Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stray-Rod: A Cheating "Mine"field

So the yankees (side note: happy, Open Bar?) finally won a game last night, after dropping five straight to the Angels and the Blue Jays. How did they do it? Well, in large part, they cheated.

Ok, fine, relax, calm down, and don't break the screen. They didn't actually cheat insofar as "cheating" means you do something that is proscribed by the official rules of baseball. But there are two kinds of rules. There are the official rules that say things like you can't put more than so many inches of pine tar on your bat (side note: how bad are the Royals? Do you think George Brett ever wants to just ink a 2-year deal or something? Anything would be an improvement.), and a pitcher can't flinch on the mound or else it's a balk (side note: kudos, Armando).

But there are also the unofficial rules. It is not "against" the rules in baseball for a rookie to admire his home run for too long, and then strut around the bases, showing up the pitcher in the process. Even so, if Lastings Milledge does that, he is not only going to get drilled, he is also going to get dressed down by his own teammates. There is no rule that the opposing team has to help a catcher from breaking his neck on their dugout steps, but any team that doesn't will quickly find that same courtesy lacking when the tables are turned. My only (and perhaps obvious) point is that there is a "code" in baseball that governs conduct, and while it puts winning first, there are some limits.

A-Rod, of course, does not feel bound by this code, and engages in the kind of tit-for-tat, petty bullshit that makes people absolutely hate him. Last night, in Toronto, Jorge Posada hit a routine pop up that would have ended the inning if caught. Approaching third from second on the play, A-Rod yelled something that distracted third baseman Howie Clark, who then backed off of the ball, allowing it to land on the infield, which in turn allowed all runners to advance safely.

Words were immediately exchanged between the players, with Clark (and Jays' shortstop John McDonald) accusing A-Rod of shouting "mine" (a typical way one fielder calls off another from making a play). A-Rod (who could be seen smirking as the Jays' manager argued the play), lamely explained:

"I just said, 'Hah!' That's it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

Sure. Whatever he said (and there is every reason to believe based on the 3B's reaction that A-Rod did try to call him off the play), it just drips of the kind of thing A-Rod is known for: playing baseball the wrong way. Yes, he is an amazing talent. Yes, he can break Barry Bonds's home run record (don't start). Yes, I would actually prefer that he have the record as compared to Bonds. But all that aside, you just would never have seen a player like Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Derek Jeter, Joe Morgan, or almost any of the other greats engaging in the sort of thing that A-Rod did last night. I am not suggesting that all of these guys are even particularly good guys (Henderson is, by all accounts, kind of an ass), but they played the game the "right" way, and A-Rod does not. It is as simple as that.

He didn't break any official rules last night, but what he did, if it became more prevalent in the game, would be bad for baseball. There would either be people running into each other on the field getting hurt (because you couldn't trust that the person calling you off was a teammate), or people dropping routine pop-ups left and right. That's why this sort of thing doesn't happen.

Just because he "can" do it, doesn't mean he should, nor does it mean that we shouldn't criticize him for it. That's what he doesn't understand.

The black will go nicely with the pinstripes, Mr. Rod.

Afterwards, not even the Yankees were wholly supportive, with Joe Torre and Johnny Damon offering meek, non-committal support for the bush-league play. (Side note: fantastically, after the game, the entire Blue Jays team just sat in the dugout staring at A-Rod. He is so drilled on July 16 when the two teams play in the Bronx. I'm there).

Tellingly (and proof positive that the baseball gods hate A-Rod and love me), this entire episode unfolded on a day on which the New York Post published pictorial evidence that A-Rod is, in fact, a cheater. Now, A-Rod is certainly not the first professional athlete to enjoy all that a strip club has to offer, but it is noteworthy that his entire day was characterized by accusations that he doesn't play by the rules.


Arguing this point with a co-worker this morning (who is a yankee fan), I wrote the following:

He is a cheater, he plays the game the wrong way, and he has still yet to collect one meaningful hit after labor day in his entire career. A-Rod is the f*cking worst (side note: I try not to curse at work), and you would hate him more than anyone if he were on any other team.

'Nuff said.


Hasdai said...

Who takes a date to a strip club?

ChuckJerry said...

Didn't you see Taxi Driver, Hasdai?

And in fairness, the girl was a stripper. So presumably she was more comfortable in a strip club than in some classy joint.

Hasdai said...

I did see Taxi Driver, and I thank you for bringing it up since it only bolsters my argument. Travis Bickle takes the uptight blonde to a skin flick, which has something in it for all genders. A-Rod took the lady in question to a strip club, which probably isn't all that much fun if you're not into naked chicks. So either A-Rod's bit on the side is bi or he likes to pal around with lesbians and has been much maligned as a cheater. I report, you decide.