All rain means all A-Rod

arod_250_050409.jpgWriting for YES as I do, I run the risk of being labeled a pro-Rod shill if I defend Alex Rodriguez too vigorously. And yet, I’ve been a Selena Roberts detractor for years, because whenever she picked up her pen to write about baseball as a New York Times columnist I tended to become ill. I go out of my way not to attack fellow writers out of a sense of professional courtesy, but when Roberts wrote passages such as —  

At 42, Beane didn’t invent sabermetrics, a sci-fi word formed from S.A.B.R., the Society of American Baseball Research [sic] (a k a The No-Life Institute). But with its philosophy filtered through his Ivy League predecessor in Oakland, Sandy Alderson, Beane applies the tenets of numeric efficiency found in the stapled baseball abstracts of the 70’s fringe writer Bill James.

 — she sunk so far below professional standards that it removed any obligation I might have felt. Anti-intellectualism and schoolyard, ad hominem attacks aren’t deserving of professional courtesy, and if she thinks Bill James is a fringe writer (those “stapled baseball abstracts” quickly gave way to bestselling mass market paperbacks and hardcovers), well, she is fringe ignorant. Another baseball passage that sent me running for the bathroom was written when Roberts imagined that Tony Clark was in a competition with Jason Giambi for playing time.

She sided with Clark. “At the plate, Giambi is a withering vision of power… with an on-base percentage of .376, which would be impressive in ‘Moneyball’ wisdom but falls flat in Yankees logic considering he is paid to produce runs, not draw walks.” Walks produce runs, period, but never mind. Roberts also argued that Giambi’s weakness with the glove meant that he was, “not the Giambi that anyone expected when the Yankees seduced him with the perfume of cash in 2001.” If Roberts expected Jason Giambi to be Don Mattingly around the bag when the Yankees acquired him, she was the only one. As I wrote at the time, going after Giambi for his defense is a bit like saying that Mark Twain was a bad writer because he looked terrible in a bikini. It wasn’t anything anyone ever expected of him.

Roberts has a weak track record in terms of thinking and knowledge of baseball, and she also led the charge against the Duke lacrosse players in the 2006 rape case, the one that ended with the prosecutor who brought charges being discharged. As Jason Whitlock wrote on Saturday, Roberts has never been called to account for these columns. Among her last words on the subject: “No one would want an innocent Duke player wronged or ruined by false charges — and that may have occurred on Nifong’s watch — but the alleged crime and the culture are mutually exclusive… A dismissal doesn’t mean forget everything. Amnesia would be a poor defense to the next act of athlete privilege.”

Yes, let’s look on the bright side, because jocks having slightly more restrained keg parties makes calling innocent young men rapists worthwhile.

I don’t trust Roberts’ judgment, I don’t trust her understanding of baseball, and I don’t trust her motives in writing a book about Alex Rodriguez that surely would not exist were it not intended to be a hit piece. If Rodriguez was juicing in high school or kindergarten, it goes to character, not performance, and we have had countless reasons to know that he’s not Mother Theresa in the clubhouse or off the field. Neither were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, et al. Cobb’s reward was to die friendless, Ruth and Mantle died young, the causes of their cancer probably not unrelated to their youthful carousing, and Williams’ own son had him decapitated and stuck in a freezer.

On the field, they all won their pennants, and for now that should be our main area of interest in regards to Mr. Rodriguez, because the personality stuff is off the slightest relevance. If Derek Jeter loves or hates Rodriguez matters less than this basic equation: Jeter singles and Rodriguez hits a home run. That’s the only relationship, the only trust that needs to be between them — and needs to be between Rodriguez and us.

If Rodriguez used steroids in high school, that tells us a little more about Rodriguez the man but nothing of substance about Rodriguez the ballplayer. If he used HGH as a Yankees, well, HGH seems to help athletes with recovery time and healing, not performance. So does aspirin. Move on. Xavier Nady is having platelets shot into his elbow. The dividing line between these two therapies is entirely arbitrary.

