2009 Spring Training catch-all look back post

March 5th, 2009 → 1:06 pm @

It’s been an eventful off-season: there’s the whole A-Rod ‘roid thing, the just-completed Manny negotiations, and the Yankees $800 trillion signing of Mark Texeria. In honor of all this, let’s–as Phil Lesh used to say–take a step back…and relive some moments from years gone by.

In honor of Scott Boras’s always-entertaining deal-making: an FTM excerpt about Johnny Damon’s dishonest decamping to the Yankees.

In honor of the ever-growing PED scandal: Bill James’s stance on steroids, the possibility of Jose Canseco being a great prophet, and the sheer lunacy of the MLB Players Association stance on drug testing.

And finally, in honor of the most entertaining third-basement playing today: the oft-overlooked connection between A-Rod and Jon Lester and the union’s stupidity vis-a-vis the 2003 A-Rod contract circus.


Post Categories: A-Rod & Bill James & Feeding the Monster Outtakes & Feeding the Monster Sneak Peeks & Grateful Dead & Johnny Damon & Jon Lester & Jose Canseco & Manny Ramirez & Players association & Yankees

Wait: You’re writing about A-who?

March 21st, 2008 → 9:43 am @

Yes, it’s true: I wrote this month’s Men’s Vogue cover story on A-Rod, an assignment which prompts many questions. Such as:

Q: What’s Men Vogue?
A: It’s like GQ or Esquire, except not gay and not aimed at 17 year olds who crack up at boob jokes. (Truly – it’s surprisingly good. Just pretend the word “Vogue” isn’t in the title.)
Q: OK, so why Men’s Vogue?
A: Short answer: The missus works there. Longer answer: The missus works there and they asked me to do it.

Q: You got someone to marry you?
A: It baffles me too.

Q: What was A-Rod like?
A: I have no idea. I was supposed to spend a day with him at his swank pad in Miami but he backed out at the last minute.

Q: Why?
A: Again, sadly, I have no idea, although I suspect it had to do with my calling the Yankees and their realizing they didn’t want another A-Rod cover story before the season began.

Q: Will I learn anything I don’t already know?
A: I think so. You’ll definitely learn about my grand unified Freudian theory of the richest man in team sports.

Q: Anything else about baseball in the issue?
A: Well, there’s this rundown of his workout regimen, which, frankly, is not the kind of thing that I care all that much about, and this collection of quotes.

That’s all the questions from me. Feel free to pose more in the comments and I’ll answer them forthwith. And by forthwith, I do not mean “in another month or so.” Promise.

Post Categories: A-Rod & Men's Vogue

Back to the future: The players association, the 2004 offseason, the scariest 3-4-5 combo ever

July 14th, 2007 → 2:09 pm @

Ah, yes, the wonders of 20-20 hindsight. Back in 2000, when A-Rod signed a 10-year, $250 million deal, Rangers owner Tom Hicks was widely derided as a total buffoon for offering that kind of money. He most certainly way; Hicks’ offer was about $100 million more than the next highest one. But with three years remaining on the deal, it looks like $25 million/year is going to be, in the through-the-looking glass world of MLB, a relative bargain. So much of a bargain, in fact, that A-Rod said yesterday that he was refusing the offer to negotiate a contract extension during the season, preferring to take an out-clause in his deal and become a free agent when this season ends.

Those with extra good memories — and close readers of Feeding the Monster, the NYT and Boston Globe bestseller (available now in paperback for only ten bucks — cheap!) will remember that it was exactly this type of out clause that Union Prez Gene Orza ridiculed as being worthless…and it was Orza’s stance (combined with Larry Lucchino’s volatility) that squashed the A-Rod to Boston deal.

I wrote about this same thing back before the season began; that post contained an excerpt from FTM that quoted from “The A-Rod Chronicles,” the book’s relevant chapter. I’ll reprint a paragragh of that here:

“The Red Sox and Rodriguez ended up working out a deal in which Rodriguez would cut approximately $4 million a year off the last seven years of his deal in return for some licensing rights and the ability to declare free agency at different points during the remaining years of his contract. When the two sides presented the deal to Orza, he was dumbfounded. No one had signed a contract for as much as $20 million in years, Orza said. The made the offer of free agency essentially worthless — there was no way Rodriguez would ever sign a more lucrative contract again. (emphasis added) Orza made a counter-proposal he said the union would be able to accept, in which the Red Sox would save a total of about $12 million instead of $28 million. The Red Sox initially rejected Orza’s figure…”

I’m on the record as calling the Players Association “full of crap,” “moronic,” and “power-hungry,” so I don’t think my feelings about Gene Orza and crew are all that opaque. But here is another instance where Orza et al were egregiously wrong; unfortunately, many of the players are so convinced everyone else is out to screw them it’s unlikely anything will ever change…at least for another couple of decades, when retired players start growing tumors out of their eyeballs and guys on the field wonder if the fight against effective drug testing was really worth it.

