The news that Alex Rodriguez was opting out of his contract with the New York Yankees broke during the fourth game of the World Series. (MLB has a rule against major announcements during the World Series, but it applies to teams not to individual players). The news made me think that A-Rod suffers from a peculiar kind of attention deficit disorder: he has to inject himself into the news when he feels a deficit of attention. Really, did we need to know his contract status exactly then? He had 10 days after the World Series finished to opt out. In fact, had he waited two days he probably would have had centerstage all to himself. So why the hurry? Could he not stand the idea of not being Topic A for several days? (Don’t blame agent Scott Boras; I’m sure a Rod knew what Scott was doing when he made the announcement. Those two are made for each other).
Hank Steinbrenner, the son of owner George, told the New York Daily News,"It’s clear he didn’t want to be a Yankee. He doesn’t understand the privilege of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to put a winning product on the field. I don’t want anybody on my team that doesn’t want to be a Yankee."
According to Boras, Rodriguez was concerned about the status of Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettite, all eligible for free agency this winter. He didn’t want to commit to a contract extension, which the Yankees were apparently preparing to offer him, without knowing if any of those players were coming back next year. Hank Steinbrenner said Rodriguez could have called him to get that information. I assume he also could have called the players themselves. (Of course, whether or not those players would want to talk to Rodriguez about their contract situations is another story). Contract talks are a volatile thing; what seems to be going smoothly early on can break down later and vice versa. But it seems to me that the picture might have been clearer nine days from now than they were with the World Series going on. At least he could have gotten an idea as to whether or not the Yankees wanted to keep the other players and whether the other players indicated a willingness to negotiate with the Yankees. So that excuse simply doesn’t hold water.
Maybe A-Rod doesn’t want to pay the price that comes with being the highest-paid player in history of the game and a member of the most storied franchise in sports: the price of media scrutiny of his behavior both on and off the field — remember the stripper incident? — in the crucible of American media — New York. Of course, sports heroes often have clay feet. But A-Rod, a married man, being seen with a stripper, and allegations that he has attended some shady gambling venues, would be quickly forgotten if he managed to be something more than a shell of his regular-season self during the playoffs.
The thing that amazes me the most about the A-Rod saga is the fact that he’s looking for an even bigger contract. He’s already the highest paid player in baseball by a longshot. And he’s at the point where the money itself has little meaning. He has more than enough to ensure his family’s prosperity for several generations. He can buy anything anyone wishes to sell. His fame also brings him investment opportunities off the field, so he gets money that way as well as through the contract. In short, Alex Rodriguez is a very, very rich man. So when is he going to say, "Enough!" and play for some other reasons?
Of course, I’m not talking about something as utopian as playing for no money, but how about sticking to the contract he signed and trying to figure out why he goes bust in the postseason? How about helping the team with 26 championship rings to get 27, 28, 29, and 30? (Whoops! What am I saying? I want the Diamondbacks to win two or three rings in the next few years). For a guy who wrote a children’s book, Alex Rodriguez is not a very good example for children. He seems much more self-involved, more interested in his own stats, than he should be in a team sport.
A-Rod does not function in a vacuum. He’s doing nothing illegal by opting out of his contract; the opt-out clause is in there, so the Yankees are partially to blame for allowing such a thing anyway. Scott Boras is considered a heavy in all of this drama. He is the agent a player signs with if money is the first consideration. And everybody knows that. He only takes players who are the cream of the crop and he is an excellent negotiator who knows how to press the right buttons in the owners. They could say no; no one is holding a gun to their heads. But if they want his players, they say yes. And for all the complaining about Boras, it’s not as if the owners have put him on a blacklist. There is some reticence among teams when they’re dealing with a Boras client who has just turned professional, but even then there is very little of that.
I’ve heard it said that baseball players ask for these outrageous salaries because they are competitive people. Thus, you have, for example, Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui insisting on making more than his fellow countryman, Ichiro, so that he would be the highest-paid Japanese player in MLB. There are various players who want to be the highest-paid in their position. Barry Zito, who left another agent to sign with Scott Boras prior to negotiating his free-agent contract with the Giants last off-season, is now the highest-paid pitcher of all time. On a team that finished last in its division in 2007. He turned in a 10-13 record and admitted later in the year that the pressure of the contract affected his performance. Is that much money really worth it if it stresses you out and it hurts performance, no matter what kind of work you do? Again, I’m not putting down the idea of being rich, but there comes a point where the money is more trouble than it’s worth. And I don’t think players like A-Rod or Zito, agents like Boras, or the team owners of clubs like the Giants, and the Yankees until last night at least, pay enough attention to that fact. Another "attention deficit," as it were.
