Dirty Dancing…With The Devil In The Pale Moonlight (A.K.A. the Ballad of A-Rod)

“Alex, it’s Scott Boras. You need to call me right now.”

“Alex, how’s it hangin’ man? It’s Scott … didn’t you get my message?”

“Hey A-Rod! It’s Scotty. How’s my billion dollar baby? Call me back, lil’ buddy.”

“Hey, Cynthia.  Scott here, you know, you’re husband’s agent.  Did he change his number by chance?”

“Uh, Mr. Rodriguez, sir? Um, it’s Scott, can you (feint sniffle) call me please?”

After what could go down as the single greatest case of someone having misread a market, I would imagine that sequence of phone calls is not that far from the truth in recent days.  Somewhere the baseball gods are smiling…

I  am, of course, referring to the recent A-Rod/Stay Rod/Gay Rod fiasco that seems to have come full circle in Gotham in recent days.

For those of you who haven’t paid much attention to this soap opera I’ll give you the hilight reel:

  • After the sluggers MVP season ended, the Yankees were prepared to offer a five-year extension worth up to $150 million, but didn’t when Boras set the bar at $350 million over 10 years just for the privilege to talk with their third baseman.
  • Rodriguez opted out out his deal and Boras got the word out on Oct. 28 as the Red Sox were completing their World Series sweep over the Rockies, infuriating MLB executives, the Red Sox and basically anyone on the planet with a respect for the game.
  • After Rodriguez opted out, incensed Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said: “I don’t want anybody on my team that doesn’t want to be a Yankee. We’re not going to back down. It’s goodbye.”
  • However, like a Roger Clemens retirement, the door was always more than just cracked, and it opened when Rodriguez approached the Yankees through a third party and started with an apology to Steinbrenner for how he handled opting out of his contract with three years and $81 million remaining.

Steinbrenner was gracious and quite pleased Wednesday.

“Part of it is obviously proving he really wants to be a Yankee and I think he’s doing that, I really do.”

So far, if you take what Rodriguez has said publicly of the issue at face value, Steinbrenner may indeed be right.  Rodriguez posted this on his personal website yesterday:

“We know there are other opportunities for us, but Cynthia and I have a foundation with the club that has brought us comfort, stability and happiness,” Rodriguez’s statement continued. “As a result, I reached out to the Yankees through mutual friends and conveyed that message. I also understand that I had to respond to certain Yankees concerns, and I was receptive and understanding of that situation.

“Cynthia and I have since spoken directly with the Steinbrenner family. During these healthy discussions, both sides were able to share honest feelings and hopes with one another and we expect to continue this dialogue with the Yankees over the next few days.”

While we will never really know what brought about this mea culpa from the best baseball player on the planet, we sure as hell can take an educated guess here.  And frankly I am betting the completely beatdown his credibility/image have taken the last few weeks has more than a little something to do with it.

Peter Gammons, a Hall of Fame journalist, wondered forcefully if this sort of gauche hubris explained why Rodriguez hadn’t yet played in the World Series. A-Rod got hammered by print columnists, by Mike and Mike, by Mike and the Mad Dog, by Michael Kay in New York and Mike Felger in Boston and the Mad Dog in Lansing and Softy in Seattle.

A-Rod got hammered like a pinata in a room full of fat kids, after word of his decision to opt out of his record-setting contract leaked out in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series — an act for which his agent Scott Boras first blamed on the Yankees; then blamed on a clerical mistake; and then, probably chastised by his All-Star client, finally blamed on himself, acknowledging what everybody in the game thought anyway.

A-Rod continued to get hammered last week, after word came out that Boras had demanded an initial offer of $350 million from the Yankees, and as the Players Association — and what does it say about the state of baseball that I can actually utter this next phrase — raised the question of whether there was collusion against a player whom the Yankees had been prepared to offer the highest salary in the history of professional sports. If only Rodriguez had taken their call.

And the saddest part about all of this is there was absolutely no need for any of this to happen.  The Yankees wanted him.  The Yankees needed him.  They can ill afford to take the biggest right-handed bat in the game out of an increasingly lefty heavy lineup.  They have a new stadium to break in in 2009 and need to maintain an air baseball royalty and hat better way to do it than to field the man everyone fully expects to shatter some of baseballs most revered records?

The sooner the Scott Boras’s of the world stop being the cancers that they are, the better we will all be.  I fully appreciate the need for a fair market and I certainly feel the owners should not be the only ones reaping the financial rewards of this multi-billion dollar industry.  But this is the perfect example of how the Gordon Gekko “Greed is Good” mantra can taint the human soul.

The absolute silver lining in this dark cloud has been that Boras’s rep has taken a huge hit prompting one major league executive to say on Wednesday, “This is the greatest day of my life, seeing Boras get put in his place.”

He literally had the world’s best baseball player, coming off of a historic season, in the prime of his career and still managed to screw it up.  Hopefully this public dressdown from his prize client will help him put his ego in check and finally bury the personal hatchet he as had with baseball (the institution) after his dreams of playing in the big leagues were dashed after just a few years in the minor leagues.

As for A-Rod, the biggest part of his motivation may very well be his understanding of baseball history.

There’s one huge factor that must be considered: A-Rod walked into that meeting with the Steinbrenners in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday because he wants to be remembered as one of the greatest Yankees of all time. He wants that monument in center field, right next to Ruth and Gehrig and Mantle and DiMaggio. That’s got to be just as important to A-Rod as wiping Barry Bonds’ name off the all-time home run record.

But the only way to be remembered as an all-time Yankees is to be a Yankee, now and forever. The deal that A-Rod will soon sign will be his last; he’s going to retire in pinstripes. For all that’s been said about the man — he’s vain, egocentric, hopelessly insecure — Rodriguez deserves credit for having the guts to admit he made a mistake opting out, and to do it without hiding behind his agent.



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