East Coast Bias: The Ballad Of A-Rod

Last week, I talked about Red Sox fans. This week, it’s time to talk a little bit about the Yankee fans, and their disdain of Alex Rodriguez. Yankee fans, in their collective… I don’t even know the word I need here other than maybe idiocy… have decided that A-Rod is not the player they want playing on third base for them. “He’s not a clutch hitter” is a big complaint. “He can’t play the field” is another. With 4 errors over two games on Thursday and Friday, some of these fans feel justified. Some of them bash A-Rod while longing for the days of Scotty Brosius… he of the .257 career batting average. Meanwhile, the fact A-Rod grabbed his 450th home run and his 2000th hit on Friday, the youngest player in baseball history to do so, is lost. This culminated in me, not a Yankee fan in the slightest, having to actually argue with someone who insisted they’d rather have Joe Crede in their lineup than A-Rod because of A-Rod’s propensity for errors. For sake of this conversation, we’ll refer to the person I was arguing with as “Moron.”

Moron: A-Rod’s got 16 errors so far this season already, Crede’s got 8.
Me: You do realize A-Rod’s playing third base for the third season, right? He’s a shortstop.
Moron: It doesn’t matter, he makes $25 million per year. That’s (some stupid calculation) dollars per error.
Me: 40% of which is being paid for by the Texas Rangers. The Yankees are paying $15 million per year for the AL MVP. That’s a steal don’t you think?
Moron: Look, Crede’s and A-Rod’s offensive stats are a wash, Crede makes less errors; I’ll take Crede.
Me: *Paused to study moron’s face to gauge his sincerity* You mean the guy who was the MVP last year? The guy who is almost to 450 home runs and 2000 hits right now. You would prefer Joe “I haven’t sniffed .300 in a full season until this season and the season isn’t over” Crede over Alex “I’ve never sniffed .260 in the other direction” Rodriguez?
Moron: Yes.
Me: Then you’re a moron.

If this was just a White Sox fan I would have chalked it up to fan insanity. Hell, I’m ready to put David Wright up next to A-Rod already, but that would make me a Red Sox Fan. But this seems to be a prevailing theme, even among Yankees’ fans.

Which has led me to the conclusion: while A-Rod won’t get moved before the deadline, he’s not going to be in pinstripes next year. The only question is where.

Perceived problems with this transaction. What can the Yankees possibly get in return for such a high profile player and what team is going to pick up that giant contract? The latter isn’t really a problem. The Yankees are only on the hook for about $15 of that $25 million, with the Rangers picking up the rest. If they move him, and they want to move him bad enough, it’s fully possible that the Yankees pick up a piece of that contract. That leads to the second question; what can you possibly get in return for the guy who has a real shot at beating Aaron’s home run record and an outside shot of joining the 4,000 hit club?

We’ll get into that in a second, but what about the real problems? He’s got a no-trade clause to worry about, which probably means he’ll only go to a contender and it’ll have to be a large market contender. He’ll also likely want to move back to shortstop. He also appears to be a head case prone to losing his confidence at the drop of the hat and, if his contract negotiations with the Mets were any indication, a he-va (for those of you who never read the wrestling column, that’s a man-diva).

First, let’s drop the non-contenders. Drop all the small market, perennially awful, and ex teams from the list. Good-bye Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Seattle, Texas, Washington, Florida, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Colorado, Arizona, Oakland, Cincinnati, and San Diego.

Now, lets drop all the teams settled at shortstop. Good Bye LA Dodgers (Rafael Furcal), Atlanta (Edgar Renteria), NY Mets (Jose Reyes), Philadelphia (Jimmy Rollins), and St Louis (David Eckstein).

That leaves Boston, Baltimore, Toronto, Detroit, Chicagos, Minnesota, Cleveland, Anaheim, Houston, and San Francisco.

Eleven left, but we can narrow it further. Let’s assume Cleveland would want nothing to do with that contract, and their lack of stuff to trade. San Francisco seems be a good choice initially as their fanbase welcomes just about anyone with open arms and gives them rabid support. On the downside, they’re about 3 years from contending and don’t seem to have anything the Yankees would want in return. Also, for the sake of argument, and the sake of not thinking they’d just swap Alex for Miguel Tejada and create the same 3B ↑ SS problems, let’s presume the Yankees don’t want to face him 19 times per year, so we’ll drop teams in the AL East. So long Boston, Baltimore, and Toronto.