As for Roberts’ allegations of Rodriguez tipping pitches as a Ranger, they had best be better sourced than her work on the Duke case. According to SI.com, “Roberts said that over the course of a couple years, some people with the Rangers began to detect a pattern whereby Rodriguez would appear to be giving away pitch type and location to hitters, always middle infielders who would then be able to repay him in kind when he was at the plate, with his body movement.”

It is extraordinary to think that “some people” would notice this and not alert management as to the practice. Unless there is videotape evidence, or Roberts’ sources are willing to come forward and explain why they sat on their knowledge that Rodriguez was damaging his own pitchers, this must be dismissed as the worst kind of hearsay. That Roberts knows relatively little about baseball must be considered here — her credulity and our skepticism must be of equal proportion.

Rodriguez and his all-too-evident feet of clay are being attacked by a not particularly knowledgeable writer in a way that hurts the player and the game without adding any illumination. Rodriguez should not be made to carry the banner for the steroids era, one which few sportswriters are willing to treat with anything like fairness anyway. Until the mainstream writers are willing to examine in a realistic way what we really know about the impact of steroids on performance, their metaphorically running down Main Street shouting “Cheater! Cheater!” does nothing but add heat where there should be light.

For the thousandth time: the players broke the rules, but they did not rewrite the record books, not A-Rod, not even Barry Bonds. You can’t prove it logically, you can’t prove it by inference, and you can’t prove it medically. Roberts has damaged an already damaged man by wielding a very blunt instrument. Hooray for her, hooray for us for paying attention. 

18 Comments

Steve: Well said. Let’s play ball.

In all of the hype and coverage of this story, only now are people starting to come forward and at the very least question the motives of Selena Roberts.
Why didn’t Dan Patrick ask her about her motives or even bring up her part in the Duke LaCrosse case?
Why are so many people in the media so willing to accept everything she has alleged wihtout question?

A Rod is no saint…That’s clea. I can honestly say that I wasn’t overly jazzed when the Yankees traded for him or when they resigned him for ten years. But it isn’t it way too easy to jump on the ‘let’s hate A Rod’ train.
Being a Yankee fan in Texas, I watched him not get hot until the Rangers were well out of contention.
I cringe whenever I think of A Rod slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hands during the 04 collapse.

But that doesn’t mean that anything that Selena Roberts writes about the man is to be taken as gospel….And I’ve got to say that I’m more than a little disappointed in Dan Patrick and so many others in the sports media who are unwilling to call her on her shortcomings.

Anyway, interesting article.

Amen. Great points all. And as I have said before, the past is the past. I admire A-Rod’s attempts now to focus on baseball. Everything written now, even the piece in Details, were before the surgery and his time to refocus on what is important in life. I continue to support his effort to make the next 9 years as a Yankee better than the last by staying out of the tabloids. But my real question is, why is SI still employing Selena and pushing her work that is so clearly problematic?

All Alex has to do is KEEP HIS WORD about putting the past behind him and just playing baseball. Obviously, the guy did some trashy things of the field and probably did juice for a majority of his career. BUT there are some differences from him and the other juicers. He a least admitted it, and I think if more comes out he’ll admit that too. When the story about the ’03 positive test came out, he didn’t say Roberts “misremembered” (ahem, Clemens), no, he told the truth. What happened in the past happened. What Alex needs to remember is that although alot of fans around the country, including Yankee fans, don’t like him, the Yankee fans really are looking FOR a reason to like him. If he can come back, put up solid numbers, and win a title with us without choking in the playoffs, next year we won’t even remeber this happened.

I guess I’m not alone when I say great job Steven. For anyone who wants a pretty good interview with Selena Roberts, check out the one from this morning’s Boomer and Carton show from WFAN. I’m not the biggest Carton fan but he did indeed challenge her on all those points. Now Roberts comes across as being a relatively smart person which kind of makes me agree with Steven’s “mistrust” of her. I just get the feeling that she knew exactly what she was doing and I’m glad the reaction to this (outside of ESPN) has been very negative. No one wants to feel sorry for Arod, but somehow she managed to make it that way.

