The media needs an A-Rod story

The kid they wouldn't trade for the best pitcher in the world
The Sean Henn hype maching begins

I know this story is a couple of days old. I was actually sitting around with a couple of my buddies, debating philosophy and politics, when I came across it on Pete’s blog. Yes, I’m referring to Alex Rodriguez‘s clearly exaggerated statement that he was tested nine or 10 times last year for PEDs. Why did we wait? Because if I posted something Wednesday night or Thursday morning, it would have been a cuss-laden diatribe that wouldn’t have resonated well with readers. But now that I’ve had a few days to reflect, I think I can discuss this in a more sober manner.

(Proof of my inability to articulate my position on Thursday morning was a conversation with my father, wherein he dissected everything I said, and was right. But now I think I can put together what I really want to say).

It all started on Wednesday. Alex came into camp and categorically denied ever having used PEDs. That’s all fine and good. It’s something he had to do, given the current environment in Major League Baseball, and especially the one surrounding the Yankees. In his statement, he exaggerated a bit, saying he was tested nine or 10 times last year.

Of course, only players who have failed a test for amphetamines are tested that many times. This roused the parasitic media. But instead of asking Alex, or one of his representatives, if he was exaggerating, they started to call — according to Abraham — “Brian Cashman, MLB, the MLBPA, Scott Boras.”


Because if they asked Alex, they would have been told what they undoubtedly knew: He was exaggerating. It takes nothing more than common sense to realize this. Even if A-Rod did fail a test for amphetamines, that’s not something he’d offer to the press in any way, expressly or implicitly.

None of this matters to the press, though. They need stories to get readers. And the more sensational the story, the more readers they draw in. It’s a sad but true fact of journalism. However, sensational stories are like Digg. They may bring in a lot of traffic, but it’s not quality traffic. You don’t get many repeat readers out of these sensational stories. You get one-off readers who are inherently drawn to scandal.

So the strategy changes. Because tabloids like the New York Post don’t gain eternal readers for their sensationalist stories, they have to keep a steady stream of them. This way, they’re getting a variety of one-off readers all the time. If they ever stopped with these frivolous stories, the readers who picked up the tabloid for sensational reasons simply wouldn’t pick it up any more.

At least that’s how the theory goes.

This non-story could have been nipped in the bud. It didn’t have to see an inch of column space or a kilobyte of bandwidth. But it did, because the media needs this. They need scandal and controversy. Otherwise, they’ll be exposed as bland, boring figures who rarely have anything interesting to say.

Clearly, this criticism is aimed more at some than others. While I don’t much care for Pete Abraham’s defense of his fellow journalists in this scenario, I generally think he does a great job with the blog. He understands what readers and fans want to see: more information. We tend not to care about the spin that various papers put on stories. We care about getting first-hand information about our favorite team.

Because Abraham understands this, he’s risen to one of the premier baseball bloggers. It’s not just that he has the backing of a fairly large media outlet. Hell, Pete Caldera has the backing of a big media company, too, but I don’t know anyone who reads his blog. This is because Abraham understands the people and serves their will. And he’s rewarded by having the greatest level of readership in the Yankees blogosphere.

You know who doesn’t get it? George King. Other than Mike Lupica, there might be no greater A-Rod hater in the New York media. The subhead of this post explains exactly why he doesn’t get it: “Get ready for 10 more years of Alex Rodriguez finding ways to stir it up.”

Sorry, George, but it is you stirring it up, not A-Rod. You see, humans often exaggerate to make points. Alex was attempting to 1) categorically deny PED use and 2) praise MLB’s testing program. Yes, he might have done better to further exaggerate the number, as Abraham suggests. But it was an exaggeration any way you slice it. Be honest. When you heard that he said he’d been tested nine or 10 times, you thought he was exaggerating, right? Come on. Only people who are out to get the guy thought otherwise.

I’ll say it again. They could have simply asked him or one of his representatives. But they decided to stray from the horse’s mouth. Why? Because the mere act of calling around could become the story. There was clearly nothing to this. You can’t tell me that any journalist actually thought that this was anything but an exaggeration. And if they did, I’d like to sign them up for my new course, How Not To Think Like a Dumbass.

This is par for the course for King, though. When I talk about sensational news piece after sensational news piece, he’s target No. 1 of that criticism. I’ll take a page from Stephen Colbert’s book and invite Mr. King to debate me here on this site. It can be on this issue, or any other one related to the manner in which sports are covered. Of course, it will end up being me arguing common-sense points, and King offering up smoke-and-mirrors defenses.

