It’s always confusing to sports fans, and not a little disappointing, when they encounter great talents with second-rate character. Bobby Knight is a legendary coach but a serial bully who has, on many occasions, deserved a righteous public ass-whipping. Barry Bonds was gifted with first-ballot Hall of Fame skills, but has destroyed his reputation forever thanks to a little problem with the flaxseed oil.
And now we have Alex Rodriguez, who the other night cemented his standing as baseball’s newest king-hell punk. It’s a shame, because he’s probably the greatest player alive (at least, the greatest player between the dates of April 1 and September 30). For those who might have forgotten, let’s review some of A-Rod’s more celebrated Bush League moments.
- In Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, A-Rod attempted to slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove on a close play at first base, something he should have known better than to do by the time he reached high school.
- In a game in May against the Red Sox he came into second base hard trying to break up a double play – perfectly okay so far – but popped up on the slide and hit Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia with a cheap elbow/forearm shiver. Bottom line, it was a dirty play that served no purpose at all, and should have earned him a 95-mph heater in the ear next time up.
- Then, later on in the same month he caused yet another uproar on an infield pop against the Blue Jay. He was on second when the ball was hit, and as Jay’s 3B Howie Clark settled in to make the catch A-Rod trotted along and yelled “mine,” making Clark think his shortstop was calling him off. A serious no-no, and Toronto pitchers were still humming fastballs at Rodriguez weeks later.
So long A-Rod, hello Bush-Rod.
These kinds of antics, which ought to be beneath a 4th-grader on the playground, gripe the hell out of people like me. I grew up playing hardball and still play every summer, and my credo, win or lose, is simple: Respect the Game. I don’t have big league talent, obviously, but there are clearly some things that I and my Denver Grizzlies teammates understand that nobody ever explained to Alex.
But as bad as these petty misdemeanors have tarnished what should be a sterling rep, the other night he and his punk agent Scott Boras topped them all by announcing, in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series, that he’d be opting out of his $800 billion contract with the Yankees to pursue free agency. As ESPN’s Buster Olney eloquently explains, whoever signs him better understand that their organization is going to be 100% about him. Not them. Not winning. Not the team. Him. Recall that wonderful Bud ad featuring “Leon” a couple years back, where the reporter says “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.'” Leon fires back, in supremely Bush-Rod fashion, “ain’t no ‘we,’ either.”
It’s now AAA-Rod: All About A-Rod.
You just don’t put yourself ahead of the game like that. Even if the World Series were about one guy instead of the team, that one guy wouldn’t be somebody sitting at home on his couch after going 4-15 and leading his team to yet another postseason loss in the ALDS. The Major League office is justifiably incensed over this stunt, and Scott Boras can stick his fake apology in the same place my junior high coach used to threaten to stick his fungo if I booted one more &%$#@*& ground ball at short. I mean, get a load of this:
“I apologize to the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies and their players, Major League Baseball and its players, and baseball fans everywhere for that interference,” he said in a statement. “The teams and players involved deserved to be the focus of the evening and honored with the utmost respect. The unfortunate result was not my intent, but is solely my fault. I could have handled this situation better, and for that I am truly sorry.”
Right. This is like Allen Iverson apologizing for missing practice or Dick Cheney apologizing for sheepdogging a no-bid contract toward one of his hunting buddies.
Bush-Rod has now earned his way into the no-class pantheon where he sits alongside the likes of Pete Rose. If you recall, in 2004 Rose, who was set to admit gambling on baseball so he could get his lifetime ban lifted by Commish Bud Selig, chose to upstage the Hall of Fame announcements with his book release. This put Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor, two world-class acts who were incredibly deserving of the honor, in the position of having to field questions about goddamned Pete Rose, the biggest embarrassment in the game’s recent history, instead of being able to enjoy the opportunity to bask in their accomplishments.
Up until that moment I had been open to the possibility that if Pete came clean I might support letting him back in the door. But the Hall of Fame is (or ought to be) about people who respect the game, and when you piss on the door of Cooperstown like that you deserve to be banned for life. And maybe, despite his many faults, Commish gets this, because since that moment there hasn’t been a whisper about lifting Charley Hustle’s exile.
Good. (And by the way, a pox on the sporting “press” here – FOX can go to hell for actually reporting Bush-Rod’s announcement during the game the other night, as can the reporters who had the gall to ask to Molitor and Eck about anything except Molitor and Eck.)
So congrats, AAA-Rod. Scott Boras doesn’t opt out of the kind of deal you had without knowing something, so my guess is you’ll be signing a deal worth roughly the GDP of Western Europe here in the next couple of weeks. You’re still young enough that there’s time to grow up and maybe restore some shine to your legacy, and here’s hoping we’ve seen the last of Bush-Rod. I’m not betting on it, mind you, but I’d love to be proven wrong.
If you want us to actually cheer and feel good about it as you chase Hank Aaron’s all-time homerun record, though, here’s a few words of advice:
Respect the game, bitch.