Of course, if the team owner were to suggest to a player that there is a limit to monetary satisfaction, the player would think the owner is just trying to lowball him. And depending on the situation, he might be right. If an agent were to make that suggestion, he might lose a client. So it’s really up to the player to discover for himself the "enough" point: that point at which all material needs are met and money is more of a burden than a pleasure. If you are in that place financially, so what if someone else is making more? There are no exhibits in the Hall of Fame honoring record contracts.
The players should also consider the balance between his own individual reward and team rewards. Is the size of his contract hindering the team’s ability to acquire the talent it needs to win? (Players are more likely to consider this factor in a sport that has a salary cap. Every now and then we hear of the veteran making a big salary offering to restructure his contract so the team can afford adding a certain other player to their roster). What are the rewards, psychologically and financially, of winning championships? Of even getting to compete for a championship? I feel certain in saying that when Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies retires, he’ll think more about the fact that he played in the World Series than that he was the Rockies’ highest-paid player.
But let’s put the issue of inflated contracts into proper perspective. How many tim
es have you heard an athlete say, "It’s a business" in response to his release, trade, or a contract negotiation? Everyone who goes into business, no matter what the field, wants to make money, even a lot of money, and that’s to be expected. But is business just about making money? There ought to be a purpose to the business and achievement of the purpose should bring money. A business climate in which making money is the primary goal, rather than fulfilling a need in the marketplace leads to business owners and workers who think that what they do to make that money, and how they go about doing it, is far less important. And that leads to a lot of negative consequences, not the least of which is poor quality workmanship and business ownership that takes unfair advantage of its customers and its workers.
Sportswriter Buster Olney just wrote an article for ESPN magazine in which he said of A-Rod,"He has the right to make as much money as he can." I think most people in the world, including most pro athletes have that right. But some people don’t. I don’t think Bill Gates does. I don’t think A-Rod does. I don’t think anyone whose financial demands can warp his industry has the "right" to make as much money as he can. Interestingly enough, the title of Olney’s article is: A-Rod putting himself above the game. If we are going to call ourselves "civilized", we’ve got to stop thinking that we are above the game.
The atmosphere that we live in these days, the one that prompted Olney to make that remark, probably with as little thought as he would have given the remark that "the sky is blue," has high school pitchers and their parents looking for Tommy John surgery as the route to college scholarships and pro contracts. It leads to players using performance-enhancing drugs, and it feeds the bloated egos of people like Alex Rodriguez. He may get a $300 million contract when all is said and done, but that money won’t secure a number of things that are also important in a ballplayer’s resume: the admiration of fans, the respect of teammates and opponents, and a piece of jewelry that money can’t buy — a World Series ring.
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ByrnesBlogger1 via Red Sox Chick
As in 2004, you came back from the brink of elimination in the ALCS to sweep in the World Series.
Congrats also to Series MVP Mike Lowell for the work with bat and glove and to Jonathan Papelbon for the multi-inning saves.
And what a difference a year makes for starter and winning pitcher Jon Lester!
You’ve shown a dominance in this World Series that has even won the grudging admiration of "My Friend, the Yankees Fan." "They’re doing what the Yankees used to be able to do," she emailed me the other day. "They’re getting hits when they need them."
Bunches of hits. Enough to chase Rockies’ starter Josh "The Dragon Slayer" Fogg off the mound after two and a third. Sometimes you get the dragon; sometimes the dragon gets you. I knew it was going to be your day when your pitcher, Daisuke Matzusaka, chose that third-inning rally to get his first major league hit: a 2-out, 2-run single. Imagine that! Getting your first major league hit in the World Series. And for all the wringing of hands that the lack of a DH in the National League park was supposed to cause for the Red Sox because it meant that Ortiz or Youkilis or Lowell would have to sit, the concern was just so much waste of pen and ink and pixels. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, rookies at the top of the lineup had everything in hand.
Even when the Rockies tried to make a game of it by cutting the lead to 1 with 2 runs in the 6th and 3 more in the 7th, the dragon merely awoke from his nap and hung 3 more runs on the board in the top of the 8th, and 1 more in the top of the 9th for the symmetry of outscoring the Rockies by 2:1 in this game.
