A Fan’s Notes (With Apologies To Fred Exley)
Written by Bernie LeRoy
Alex Rodriguez is a sociopath without style.
Most sociopaths have an amazing charm, one that lures people into believing in them. A-Rod’s charm did not get him into rooms with Cameron Diaz or Warren Buffett. A-Rod’s ability to hit home runs did that. What’s interesting, unlike almost all sociopaths, he succeeds in spite of his charm. He’s a fraud; his own contrivance of what you or me or someone else wants.
There is a semi-famous story, in circles that care about such things, about the night Theo Epstein and his colleague went to woo A-Rod for a potential trade. It’s interesting because it starts as a story that sounds like it’s intended to be about how The Red Sox had arrived, armed with a Yale Graduate GM with a pocket full of cash who meant business. Like all of those stories, it starts with a 1:00am phone call, and the punchline is supposed to be – when A-Rod asks when they want to meet – the response is “We are in the lobby.” 20 minutes later the joke is on Epstein and Hoyer, as they are greeted at the door of his room by A-Rod in a neatly pressed suit and tie.
It is amazing how miscalculated his every calculated move is. And what has made him so interesting over the years, is his (completely unnecessary) attempts to be even more to America, and to see how those orchestrations backfire at every turn. If he couldn’t hit home runs, he’d be a wonderfully handsome failure. A sad guy at the end of the bar selling everything from time shares to Miami Sound Machine bootlegs to the type of people who would have had a crush on him in high school. So when you see A-Rod on television, at press conferences, on sepia-toned sets with Tom Rinaldi – Don’t be fooled – because all of this – is a carefully calculated hoax.
Two months ago he stormed into WFAN studios from his arbitration hearing. A guest of Mike Francesa (see: person who would have had a crush), where he tore into Bud Selig, highlighting the suffering of his young daughters, “I’m missing Natasha’s birthday Mike,” and reminded Yankees fans that he loves the city and the fan base. All of it was staged as a diversion to the very fact – that he is the only player to ever NOT TESTIFY on his own behalf in an arbitration hearing. Because A-Rod is not a fool in preparation. As the playoffs have shown, A-Rod is a fool in execution. He knows that if he does testify, he subjects himself to charges of perjury – thereby sealing what, at times, seems to be a preordained fate as a prison bitch.
I don’t have to think far back to remember when going to a Yankee game meant something. There had been so many years between Reggie’s Dazzling Exhibition in Game 5; so much heartache and incompetence between Mr. October’s three home runs and Charlie Hayes’ securing the third out down the 3rd base line in the Game 6 win over the Braves (If the image of Wade Boggs on a police horse doesn’t crackle with sensational joy, you never sat through a Butch Wynegar double play ball).
But I remember that moment when it was obvious that the Young GM in Boston was onto something. In the season that followed the brawl in Fenway and Boone and Grady Little saving us in Game 7. The Red Sox were for real this time. In the 2004 season they were like Clint Eastwood riding into town for vengeance. The game I’m talking about is the 12 inning, regular-season masterpiece.
The Red Sox, the ones who would go on to pull off the impossible, in the greatest exhibition of retribution any sport has ever seen, had already decided that Nomar didn’t have the balls to try and pull off what they were attempting to do. It was fitting that he sat there, on the bench, “hurt” again, weeks away from being traded, staring out into the opposing infield with the other two shortstop phenoms from the mid-90s.
The foul ball went off the bat at just the right angle down the third base line and suddenly Derek Jeter was sprinting through the outfield grass, past the foul line snaring the pop-up in an all-out, absolute abandon, head-first, parallel-to-the-ground dive into the seats with the second out of the inning. The Captain, propped up by the fans, face bloodied, walked back onto the field to remind us all what the stakes were for the dedicated and the loyal; what it looks like to actually live a moment of your dreams. And what I remember most about that moment, more than anything else, is A-Rods reaction, lazily chasing behind Jeter as he crashes over the wall into the masses. His arms were up and his shoulders were raised with a mix of utter disbelief and total fear, and it reminded me of the way a mom would react to a teenage son doing a back flip off a rope swing at a water park. He was completely powerless.
For me, the most unforgivable of all acts that A-Rod has perpetrated against us, is the 2007 baseball season. A-Rod, who had already signed a $250 million contract in 2000, had an opt-out clause in his guaranteed contract, basically allowing him to cancel his existing contract and renegotiate a new one based on current market conditions. It was widely held, that A-Rods astronomical original contract was so far outside the market, that 7 years later, it was still too exorbitant for any team. What people hadn’t figured on (including Yankees GM Brian Cashman), was the upcoming opening of the new Yankee Stadium, the perceived need for a headliner, and the Fredo Corleone level of incompetence that was Hank Steinbrenner. In short, A-Rod had the most impressive statistical season of his career, surpassing even the gaudy numbers he posted in Texas (where he would later admit to having used steroids).
On the last out of the World Series that year (another one won by Boston), A-Rod formally opted out of his contract. And when I say last out, I don’t mean the next day or the following week when all baseball off-season business matters would be handled. It was announced while the Red Sox were still celebrating on the field. If it weren’t for the chain-smoking buffoonery of Hank Steinbrenner, this would have stood as the single (of many) dumbest moment of Alex Rodriguez’s career, punctuated by this uninhibited illustration of absolute greed and self-celebration.
Go Ahead and look at the stats while knowing the context of the situation; knowing now that A-Rod not only juiced for three years in Texas but apparently now has continued juicing again. Is there any doubt that he was on the top PEDs in the market in 2007, compiled an astounding statistical season, and fraudulently acquired a new, 10 year contract based on that performance? How is it possible that this guy is still on our television sets, iPads, and radio waves in the news cycle? How is he still fighting for $60 million dollars when he hasn’t played a full season in three years? How have we allowed professional sports to get to this point?
He’s that guy at the party who’s been dumped but won’t leave.
The problem is, the party kind of sucks to begin with.