Should we trust Will Leitch’s ‘sources’? And other sundry questions about The A-Rod Article

Report: A-Rod could play for, own Cubs
Game 156: Division hopes and dreams

Oh, boy. Right on the precipice of the playoffs, this whole A-Rod/Cubs business is sure to rile more than a few feathers. So as I rub my hands together in glee and anticipation, let’s jump in.

First up is the backstory: In the issue of New York Magazine due to hit newsstands later today, the inestimable Will Leitch pens a piece on Alex Rodriguez. The first 1100 words rehash familiar territory: A-Rod’s contract history; the near-trade to Boston; his playoff flame-outs; his 52-home run, 146-RBI season; the Yankees power structure; and the inevitable use of the opt-out clause.

It’s on the second page where things get really good. Allow me to quote at length:

The team that observers believe has the best shot is the Cubs. They’re up for sale, but a source with knowledge of the situation says Boras knows which group is most likely to be awarded the team. (That’s not loudmouth Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, by the way; he has no chance.) The source says Boras has already been in touch with that group about the possibility of a contract that could reach $30 million a year over the next ten years while deferring a certain portion of money toward an eventual stake in the franchise.

The good stuff continues though. Leitch claims that the left shoulder tic — possibly a source of A-Rod’s recent power outage — and subsequent ribbing aren’t good natured. The teasing is supposedly “the kind of thing that does not speak to an undying attachment between player and team.”

So take a deep breath; suck it all; and let’s tear it apart.

That Alex Rodriguex may play for the Cubs is not really news. We first heard about it last October when everyone assumed the Yanks would trade A-Rod after his disastrous 2006 ALDS. With Lou Piniella’s arrival in the Second City, a Rodriguez trade seemed almost preordained. But Brian Cashman and Randy Levine both know A-Rod’s value to the club. They know what he does on the field, and they know that he puts a lot of fans in the seats. They didn’t let him go then; they probably don’t want to now.

So what about this ownership issue? By all accounts, it’s a moot point. As the Yankees have already pointed out, any effort on behalf of Boras to arrange this deal constitutes big-time tampering. Bud Selig’s office has also confirmed that a player cannot have an ownership stake in a team. It’s not going to happen. At all.

Which leads me to my big question: Who are Will Leitch’s supposed sources for this story? Can we trust them? I don’t think so.

The Daily News voices what we’re all thinking: Mark Cuban, the maverick NBA owner who seems to have no shot in hell at being awarded the Cubs, may be trying to stir the pot. If it is indeed Cuban — and we’ll probably never know — take this article’s statements with a large grain of salt. He — like Boras, as Rob Neyer noted tonight — isn’t one to shy away from using the media to get what he wants. If Cuban can’t get the Cubs, he sure can make it harder for someone else to in his place.

Of course, this is all just unfounded speculation, but it makes sense. Whether it’s true or not hardly matters; it’s out there, and the right officials will think about it and look into it.

As for the shoulder issue, unless Alex Rodriguez is an Academy Award-worthy actor, I don’t think he was too offended by the shoulder shenanigans. He was laughing it up with the bullpen and dugout when that shoulder thing hit. The Yankees were taking a serious situation — a potential shoulder injury to their number one slugger — and turning it into a joke. No one on the team was unconcerned, but they were impressed that A-Rod was hitting bombs with a sore shoulder. To take it as anything else is, in my opinion, a gross representation of the problem.

Next up is another claim Leitch makes that I’m not too keen to accept. “When Rodriguez and Boras sit down this off-season and make their pros-and-cons chart, you’d have to imagine ‘Chicago Tribune Won’t Run Photo of My Night Out With a Buxom Blonde and Write That I’m Into the “She-Male, Muscular Type”‘ would be rather high up the list,” he writes.