So let’s end it today, Boston! In a sweep like 19 of the 22 teams who have taken a 3-0 lead in the World Series (including your own 2004 incarnation) have done. It’s Sunday. Let’s end it so that there is no untidiness to clean up on Monday as a new work week starts. And untidiness is all it would be as history tells us that the 3 teams that won Game 4 after being down 0-3 went on to lose Game 5. Let’s all start fresh tomorrow, ready to focus on hot-stove debates, football pools, what the kids will wear on Halloween night…
and how the Red Sox are a lot like the Yankees used to be.
The Colorado Rockies are looking more like a sand castle with the tide coming in. It’s because they haven’t shown the ability to finish innings against the Boston Red Sox. Eleven of Boston’s 13 Game 1 runs were scored with two out. In yesterday’s 2-1 Boston victory, the game winning hit, Mike Lowell’s 5th inning double, also came with two out.
The Rockies’ best chance to win a game is probably tomorrow’s Game 3. They are back home now with NL rules, so either Ortiz, Youkilis, or Lowell will have to sit, not that I am sure the Rockies would want to see any of those three come up as a pinch-hitter in a clutch situation. The Sox also sacrifice a bit of defense in putting Ortiz at first and Youkilis at third. And Manny Ramirez, on a gimpy knee in the expansive left field at Coors, is also a risk.
The Rockies’ Game 3 starter, Josh Fogg, has a reputation for defeating big-name pitchers. But he’ll have to do better than the previous starters, Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez, who went 4 and 5 innings respectively.
Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka is a puzzle. He’s done OK in his first year in MLB, but not at spectacular as a lot of people expected. Were the expectations impossibly high because of the amount of money it took for the Red Sox to get him? Did he need the first season as a settling in period? Will any of that matter? He has an advantage here–the Rockies don’t know him–and thanks to the humidor, Coors is not the Launching Pad it was in the 90′s. So if Dice-K is not at his best, it doesn’t mean he’ll give up a bunch of gopher balls.
Given the way Okajima and Papelbon performed last night, you’ve got to like the back of Boston’s bullpen if Matzusaka can go deep into the game. Boston’s pitchers have shown that they can close the deal.
Game 1 of the World Series was a rout by Boston, 13-1. Josh Beckett’s filthy stuff kept the Rockies lineup in check. But it also was clear that the 8-day layoff the Colorado Rockies endured did, in fact, affect them. Not only did the pitching staff give up a week’s worth of runs in 5 innings, but the sideline announcer reported that the team looked flat from the beginning.
These playoff schedules are being spread out more and more to accommodate the TV networks. But the accommodation hurts long term audience-building by making the games end too late for many young fans. And now the accommodation is starting to hurt the game itself. Waiting for a particular day to start the Series because of ratings set up the long layoff. And if the ALCS had also ended in a sweep, you may have had two rusty teams playing for the championship. Not to mention that a lot of the casual fans who pay attention to baseball only during the post-season would have forgotten about the series. This can’t be good for the game.
If the World Series goes 7 games, it will end on November 1. That’s too late. November is for football, elections and Thanksgiving, even the Arizona Fall League for the baseball diehards. But not the World Series.
It would be nice to have baseball scheduled in a way that was best for the players and the fans, rather than the TV networks. I’m sure any player would tell you he’d be willing to play through the snow to be in the World Series, but no need to actually test that claim.
While we are waiting for sanity to return to the schedule, let’s hope that the Rockies shake off their rust quickly for the sake of the competition, even though I fully expect (and hope) that the Red Sox will win it all.
Arizona via Slough linked to an article by Andrew Gimbel from the Independent, a well-regarded newspaper in the U.K. It detailed the pervasive influence of "born-again" Christianity in the Rockies organization. In the article, called Batting for Jesus, Gimbel reported that:
The team’s chief executive is a born-again Christian. So is thegeneral manager and the team coach. Their two star players, along with
many other members of their regular line-up, are not only believers but
attend team-organised Bible studies.
The team doesn’t like to talk about it much – mainly because the
overlords of Major League Baseball don’t think it’s good for business –
but they have an explicit policy to recruit as many Christian ball
players as they can.
Gimbel cited as his source a USA Today article called Baseball’s Rockies Seek Revival at Two Levels (6/1/06) in which Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd and other club officials talked about the team’s Christianity.
There’s things about this that are absolutely no problem, such as the Rockies looking for players of good character. Having a religion can (but not always does) confer that. There’s also nothing wrong with players, coaches, or front office personnel having a faith. Or magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse, and obscene rap music being banned from the clubhouse. And players who wish to come together for a Bible study should have the same right and opportunity to do so as players who wish to come together to play cards and video games.