I think I’ve said my bit on this issue. It shouldn’t have made any sort of headlines. But because the media needs a sensational story, it did. And that’s a damn shame. The players are out on the field doing things, working towards a championship season, and all we can talk about is how Alex Rodriguez exaggerated how many times he was tested for PEDs last season.

The kid they wouldn't trade for the best pitcher in the world
The Sean Henn hype maching begins
  • steve (different one)

    if you ever needed a clearer example of the “gotcha” environment surrounding Alex Rodriguez, go read the comments on Abraham’s blog today.

    Alex said that he thinks Jeter will have an “MVP season” because he came into camp in such phenomenal shape.

    there is ABSOLUTELY nothing controversial about this statement, right? RIGHT?

    simply a nice thing to say about a teammate.

    yet, some people out there have twisted this to mean that all Alex cares about is winning individual awards and all Jeter cares about is winning World Series.

    i mean, HOLY SHIT. are you people serious??

    this is our fanbase.

  • PYanks

    Here is a great and very funny post relevant to your well-stated remarks. Your analysis, coupled with this, puts this whole story in perspective. Thanks!!!

  • Jeff

    Yeah I posted on Abe’s site how this was a negative story bent on two BS subjects that most of the ridiculous magazie news media can’t stay away from – PEDs and anything A-Rod… put them together and you have one absolutely worthless story that some genius though he was right in writing.
    I swear it is really starting to get irritating… to the point where I’m just ready to tune out the people who post anything about PEDs and ESPN can kiss my ass – besides trying to get the morning highlights I can not be asked.

  • Brian

    well said. it’s one thing to be an overeager fan, to examine the yanks inside and out hoping to share in the coming glory, or a journalist who is doggedly looking to backtrack what players did over the offseason in preparation, always anticipating what future stories will be, and finding the stories that will bring more fans in, etc., but to dive in to one player so deeply as to live and breathe and torment over every utterance, incessantly characterizing each one…it’s just as you say, cheap traffic. At some point the fans, or just this one, has to say “that’s not what I’m in this for when I read the paper or watch the games. At all.”

  • Geno

    I just read the Daily News and swear by every word.

  • Harry

    Oh no, yr mistaken… It’ll be you arguing your common sense points & George King countering with something about “Boobs A Bull”… It’s amazing how most of the media & – sadly – a few of the fans, just keep hatin on A-Rod FOR NO GOOD FREAKIN REASON! LET THE GUY LIVE! Yesterday, on BT’s show on 1050 ESPN Radio, a guy called up & said that A-Rod is a “phony & a bad teammate.” So BT asked him, “how do U know?” do u know what the guy answered? “ASK DEREK JETER”!!! That’s what he answered. Amazing.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    I’ve almost completely given up on reading papers and talking to people who only read half of crap. I have heard so many people tell me that Obama is a Muslim which he is NOT. This is a planted rumor designed to turn people against him. Not only has this rumor been refuted a million times but the story of the planting turned into a story. And YET I still run into people who tell me this. It’s because some ignorant friend emailed them the planted story.

    I have talked to people who say Andy Pettitte took steroids…no, he did not, it was HGH and those are not steroids. I’ve read it in the papers (NY Daily News…Denis Hamill). I’m now hearing, “So Arod took amphetamines?”

    I’m so sick of the misreporting, irresponsible press coverage of events, and the half a$$ jerks who hear a half-truth and run with it.

    Our society is made up of rubes writing for rubes. The internet has just made ignorance fly around the world at a faster speed and reach more ignoramuses.

  • Lanny

    The mainstream media continues to show how dumb they are. They cant figure it out that hes exaggerating? Like come on already.

    I think Peter Abraham really thought he was serious. What a rube.

  • steve (different one)

    OMG A-Rod wore a white hooded sweatshirt in the gym today, do you think he’s a Klansman?!11!?1!

  • Pete Abraham

    Here’s where you are 100 percent wrong:

    We wanted to ask Alex whether he had actually been tested that many times. But once we figured out there was a problem with what he said, he was on the field. You can’t walk on the field and ask questions. They frown on that.

    Then Alex went into the clubhouse, which was closed to the media at the time. When the doors opened, he was gone.

    Alex doesn’t give out his cell or e-mail as some players do.

    As for calling his representative, that would be Scott Boras who he hasn’t spoken to in 3 months. Plus he was in the middle of a 5-hour arbitration hearing at the time.