While The Tribune may not run A-Rod out of town, Jay Mariotti and The Sun Times sure will. If anyone knows that, it’s Will Leitch who, at Deadspin, has written extensively about Mariotti. The Chicago media will be just as brutal on A-Rod as the New York media has or hasn’t been this year. They won’t suddenly display oodles of midwestern hospitality. Chicago is a sports team with a history of mediocrity and flat-out failure. They’re sick of it, and they won’t take it lying down.

So when we put all of these pieces together, should we care about this story? Should we, waiting for the playoffs to start after an amazing second-half run, be concerned that A-Rod’s jumping ship to go play for and possibly own the Cubs? If only the answers were yes and no. The shades of gray run deep with this one.

We shouldn’t care about the ownership reports. It’s not going to happen; Major League Baseball won’t change their rules simply because Scott Boras, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Cuban or anyone else talks about it off the record to New York Magazine.

I’m also almost tempted to say we shouldn’t care about the Cubs. The Tribune isn’t about to throw $300 million Alex Rodriguez’s way right before selling the club. Furthermore, the Cubs already have a third baseman, and they would be delusional to believe that A-Rod is still a fit for short. He’s not. I’m almost tempted to cross the Cubs off the list completely, but this one is the Rumor That Just Won’t Die.

But where I’m worried is in that ever-present $30 million figure. As Gwen Verdon sang, whatever Scott Boras wants, Scott Boras gets. He has watched A-Rod with glee this year. Fifty-two home runs! One-hundred forty-six RBIs. Those numbers are off the charts. And imagine if A-Rod delivers the Yanks to the World Series this year.

In reality, only a handful of teams can afford that price tag, and the Yanks are the front-runners. But until Alex Rodriguez is guaranteed to be in pinstripes in 2008, I won’t hold my breath. As much respect as I have for Will Leitch, I don’t like this article. For reasons of journalistic integrity, despite the thoroughness of the New York Magazine fact department, I don’t like the sources; I don’t like how MLB never had the chance to respond to these ownership claims in Leitch’s article. And as a Yankee fan, I don’t like to imagine A-Rod elsewhere.

But that’s a story for the end of October. Let’s hope it stays off the tabloids for now.

Report: A-Rod could play for, own Cubs
Game 156: Division hopes and dreams
  • Jamie

    Great post Ben. I posted a column in the other thread last night about this after I took the time to read through what I guess you can call an article in the NYRag.

    The shoulder tic thing really bothers me – as i pointed out in the last thread – as I look at that as almost a turning point for AROD and his Yankees teammates… to turn that around and make it look negative is just plain idiotic.

    Will’s lack of participation in team sports really shows through with that example…. something that he himself would rip on his own website.

  • Mike A.

    Bud Selig’s office has also confirmed that a player cannot have an ownership stake in a team. It’s not going to happen. At all.

    The article says “while deferring a certain portion of money toward an eventual stake in the franchise,” key word being eventual. This is really just nitpicking on my part, but I just wanted to make note of it.

    (ha, that’s what you get for pointing out my Brackman comment on the 1M page view post!)

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone know what the punishment for tampering is? Is it just heavy fines, or something more serious/amusing like loss of a draft pick, etc? Thanks in advance.

    • brxbmrs

      Levine spoke to the commissioners office inre the ownerdhip stake – Randy said the Commiss office agrees its illegal.

      Still think Boras had someone spread that rumour – just when you think you know all of Boras’s pressure tactics, he comes up with something even more outrageous – the man is an evil genius, emphaisis on both words.

      p.s. Kudos to you all for restraining yourselves on not slipping something in as to how bad you think Melky is. FWIW, Matsui left 10 guys on the last two days – still waiting for some response somewhere from you guys – Sui gets the biggest pass on this team by far.

      Other than that, awesome job guys, this is the best Yanks site on the net IMHO.

      • Ben K.

        He’s not getting a pass in my book. He’s bailing out at the plate and is generally being just terrible. If he’s batting fifth today ahead of Jorge, I’ll be a bit dismayed. Maybe they should just give Hideki today off and let Giambi DH.

      • Mike A.