It’s also interesting that note that had Orza been a bit more prescient about the vagaries of the marketplace, the Sox would, in all likelihood, currently have A-Rod at short and Magglio Ordonez in left. Or, to put it another way, we’d have a guy with 14 HRs, 54 RBIs, and a .992 OPS batting third, a guy with 31 HRs, 87 RBIs, and a 1.083 OPS batting cleanup, and a guy with 13 HRs, 72 RBIs, and a 1.028 OPS hitting fifth. This is, of course, based on a whole mess of assumptions, including the re-signing of Magglio; lots else would have been different as well (Jon Lester, for example, wouldn’t be a member of the Red Sox organization; he was heading to Texas with Manny). But as much as I despise A-Rod — and I do despise A-Rod — that is an absolutely terrifying trio. (Suffice to say that, at least thus far this year, Papi would be the weak link.)


I haven’t been posted as much as usual…which means I haven’t been reminded everyone out there about my offer of free signed and personalized bookplates. They’re really nice, and will be the icing on the cake for all of those copies of FTM you buy as gifts for the loved ones and beachgoers in your life. Don’t delay! Act today!

Post Categories: A-Rod & Feeding the Monster Outtakes & Manny Ramirez & Players association & Yankees

Take a look at that: the lovely lady behind the A-Rod imbroglio

June 5th, 2007 → 10:46 am @

(Warning: The links contained in this post are most definitely not safe for work. Unless you work at home.)

It was only a matter of time: the Playboy photos of supposed A-Rod paramour/definite stripper have surfaced. (Link via Fleshbot via Deadspin via the New York Post.) One of the amusing aftershocks of this whole, um, affair has been the media’s tut-tutting at all the coverage; anyone who watched Sunday night’s national ESPN broadcast was treated to what seemed like hours of Joe Morgan telling Jon Miller that athletes just want — and deserve to — be left alone. The most unintentionally hilarious part of the discourse was when Morgan (whose knowledge of modern day celebrity culture is apparently on par with his understanding of baseball) explained that athletes just want to be left to do their jobs out of the glare of public scrutiny. Now it all makes so much sense.

Post Categories: A-Rod & Joe Morgan & strippers

A-Rod is a gutless punk, no. 8261

May 23rd, 2007 → 9:17 am @

In the eighth inning of last night’s Julian Tavarez-led 7-3 win over fast-fading Mike Mussina and the Yankees, New York launched a mini rally against Hideki Okajima. With the bases loaded and one out, Jorge Posada hit a grounder to third. A-Rod, running from first, slid directly into the bag; at the last minute he seemed to realize that, since baseball is a team sport, he was supposed to try to break up an inning-ending double play. So what did he do? In his trademark, peculiarly feminine style of being aggressive, he flailed out his elbow. And hit Dustin Pedroia in the crotch.

I haven’t played baseball since Little League, but even I know the correct way to break up a DP is to slide to the left of the bag in an attempt to take out the second baseman’s (or the SS’s) legs while he’s making a throw; as long as you can reach the bag with your right arm and you’re more or less in the basepath, this is totally kosher. It’s not kosher to flail around like a beached mackerel and elbow someone in the cup.

A-Rod’s chicken-shit play was, weirdly, lauded by Paul O’Neill and John Flaherty, two of the Yankees’ TV commentators; since I’ve avoided watching too many games on YES, I’d forgotten just how bad the two of them are. Michael Kay, to his credit, more or less called out A-Rod…or at least agreed that Dustin had a grievance. In the end, obviously, it didn’t matter. Pedroia was fine, and only casualty was Darkman’s scoreless-inning streak. But it served as yet one more reminder — as if anyone needs one — as to why Slappy McBlue Lips is such an easy guy to hate: He actually deserves it.

EDIT: After I put this up, I came across this article in today’s Daily News in which Pedroia is quoted about the incident: “He went in late and kind of threw an elbow. A little cheap, but no big deal….He’s the one who slid in like that. Some people play like that and some people slide in, good, clean slide. I think he probably got a little carried away. It happens.” Pedroia then made clear that at least he knew the correct way to get down and dirty: “I have to turn two against the Yankees 19 times a year. I know now that when he’s coming in, my arm slot gets dropped to the floor. That’s it. No big deal.” I really do love that little guy…

Post Categories: A-Rod & Dustin Pedroia & Red Sox & Yankees

FTM post peek: A-Rod, the Sox, the now-infamous opt-out clause, the Theo ‘n’ Larry show, and the spending sprees of 2006. (Plus: Jon Lester!)