    His representative in this case was Jason Zillo of the Yankees, who got through to Alex and cleared it up. Since you seem to know how everything works, explain to me what we should have done differently.

    Meanwhile, you’re overreacting to nothing. The stories in the paper were all correct. Nobody published their paper at noon that day.

    Listen to the audio on my blog. He said 9 or 10 times as straight fact in an even tone.

    Haave you noticed what has been going on in baseball for the last few months? When the most prominent player in the game says he was drug tested 9 or 10 times (which is 6 or 7 times more than normal), you have to check it out.

    We did, we found out he was exaggerating to make some point and that was that. What is the big deal?

    • LiveFromNewYork

      Give me a break Pete. I respect you but the media is completely out of control about these things. I mean this made the BACK PAGES in New York. It’s a bunch of hokum.

      And rationalizing the DUMBNESS of the media just feeds the beast.

      We know you drank the koolaid but we don’t have to buy stock in koolaid.

    • Joseph P.

      Thanks for coming by to state your case, Pete.

      After reading this over two more times, the only things I’m dissatisfied with are 1) my potshots, because not everyone in the media falls under this criticism, and 2) putting any focus on the process of obtaining the clarification.

      But they are very minor cogs in this criticism. The overall point still stands: This is a non-story. Yet it was treated as one by the media. The larger criticism is of this practice in general. This was just something that put me over the boiling point.

      I’m not happy that I had to say this. After all, we have our thing, and the mainstream media has theirs. We cover baseball on this site the way we think baseball should be covered…at least to the level which we are able to provide that kind of coverage. I’d like to stick to that, rather than criticize the media. Sometimes, though, I just have to say it.

      I’ll shut up now and continue what I’ve been doing. But if I slip and start complaining about the media, someone call me on it, okay?

    • steve (different one)

      We did, we found out he was exaggerating to make some point and that was that. What is the big deal?

      except that was NOT that.

      maybe for someone like you who actually has a bit of integrity, that was that. but the cover of the Daily News was “A-GOOF”:

      really, after he explained himself this was a front page story? really?

      give me a break.

      this is what Joseph is talking about. it wasn’t a story by the time the deadline rolled around. yet they still made it one.

      i know you have to defend “the media” Pete, but just because you are not an idiot doesn’t mean that guys like Lupica and King aren’t.

      • Joseph P.

        Pretty well said. The criticism is with the coverage. I understand that Pete is defending his profession, and I understand that. When people criticize bloggers, I usually jump to the defense as well. And as I said in the above comment, it’s not even a criticism of everyone — it’s certainly not of Pete, whose site I’ve recently described to friends as “my Yankees heroin.” But I know he understands that. It was King’s blog post and the back page that set this off. It was not a criticism of Pete’s blog post, which in a way is where this story belongs if it belongs anywhere at all. It’s a story about a story that’s not a story.

  • Yankee Psycho-fan-t

    Look, this is always gonna happen and there is nothing that you or anyone else can do about it except keep putting good interesting stuff on your blog for us to read. There will always be those “die hard” Yankee fans, you know, the ones who read the Post everyday and get plastered before every game so they can get into fights and get tossed out of the stadium. Well, living in Boston, there is a certain type of fan which all of these people resemble and they wouldn’t like me saying very much…they are RED SOX fans, who root for the Yankees. They breed the culture of hate and perpetuate the stereotypes of the ignorant Yankee fans who are all World Series and no baseball. They provide fodder for the news media and the obnoxious “people” of New England who make it painful to live up here in a blue hat. These fans are all in it for the glory and the story instead of the beauty of the game. They love the look and feel of being in pinstripes so much they delude themselves into thinking they have done anything to deserve wearing the same uniform as these players. I loathe these types people and I loathe George King and Mike Lupica for feeding the monster. Thank you for doing this blog, and sparing me from having to read that tabloid garbage. Pete Abe is a good guy, the tone I got from his piece was more of a here we go again with the A-Rod stuff, than look how much of a liar he is now. One minor blip in a glorious history of quality blogging. I forgive him, and I can’t wait for A-Rod to get back on the field and pound the skin off of the ball. Go Yankees!

    • LiveFromNewYork

      New York writers were the first to throw the Yankees under the bus during the Mitchell report. They reported that Pettitte took steroids and they didn’t blast the report for being biased and not comprehensive and Yankee-centric.