        Matsui definitely needs a day off or two (as does everyone, really), but he’s still gotta get enough at-bats to get out of his funk. You can only do so much in the cage. Plus he’s got a length track record that suggests he’ll get out of it.

        Don’t take my ribbing of Melk the wrong way (I see how you could though), I want him to do well, and I think he’s a better player than what he’s shown the last few weeks. Fundamental mistakes – like overthrowing the cutoff man, not getting a runner to 3rd with less than 2 outs, sliding into first, that kind of stuff – just frustrate the hell out of me.

        • brxbmrs

          Mike, Ben,

          On Melk, I don’t think he makes many mistakes – imagine if we had Delmon Young or Lastings Milledge doing their schtick in NY. (I’ve yet to see Young field a ball cleanly, regardless of his raw tools). The thing I worry most about Melk is he may already have developed his level of talent as far as he can take it – I don’t think that’s the case, but that’s my worry nonetheless.

          Personally, I think Melk is gassed – just like he was last year in August and September – he doesn’t have the stamina (yet, hopefully).

          As for Matsui, I think we see the same problem with him as with Damon and Abreu – in this new era of no greenies or other pe’s, 33 is old.

          Abreu’s arm btw looks like its lost quite a bit.

          A good buddy of mine who played organized ball in the Dominican Republic had a theory that when guys are in decline, you see glimpses of their former greatness in a few games a week and you fool yourself into thinking that they are coming out of a slump, when in fact they are just aging and past their prime.

          Giambi is also awful, but Ben I agree, I’d like to see him get some AB’s b\c he’s more of a HR threat than Sui – same for Betemit from the left side.

          I know some here ar not fans of Dan Graziano – but that article he did on Sui compiling stats against interleague play was something I thought was very true – can’t forget, Sui hit 6 HR’s off Tampa in July as well.

          I just think Sui gets a big pass and is in probably the most lucrative spot in any MLB lineup.

  • steve (different one)

    The good stuff continues thought. Leitch claims that the left shoulder tic — possibly a source of A-Rod’s recent power outage — and subsequent ribbing aren’t good natured. The teasing is supposedly “the kind of thing that does not speak to an undying attachment between player and team.”

    can someone explain what this means?

    • Ben K.

      A few weeks ago, A-Rod jammed his shoulder sliding head first into second base. After that, for a few games, after he would hit – generally home runs and doubles – he would rotate his left shoulder. The guys on the bench and in the dugout starting poking fun of him and rotating their shoulders in unison every time A-Rod would get a hit. It was clearly good-natured ribbing, but Leitch or one of his sources seems to disagree.

      • Tommy

        It’s certainly no stretch to see it as more sinister than that. I mean he would hit 425 foot bombs and then act like he was battling chronic pain. Maybe there’s just no avoiding being obnoxious when you’re that historically good, but I mean come on.

        • steve (different one)

          yes, it is a stretch. a huge stretch. everyone around the yankees, including the YES crew and the entire bullpen, had a good time with the whole thing and this is the first time i have heard anyone call it “obnoxious”. everyone was smiling the whole time. seems like you just have problem with a-rod.

          • Tommy

            Haha, I have no problem at all with ARod–I’ve done nothing but defend him since he came to the Yankees. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the team and the fans have given him reason (even if it only exists in his mind) to think they’re somewhat hostile towards him.

            I think it was just good natured ribbing and, if it’s true that he is sensitive about it, it has much more to do with his history than with this particular incident.

            • steve (a different one)

              ok, my bad then. i admit this take on the shoulder thing as a negative has me extremely confused. i’m pretty sure alex has been quoted as saying he “loved it” when they were ribbing him. i don’t think he was sensitive about it.

  • Pingback: Game 156: Division hopes and dreams | River Ave. Blues | A New York Yankees blog

  • yankz

    I totally agree. I really expected Leitch to pick up on things that the MSM usually doesn’t. In fact, I’m so surprised with what he wrote that I’m beginning to think there was some heavy editing involved.