March 15th, 2007 → 11:50 am @

As previously noted, this is not the first time that an opt-out clause in A-Rod’s contract has garnered attention: it was that very clause that ended up being, in a roundabout way, the sticking point in the Sox-Rangers deal that would have moved A-Rod to Boston and Manny to Texas. Obviously, it’s way too late to be running sneak peeks from Feeding the Monster (although if you missed them, there are lots of interesting ones, as well as other excerpts from the book, over here. And don’t forget, FTM is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!) and, as always, free, signed, personalized bookplates are still available. (Virtual) operates are standing by!). So what should we call this. A post-peak? Whatever it is, here’s a section of the book detailing the breakdown of those ’03-’04 talks.

That period is especially interesting in retrospect. As you’ll see below, players union head Gene Orza rejected the Sox’s offer of those opt-outs in return for shaving about $4 mil/year off of A-Rod’s salary because Orza thought that offer was essentially worthless; after all no one had signed a $20 million deal since those crazy days of 2000-2001. Well, folks, crazy days are here again, and with Gary Matthews getting $50 million deals, who out there doesn’t think A-Rod could add to his bottom line should he actually end up doing a whole new deal after this season? What’s more, it was these negotiations that started the breakdown in Theo’s and Larry’s relationship. Good times! (And: an interesting footnote to all this: Jon Lester was the pitching prospect who was going to be thrown into the deal.) Without further throat-clearing:

“By mid December, newspapers around the country were reporting that a Rangers-Red Sox deal was all but completed. Boston would send Manny Ramirez (as well as some cash to help pay out the $98 million still owed him) and minor league pitcher Jon Lester to the Rangers. The Rangers would send Rodriguez to the Sox, and Rodriguez, in return for getting the chance to play for a contender, would reduce the annual value of the years left on his deal. A corollary deal would send Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez.

And that was supposed to be that. Garciaparra’s teammates readied themselves for a new shortstop, a prospect that they were frankly looking forward to. ‘When you’re talking about a guy who’s going to be a leader and be the face of the organization, that’s Alex Rodriguez,’ Kevin Millar said on December 16th on ESPN. ‘Manny leads in the batter’s box and Nomar prepares himself to play hard everyday but you’re talking about a leader in Alex Rodriguez…. I mean, A-Rod’s the best in the game.’

Because of the high profiles of the players and the enormous sums of money involved, officials at Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association, the union for professional baseball players, had joined in the discussions even before a deal had been finalized. Gene Orza, a top union official, had given Rodriguez the requisite permission needed for Rodriguez to discuss a restructuring of his contract with the Red Sox. According to an article by The Boston Globe’s Gordon Edes, Orza also called a top official in Major League Baseball’s central office and said, ‘I want you to get word to Larry [Lucchino] that we’ll do everything within our power to get this thing done—it’s great for baseball and we love Alex—but I hope Larry doesn’t abuse the process, as he is wont to do.’ Soon after, Lucchino and Orza had a conversation in which Orza reminded Lucchino that any reduction in the average annual value in a player’s contract needed to be offset by some other ‘added benefit’ which the player received.

The Red Sox and Rodriguez ended up working out a deal in which Rodriguez would cut approximately $4 million a year off the last seven years of his deal in return for some licensing rights and the ability to declare free agency at different points during the remaining years of his contract (emphasis added for the purpose of this post). When the two sides presented the deal to Orza, he was dumbfounded. No one had signed a contract for as much as $20 million in years, Orza said. The made the offer of free agency essentially worthless—there was no way Rodriguez would ever sign a more lucrative contract again. Orza made a counter-proposal he said the union would be able to accept, in which the Red Sox would save a total of about $12 million instead of $28 million. The Red Sox initially rejected Orza’s figure, but both sides assumed they’d keep working towards a compromise.

Then, on the same night in which Orza had presented his proposal, Larry Lucchino issued a statement. ‘It is a sad day when the Players Association thwarts the will of its members,’ Lucchino said. ‘The Players Association asserts that it supports individual negotiations, freedom of choice, and player mobility. However, in this high-profile instance, their action contradicts this and is contrary to the desires of the player. We appreciate the flexibility and determination Alex and Cynthia Rodriguez have shown in their effort to move to Boston and the Red Sox.’

