the level of A-Rod's clubhouse status by unwittingly validating Nixon's comments. "When you talk about the Yankee organization, it's Derek Jeter, Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams," Stanton said. "The rest of us are just the supporting cast."
Uh, OK. I'm guessing that's not the answer A-Rod was hoping for, but that's where we're at. And only compounding the matter is the fact that George Steinbrenner had a meet-and-greet with A-Rod this offseason and questioned whether he had what it took to be a leader on this team. It was probably at that point that A-Rod wished he had never left Seattle -- or maybe even found a way to make the Red Sox deal work.

Which makes me wonder exactly how well A-Rod would have fit in in Boston. I've said before that I was never interested in getting him -- especially if it meant Nomar was out -- but just for the sake of conversation, I wonder if the Red Sox would have done as well in 2004 (at least during the regular season). We know (after the fact, anyway) that Schilling didn't think so, but how serious can you take a guy that spends as much time doing interviews and calling sports talk as he does at his real job?

I'm glad things worked out the way they did, but it's still something to think about (at least since there's really not a lot of other stuff going on at the moment). Of course, after reading this, maybe everything did work out for the best:
All of this makes Steve Phillips's "24-plus-one" remark in 2000 seem clairvoyant instead of crazy. The Mets general manager that courted A-Rod that year, Phillips pulled out of the race, citing the excessive perks requested by the agent Scott Boras. Like a billboard presence in the city. Like a private plane. Like a separate marketing staff.

"I just hope the people in New York don't believe that silliness," Rodriguez said at the time.

If New Yorkers believed Rodriguez then, they may be wondering now. Not because of any diva-like fits, but because A-Rod has yet to reveal himself as the real deal.

Many people have noticed - from Canseco to Nixon - and even his teammates seem to be struggling with whether Rodriguez is an authentic Yankee.
Anytime Steve Phillips is made to look clairvoyant, things are bad ... really bad. Seriously though, this all seems a bit overblown (and I don't even like A-Rod), but I guess it wouldn't be Yankees - Red Sox if there weren't some such silliness to talk about. And said silliness is again, the inevitable result of something initiated out of the Red Sox clubhouse. I guess that's how you know it's baseball season.