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February 29, 2004


language hat

Of course, debating over how seriously to take the Oscars or the baseball MVP awards is something of a frivolity.

Now, wait a minute, pal, them's fightin' words. The Oscars are purely and simply an excuse for a big industry party and a reward for people who spend big bucks and go along with the system (aside from the minor awards like Best Foreign-Language Film, and if you want to see a set of arcane and stupid rules, check those out sometime); to take the "Best Picture" award as having anything to do with real-world meanings of the word "best" is folly. The MVP, on the other hand, is serious, and aside from actual stats is one of the better ways to get a handle on the qualities of players before our time. Those voters know and care about the quality of baseball players, regardless of how they may weight for playing on contending teams. And now we get to my real question, which is: What do you mean by calling Rodriguez "execrable"? Like everyone else, I was appalled by his move to Texas and hoped he'd live to regret it, but it's hardly his fault that the owner waved huge bundles of cash in his face; would you have chosen differently? And like every non-Yankee fan, I'm appalled by his move to New York, but that was pretty much foreordained once Boston (alas, poor Boston) failed to get the deal done, and again, it's not his fault. I've heard nothing to indicate that he's a rotten human being. So, nu?

language hat

(I take as a given that he's the best hitter in the game, and has been for some time.)

Semantic Compositions

It's been a while since A-Rod's original move to Texas, so I don't claim to remember the exact terms he turned down to re-sign with Seattle, but my recollection is that the contract they offered would have made him #1 or #2 in pay anyways, which is hardly a sign of disrespect (and nobody had any idea at the time that Ken Griffey Jr. was about to completely tank his career).

At the time, though, A-Rod made a big show of claiming that it wasn't just about the money, and that somehow he'd also have a chance to win in Texas. That's ridiculous. Every time athletes say "it's not about the money", we know that's all it's about, which is hardly an observation original to me. A-Rod had to know, though, that by taking such a large contract, he was greatly restricting the ability of the Rangers to make improvements at any other position, and we've seen that they haven't been contenders since (although they did blow a lot of money on bad pitching before deciding the budget was unsustainable). To me, this indicates an attitude of gross selfishness towards his teammates (never mind the owners, they offered it).

But I wouldn't feel the way I do about A-Rod if he hadn't gotten whiny about it. Months ago, he started making noise about how maybe trading him would be best for the team, and that he was frustrated with losing. I think it's wrong to be sympathetic with him on the latter point, because he knowingly and freely chose losing in exchange for that contract. The whole "it would be best for the team" thing struck me as merely the good-cop half of a negotiating ploy; his agent must have been calling Tom Hicks every day and making suggestions about dogging it a la Roger Clemens' last season in Boston.

I wholly believe in free markets, and the right of the players to demand whatever salaries they want. However, if a player won't settle for less than taking up 1/4~1/3 of a team's payroll, then they ought to recognize that complaints from them about not being competitive are undignified. As another example, out in L.A., Shaq is demanding a contract extension so high that even if Kobe leaves, the Lakers won't have any salary cap space available to pursue other free agents. This doesn't bother me much, since I'm not a Lakers fan, but I would think that Shaq would at least recognize that his priorities include making his team less competitive -- and that then he would also shut up and stop complaining about the fact that the Lakers aren't as good this season as they have been in the past.

It's not that I've heard any stories about A-Rod kicking puppies, or taking lollipops from little kids. And I don't think he's ever been implicated in any of the usual athlete scandals involving drugs, alcohol, women or fast cars. But whining about a situation which was entirely predictable when you freely chose to do something is pathetic. With 7 years left on his contract, demanding to be traded struck me as an act of bad faith -- if he didn't want to lose for so long, he shouldn't have signed up for it, and that's why A-Rod doesn't impress me much as a person.

I do agree with your comment that he's the best hitter in the game, which is why I called him "execrable but deserving".

language hat

I agree with the tenor of your comments, but I would argue that the applicable adjective is "human" rather than "execrable." Unless you're absolutely sure you'd have turned down a hundred million bucks (or whatever the relevant excessive figure is), you should be careful with your condemnations -- and if you are sure, you're a better man than I. (Remember, he wasn't demanding anything -- the Texas owner chose to offer far more than was on the table elsewhere.) And although it certainly is graceless to whine about being on a losing team after you've eaten up all the available cash, again I judge that to be a normal human failing in an athlete who cares desperately about winning. I try to reserve adjectives like "execrable" for the likes of Pete Rose and Bud Selig.

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