The move was typical of Lucchino’s career. Despite his unprecedented record as a CEO and despite the high esteem in which his many admirers held him, Lucchino had a hair-trigger sense of being slighted and often seemed to be spoiling for a fight. He’d been a union adversary for years. If Orza was being difficult to spite him, Lucchino wasn’t going to back down. But by trying to create the impression of a rift between the union and Rodriguez, baseball’s highest paid player, Lucchino actually made it less likely Rodriguez would make a stand about the issue. And now, not only was Orza angry, but Rodriguez, according to people close to him, was upset, both that Lucchino would give the impression he was speaking for Rodriguez and that Lucchino would draw Rodriguez’s wife Cynthia into the picture. Rangers’ owner Tom Hicks was annoyed as well, and within days, the Boston newspapers were reporting that Lucchino had been pulled off of the A-Rod negotiations and that Tom Werner had taken over.

Lucchino characterizes what happened differently. ‘I was frustrated,’ he says, talking both about the union negotiations and his efforts to get Hicks to reduce the amount of money he was asking for to augment Manny Ramirez’s salary. ‘At one point, I was talking to Tom and John and I said, ‘One of you guys should try to talk to [Hicks], maybe you’ll have better luck.’ And Tom said, ‘I’ll call him.” John Henry agrees with Lucchino’s assessment. ‘Larry went for Christmas to see his mother in Pittsburgh,’ Henry says. ‘We didn’t send him out of town. Tom still tried to get the deal going, but it wasn’t like we’d lost faith in Larry.’ In the coming weeks, there would be various attempts to resurrect a deal—all to no avail. By January, the Rangers and the Red Sox had ceased discussions.”

Post Categories: 2007 Spring Training & A-Rod & Feeding the Monster Outtakes & Gene Orza & Jon Lester & Larry Lucchino & Manny Ramirez & Theo Epstein

A-Rod and Kobe: A peculiar form of foot and mouth disease

March 15th, 2007 → 9:00 am @

In case you missed it, A-Rod did a radio interview of Def-con 5 proportions with WFAN’s Mike and the Mad Dog. (I kid. But I almost drove off the road trying to imagine what would happen if Manny tried this kind of crap.) For those who missed it: A-Rod seemed to almost threaten fans by saying he’d leave town unless they gave him a big ol’ wet kiss:

“It’s a do-or-die situation. Either New York is going to kick me out of New York this year. … Listen, at some point, either New York is going to say, ‘I’ve had enough of this guy, get him the hell out of here’ — and we have an option — or New York is going to say, ‘Hey, we won a world championship, you had a big year, you’re a part of it, we want you back.'”

Rodriguez was, of course, referring to the opt-out clause he has after this year (the same opt-out clause the players association essentially said was worthless, which was one of the reasons the whole A-Rod/Manny deal didn’t go down; time permitting, more on that later today), essentially (to paraphrase Steve Winwood*) telling New Yorkers to love him or leave him alone. It was, all in all, an impressively stupid thing to say, and, coming on the heels of his “what I really want to do is fan the flames of controversy” statements about his non-friendship with Jeter, makes you wonder if he’s actually trying to make fans (and teammates) hate him more than they already do.

And maybe that is what’s going on, but I don’t think so. A-Rod’s awkward ramblings remind me of the rough draft of an essay I read by Kobe Bryant a couple of years back. I won’t get into specifics, but Kobe was writing something for a publication I was working for. To his credit, he actually wanted to write it himself. Not to his credit, he thought the mere fact that he was writing it meant it would actually be, you know, good. Or even vaguely comprehensible. It was almost as if you could see the wheels turning in Kobe’s head. He’d been touted as being a sort of scholar-athlete for years (multi-lingual, blah blah blah). He went into the NBA right out of high school and even without any higher ed, he was still better spoken — and I’m sure he felt smarter — than a lot of league’s other players. And he’s insanely insecure: he doesn’t just want to be great, he wants you to think he’s great. This combo — inflated ego, preening insecurity, too much attention, too much money — is deadly, and when the Kobes (and the A-Rods) of the world discover they’re not universally loved, they feel the need to go out and prove to everyone that, goddammit, they should be. (Or at least that’s my theory, based on nothing except my random conjectures after a night of four hours sleep.)

There are plenty of preternaturally good players (and plenty of young stars) that don’t try to win over the public, don’t try to prove they could have been lawyers or CEOs if they weren’t multi-millionaire athletes (Jeter, Clemens, Pujols, um, Manny.) But A-Rod has been annoying and alienating teammates and fans alike for years, and a lot of it’s been because he’s under the misapprehension that it’s a good idea to go and try to, say, go one-on-one (er, two) with the likes of Mike and the Mad Dog (or impress the cool kids over at Esquire). So look, Slappy: you’re never going to be loved. You gotta realize that. And then, finally, some people might actually start to like you.

* Actually, as an astute reader pointed out, Traffic’s Jim Capaldi both wrote and sang “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone.”

Post Categories: 2007 Spring Training & A-Rod