This is a great article..This is what I was looking for. I saw her interview w Bob Costas and not much of this was mentioned. For her to question sabermetrics simply proves that she does not at all in anyway have a high baseball iq.
kudos steve.. and by the way in my fantasy baseball team is in first place thanks in large to baseball prospectus… beltran, chipper, elijah dukes (who you have to come around on) have all done what is predicted..so far.. Thanks

Roberts’ book is just the worst example of sensationalism. The steriods issue in general has reached the ultimate saturation point where NO ONE CARES. I seriously couldn’t care less if I saw A-ROD injecting winstrol depot in the batters box during a Mark Texiara AB. I just want to see the Yankees win a Championship!! 8 years is too long.

Steve, I have been critical of your writing in the past, but this time you nailed it perfectly. Selena Roberts is a hack and I would sooner trust Rona Barrett as I would her.
What journalistic experience can she point to as to why we should trust her judgment?
I am no fan of Arod but I know character assassination when I see it.

Congrats on a great job.

I echo most of what has already been said here, Steven. Though, I’ll ad an “as always” in front: as always, excellent work. Many thanks for brightening up a(nother) rainy day here in Philly.

I’m with the rest. This has been the best Pinstriped Bible posting yet.

The only thing worth talking about is the pitch-tipping. But like you said, the sources had better be there if she is going to make those kind of accusations.Russhttp://wight4256.mlblogs.com

Finally a light at the end of the tunnel. A writer that hasn’t become a SERENA lapdog. KUDOS, Steve!! Finally some one has a “”set”” to stand up to SI and Serena’s B.S. She is on a mission for someone or something. I have lost what little respect I had for the hate A-Rod sport writers. Heyman, Verdummy, Lupe “:THE PUKE””,Madden, Costa, Obermann, etc, etc. The new MLB TV channel was great but it has de-graded them- selves with the hiring of Costa and Keithy(I hate the regular world) Obermann. All these writers are pushing “”Miss Piggy’s book””!!! Congrats on a great article.

AWESOME article!! as said above- kudos to you my friend. some people just need to sit down and SHUT UP.

Great article, Steve. It’s time for the Yankees front office issued a statement that any questions that the media ask any Yankee player or personnel that is not directly related to baseball, immediately ends the interview. It’s time that the team concentrates on baseball matters only, with no more distractions.

Steve,

I have been reading you for about two years now; this entry has been my favorite thus far. I am a relatively young Yankees fan in CA. I had previously been unaware of her work with the NYT. Thank you for bringing those examples to light. I don’t see how any sane, logical person would want to read her new book. (I don’t think you can even call it a “book,” but that is besides the point.) I agree with all of the points that you made above and applaud you for sharing them.

Thank you.

Keep up the good work.

It’s simple, she wants attention, she wants money, so write something like this. I suggest you DON’T BUY IT! Or wait for the Scot Tissue 1000 sheet version to come out. If people don’t buy this crap, maybe publishers will eventually stop printing it. It might be interesting to know why she has such a thing for Alex. What did he do to her? I have some other possible suggestions, but I don’t want to get censored. Keep up the great work Steve.

Steve, I agree 100% with everything except the part woth Bonds.
It is impossible to hit 70 HR’s w/o steroids. Period.
Before ‘roids Bonds was in high 30’s and 40’s in HR’s, as was Mcgwire. After, they were in the 70’s. It just can’t be done, and that is just not fair to the real record holders.
Everything else was spot on, though.

Steve,
I am an old sports fan. I have the first edition of Sports Illustrated
and only chucked the last 20 years when threatened with divorce.
I can honestly say that Selena Roberts is the worst Sports Reporter I have ever read. It started with her article on Bodie Miller in the NY Times. She had never interviewed Miller and I question if she has ever personally interviewed anyone she has written about. She is negative to a fault and has only written positive articles about dead people (Maggie Dixon) and people with handicaps. She is a coward and I can’t believe you are the only Sports Writer that has called her out. Kornheiser and Wilbon are wimps and I guess there must be an unwritten law in your trade
preventing Writers from dissing their own. Although who would want to consider her their own. I would love someone to write an article in her style on her.

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