      Much of the New York press, which is read by mostly Yankee and Mets fans, were in a rabid feeding frenzy over the Mitchell Report. They reported so many players who weren’t even with the Yankees when they allegedly did PEDs as “Yankees” and they reported only the most sensational stuff.

      Much of the New York press does NOTHING to fairly and accurately report on the New York teams nor do they step back objectively and say, “Wait a minute, they’re after our guys…what about all the other PED users in baseball? Why is this Report so skewed toward the Yankees? Because Mitchell did a lousy job…” MOST NY reporters did not make a big deal about that. Despicable.

  • Pete Abraham

    Live: It made one back page. It was one line in my story.

    Meanwhile, please tell me what you would have done differently? Ignore the best player in the game saying he was tested 3x more than normal?

    • Ben K.

      Pete: It’s not you that we’re after. I think you presented a fair explanation of what happened and how you tried to cover this story. I think we’re all very sensitive to what’s going on with the testing policies and the number of times people are being tested, and it’s certainly part of the job as members of the media to follow up on something along the lines of what Alex said the other day.

      We’re concerned about the way George King and the Post in particular dealt with the story. They cover it to dredge up ill will and negative feeling. Sure, the Post is in the business of selling newspapers just like your Journal-News is, but they seem to do it in less-than-honest ways, and we’re calling them out on it.

      We don’t mean any ill will toward you or the indispensable blog you run.

      • mg

        Amen, I think pretty much everyone here reads Pete every single day. I have nothing but respect and thanks for the work he’s done to help us all feel like we share his clubhouse access. I agree with Ben and Joe though, guys like King consistently blow this stuff up to make a story where there isn’t one. If more sportswriters were like Pete we probably would have fairly little to complain about other than the analysts.

    • LiveFromNewYork

      Pete: I do respect you and I know the Yankees do too (you were the only reporter to get a second question at the Pettitte news conference and I noticed that). But the fans are really getting sensitive to this overhype in the media and the unfair reporting and the stuff they are just getting WRONG. The NY tabloids seem to have an axe to grind with the Yankees.

      And we all know that Alex is not the sharpest tool in the shed. His exaggerations should have been poo-poo’d not made into a big, hairy deal.

      But the rabid NY press corp are on the Yankees like paparazzi on Britney Spears and it really is making us a bit crazy.

  • Jon W.

    As usual, Pete is right, this was a story, and he was right to report it. At the same time, Joseph is also right, that the tabloids in NY completely blew it out of proportion. It was a story, but not a back page one. Thank you Pete for having some integrity. If only that would rub off on the Post, Newsday and the Daily News.

  • mg

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you guys should really have a George King unsubstantiated rumor meter and see how many stories that turn out to be utterly false he writes in one season. Betcha it’s an astounding number, maybe even a number large enough to get him fired.

  • zack

    Guys, not for nothing, but you don’t need to apologize or kiss up to anyone. Pete doesn’t need to be reassured. After all, he’s being paid for this and knows hes providing a valuable service, he hardly needs to be appeased. You raised legitimate points in your post and you have every right to call out however you want. I can understand not wanting to make enemies, but Pete himself calls out people all the time in the comments section and in his posts with no hesitation or remorse. Pete is a member of the media just like you are, just with better access; and no offense Pete, but most of the time you guys offer better analysis and breakdowns. Its a matter of your different roles. So don’t feel you have to kowtow to the power of his position…

  • Greg G.

    Joseph P.: I just wanted to say that I think this is one of the best blog posts I’ve read about the relationship between the media and the Yankees ever. Now that Pete’s contributed to the debate in his defense, I feel like I’m attending a symposium or something. Strong, strong work all around.

    • LiveFromNewYork

      I agree. I’m glad this is actually being debated and acknowledged. Kudos all around!

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  • David

    What a surprise. Peter Abraham getting overly defensive about criticism. Too bad he can’t ban people that criticize him here.

  • Old Goat

    Funny thing, he said pretty much the same thing near the end of last season, about being tested 8, 9, 10 times, he said nobody gets tested more than him. I think it was right around the time of Chipper Jones saying his statement that had the media frenzy over “did he say A-Rod did PEDs?”

    A-Rod is a target because he doesn’t always say things as vanilla as Jeter does. Jeter has learned to say a lot of nothing, so the press just deals with it and moves to a target.

    The Media has been after A-Rod since he came to town. Even when it came to the opt out, it was the media that pushed it to be announced during the WS. It could have waited for a few hours, but it was more sensational, more grabbing than the miserable WS game/series.