But former Rockie Mark Sweeney hit the nail on the head when he told USA Today:
"They have a great group of guys over there, but
I’ve never been in a clubhouse where Christianity is the main purpose. You wonder if some people are going along with it just to
keep their jobs. Look, I pray every day. I have
faith. It’s always been part of my life. But I don’t want something
forced on me. Do they really have to check to see whether I have a Playboy in my locker?"
And that is the issue: the team organizes the Bible studies. The team strongly encourages Sunday chapel attendance. Would a player who is a good citizen, but also an atheist for example, be comfortable knowing that his paycheck is signed by a "born-again"? If he were the guy sent down or DFA’d in a roster shuffle and told by the manager that he was the one chosen to leave because of a "numbers game," could he be sure that that, and not his lack of Christianity, was the real reason?
And as Gimbel points out in his article, the Rockies are one of the whitest teams in the majors. Does their particular brand of Christianity, and their location in a region of the country that is home to some major right-wing political and religious organizations, preclude black players from being drafted or traded for, even though African-Americans, as a group, have strong Christian roots? Pitcher LaTroy Hawkins is the one African-American. (The Rockies do have minorites: catcher Yorvit Torrealba, and pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez, Franklin Morales and Manny Corpas, and outfielder Willie Taveras are Latinos of color born outside the U.S. Pitcher Brian Fuentes is a Latino born in California. Second baseman Kaz Matsui is Japanese.)
If the Rockies win the World Series–I don’t think they will; the Red Sox are just too strong–but if they do, let’s hope we don’t see their followers hyping religion as the reason. With a different team winning the World Series every year this decade, God/dess is showering His/Her favor on just about everyone, if He/She really cares at all. (Take a look at my photo album called "An Astronomical Perspective" and ponder that question). The notion that a particular group of people have Divinity on their side is one of the deadliest ideas in the world.
First of all, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox for coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the American League pennant. They seem to have patented the process of coming back from way behind. Now I hope they Pound the Rocks!
22 people voted in my poll about how the Diamondbacks season would end: 2 thought they would lose the division series, 10 thought they would lose the NLCS, two more thought they would go on to the World Series but lose, and eight optimistic souls thought they would win it all. Oh well, wait till next year!
Next poll asks voters to focus their crystal balls on Randy Johnson. Come on over and make your prognostication on what he will do next year. The best time to do this would be before noon Pacific Time, as the poll is only open for 100 views a day.
A review of Eric Byrnes’ year will come later. I’m still crunching the numbers.
It would be really easy to blame the end on Conor Jackson. The first baseman’s error opened to door for the runs that were the winning margin in Colorado’s 6-4 Game 4 victory over Arizona. And I’m sure CoJack is blaming himself today. But you win as a team and you lose as a team, and that error does not, in and of itself, account for a four-game sweep.
There were a lot of contributing factors, not the least of which was the very streaky nature of the Diamondbacks all year. You just knew they’d be done for if they went on a skid where, as a group, they couldn’t deliver. And that’s just what they did. The Rockies pitched well, but not so well that they couldn’t be beaten with some timely hitting. The D’Backs actually out-hit the Rox 36-30 in the series. To a certain extent–how much exactly, I don’t know–you’ve got to give the Rockies pitchers credit for hanging tough with runners on base. But the D’Backs were not exactly a Murderers’ Row that got stopped in their tracks by the Colorado pitching staff. To some extent–again how much exactly, I don’t know–the Snakes stopped themselves.
Errors did matter. On the basepaths, where Upton, Montero and Drew were out at second at very inopportune times, and in the field, where 3 errors all led to the Rockies’ scoring unearned runs. Meanwhile, the Rockies played flawless defense…spectacular defense at times. Taveras’ catch of Tony Clark’s fly ball in Game 3 was pivotal. Garrett Atkins grabbed an Eric Byrnes smash that was headed down the left field line for two bases. Josh Fogg caught a Byrnes line drive in an act of self-defense and very nearly turned it into a triple play. And what can we say about shortstop Troy Tulowitzki except that he’s the Second Coming of Derek Jeter?
Luck also cames into the picture. While the Diamondbacks seemed to be hitting with all the Rockies 25-man roster on the field, the Rockies hit balls that seemed to have eyes. Or at least the spirit of Wee Willie "Hit ‘em where they ain’t" Keeler guiding them. Brandon Webb was victimized by dinks and dunks in Game 1 and that bloop in no man’s land down the left field line last night by pinch-hitter Seth Smith gave the Rox a lead they would never relinquish. When you’re going well — and it’s the understatement of the year to say that the Rockies are going well — you get that kind of luck. It’s like a reinforcing feedback loop.
