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.