Since his arrival in the Bronx in Feb. 2004, Alex Rodriguez has turned into the whipping boy for the New York media. Despite being the best Yankee hitter and one of the game’s top offensive threats over the last five seasons, nothing A-Rod does is good enough, and everything he does off the field is magnified to the nth degree.
Since the end of January, the so-called A-Rod problem has been a dominant feature of sports radio and the back pages on a near-daily basis. First, Joe Torre called him A-Fraud. Then, Selena Roberts reported the news of a failed PED test six years ago. Then, he admitted more than any other Major League player had since this drug scandal broke in 2003. Then, he had to undergo surgery for a torn labrum. The Yankees, said a lot of mediots, may even be better off without A-Rod.
Here at RAB, we’ve scoffed at that notion. Unless the Yankees plan on replacing A-Rod with the 1981 version of Mike Schmidt, the Yankees are always better off with Alex Rodriguez. That’s just a fact of baseball.
While most New York reporters are content to dump on A-Rod, one has had enough. Ken Davidoff, in an article Jonah Keri calls the best of 2009, takes everyone to task for this absurd hatred of Alex Rodriguez. He writes:
All right, world, you have your chance now. For the next six to nine weeks, you’ll get to see what life is like without Alex Rodriguez. You’ll view the mighty, regal Yankees, rid of their “albatross.” You’ll look at Mr. Perfect, Derek Jeter, liberated from the cumbersome task of playing alongside one of the greatest players in baseball history.
Based on what people have been saying out there, I’m betting the Yankees go 35-1 while A-Rod rehabilitates from arthroscopic surgery…
Somehow, the belief is now pervading that the Yankees will be better off without A-Rod: That he costs as much in anguish and headaches as he pays in home runs and walks.
I don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense on any level, and the only evidence used to back it up – that the Yankees haven’t reached a World Series since they acquired A-Rod – could also be deployed to prove that A-Rod’s a heck of a player, but he ain’t no Clay Bellinger.
Davidoff goes on to eviscerate those who think A-Rod is somehow a problem for the Yanks. He implicitly accuses his fellow brethren of sheer hypocrisy when he notes that A-Rod’s drug use puts him “in the majority of ballplayers from his era.” He slams Bud Selig, the architect of baseball’s image problem, for tsking A-Rod, and he wonders why anyone bothered to make much ado about nothing over A-Rod’s comments about Jose Reyes.
My favorite part though is the way Davidoff ends his column:
If the Yankees do struggle, however, if the new guys can’t live up to the expectations and the old guys can’t reach back for better days, then perhaps the haters will finally have their question answered. They’ll finally realize the old “Be careful what you wish for” axiom.
Nah. They’ll probably just hate A-Rod all the more for getting injured.
As tongue-in-cheek as that is, the sad truth is that Davidoff is right. If the Yanks do well, fans, commentators and Mike Francesca will say that the team doesn’t need A-Rod. If the Yanks struggle — if Joba, CC and A.J. can’t get the outs they should get, if Jorge isn’t healthy, if Jeter’s age shows — it will all be A-Rod’s fault for not doing something sooner. Welcome to the Bronx Zoo.