This column would not be complete if I didn’t tell you I have a bone to pick with Eric Byrnes. I just knew someone would get on in the 9th to give Eric one more chance. But it was over in a flash when he took an "excuse me" swing at the first pitch and grounded out, fittingly for the Rockies, Tulowitzky to Helton, with Byrnesie diving for the bag. (With all the technology in baseball nowadays, someone should conduct some tests in Spring Training to show once and for all that sliding into first is actually slower than running through the bag). If Byrnes had actually swung hard at that pitch, he might have had a single. He who hesitates is lost, EB.
After last night’s game, Manager Bob Melvin told reporters, "It hurts right now. But when you
sit back and reflect on where we came from, obviously it was a
successful season." I’ll agree with that. Most of us were hoping/predicting that the team would play above .500. Third place would have been a respectable finish. At the beginning of the season, no one saw 90 wins coming; no one saw the NL West crown; and most assuredly, no one saw a victorious sweep in the first round of the playoffs. That’s success for a team that was under .500 last year. More success than the Cubs on a lot less payroll, experience, and on-the-field firepower.
In a way that is hard to see now, the loss in round two may be a blessing in disguise. Some very interesting discoveries were made along the way to that ignominious end to a good season: particularly Mark Reynolds, Augie Ojeda and Jeff Salazar. Next year, the BabyBacks will be a bit older and wiser and a lot hungrier. O-Dog will be back. I hope Tony Clark will be back also, though you never know with these free agents. And Eric Byrnes, who finally made it past the first round of the playoffs, will come into his own as a team leader, because he’s finally going to learn how to be a second-half player.
In the meantime, there really isn’t anyone who loves the game who objects to Todd Helton getting into the World Series. I just wish it didn’t have to be this year.
I had a bad feeling about Game 3 when Eric Byrnes came within a hairsbreadth of lining into a triple play in the first inning.
Actually, I wasn’t feeling that good about it while watching the pre-game show, because the weather was bad and expected to stay bad throughout the night. The temperature was 40 degrees, it felt like 34, and it rained throughout the game. Football weather. Bad football weather.
They even ran out of the drying agent that is spread on the infield when conditions are bad, and had to send out for something else. They called the Broncos, the universities, construction companies etc. and finally came up with 40 giant bags of crushed gravel that were delivered during the seventh inning stretch. They were lucky this game didn’t go extra innings because the next step would have been to use kitty litter.
Everyone knew that the weather reports called for today and tomorrow to be clear, albeit cool. The schedule had an extra travel day built in precisely because of the possibility of inclement weather. (Remember two rain outs in St. Louis last year?) Shouldn’t the league be interested in the safety of the players, the comfort of the fans in the stadium, and good playing conditions for a game in the CHAMPIONSHIP series? We can all stand to wait a day.
I know that I could have waited forever to see what I saw from the Diamondbacks yesterday. Three DP’s in the first three innings! Where did Colorado starter Josh Fogg come up with those pitches when he was getting hit so often during those three innings? He did well to catch Byrnes’ line drive om the first inning. That smash served as reminder of how vulnerable pitchers are on the mound.
The game turned out to be typical of the way Arizona starter Livan Hernandez loses. He game up a 3-run homer in the sixth. He is one of the league leaders, if not THE league leader, in giving up gopher balls. And it wouldn’t have been so awful if he gave it up to Todd Helton, or Matt Holliday or Troy Tulowitzki, but Yorvit Torrealba? And with two runners on!
That’s the risk you take with Livan. He pitches to contact, and pitches around certain hitters, and so when he gives up the long ball there are usually runners aboard. Especially in the 5th or 6th inning, when he typically weakens.
And there wasn’t anybody to pick him up at anytime. Again the Diamondbacks got ‘em on, but couldn’t get ‘em over or get ‘em in. Their one run was accounted for by a Mark Reynolds solo shot in the fourth, his only hit of the night. Eric Byrnes was abysmal, following up the double play with a strike out looking and two popouts.
Now the D’Backs are faced with doing what the Red Sox did in ’04, except that they don’t have anyone like David Ortiz on their team and the Rockies are way hotter– a ridiculous 20-1 –than the Yankees were then.
But can we at least avoid the ignominy of a sweep, please?