Which leaves us a convenient top five list. Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota, Anaheim, and Houston.

Before I get into to ranking these six, I have two rules.

  1. No one is allowed to email and say: “We don’t want A-Rod on our team.” Yes, you do. You are allowed to email me and tell me why you think you don’t NEED him, but I will delete anything that says you don’t WANT him.
  2. No, your current shortstop is not better.
  3. No, your current third baseman isn’t better either. Your management knows A-Rod’s better than your current guys, so should you.

6) The Minnesota Twins. I thought about putting the Twins on the “small market” list or the “no way would they take this contract list” and thus immediately eliminating from contention, but however three things made me stop. 1) I think if the Yankees were granted the opportunity to get their evil mitts on Francisco Liriano or Johan Santana, they would try to convince Alex, by any means necessary (including kidnapping his wife and son) to go to Minnesota. 2) Minnesota is almost a contender this year with their ridiculous pitching. They’re not exactly a non-contending small market team. Save for the utter insanity of Detroit’s season, they’d be right in the thick of things. 3) I don’t know if they could sell A-Rod a bill of goods along the lines of what the Mets sold Pedro Martinez: “we’re right there, we just need you to lead the team.” At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s any way the Twins organization sells Liriano or Santana to anyone, so I’ll make this least likely.

5) The Detroit Tigers. The Twins narrowly beat the Tigers as the least likely because unless they repeat this next year, people will just chalk this up to one of those anomaly seasons that just kind of happen sometimes (like their ’84 team). Even if they win the World Series, it will take a couple more years of being something other than sub-.500 for people to take them seriously. (For the record, I still don’t think there’s anyway they win the ALCS. No way do I believe that Kenny Rogers doesn’t melt down in a big spot.) I think this a no-trade all the way.

4) The Chicago White Sox. The conversation with Moron is what sparked this column, and the White Sox are one of the most likely contenders to pick him up in a trade. The Sox have already expressed interest in moving Javier Vazquez or Freddy Garcia in return for relief pitching. The market for relief pitching as strained as it is, this might not happen before the deadline. However, in the offseason, a package of A-Rod and some of the Yankees’ interchangeable middle relievers for Garcia/Vazquez, Dye/Crede, and a prospect could happen.

3) The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Vlad Guerrero is one of the few players in the league you could swap straight-up with the Yankees and get A-Rod in return. With the Yankees likely showing Gary Sheffield the door at the end of the season (making no sudden or aggressive movements while doing so) they’re going to need a right fielder. The problem here is this might be the one case where the Yankees might have to offer more than the opponent does. They really don’t need the help, so the Yankees would have to blow THEM away with an offer instead of vice versa, up to and including taking on a bit of A-Rod’s contract.

2) The Chicago Cubs. Another team that could have easily gone on the “perenially awful” list and eliminated from contention. The thing about the Cubs is this move only makes sense for the Yankees if it’s done before the trading deadline this year in a deal that nets them Aramis Ramirez to fill the gap in third (or Derrek Lee to play first letting Jason Giambi permanently move to DH) and Greg Maddux to fill out their rotation. Throw in some prospects to make it all kosher, and you have yourself a trade. The problem is this is another trade where A-Rod would have to be sold a bill of goods along the lines of “building the team around you”. On the other hand, they could also sell him on being the guy who brings a championship to the Cubs after a 100 year drought. The idea of going from being the goat in New York, to being the hero and savior of Wrigley might be attractive enough to waive the no-trade. It’s also a solid enough story that The Board Room might be inclined to book this exact outcome, obviously in the centenial year of the Cubs last championship.

1) The Houston Astros. Bagwell and Clemens are off the payroll after this year, leaving about $35 million worth of room for the franchise. I don’t know if they’ll dance with Clemens again next season, but if he continues to pitch to a 2.43 again this season, they might. However with Jeff Bagwell’s $20 million freed up next season, the Astros could certainly afford a contract for another huge slugger. They just acquired Aubrey Huff off the Devil Rays and Adam Everett certainly isn’t a shortstop that would prevent the move. The Astros desperately need offense and a 40/120/.300 guy might be just the thing they need in the lineup. Rangers fans hate him, so Astros fans would likely love him. As a right-handed hitter, he’d be able to abuse the Crawford Boxes out in left. I don’t know what, exactly the Astros will be able to offer in return because I don’t know much about their farm system. It could cost them Huff and/or Luke Scott and probably their best young pitching prospects. However, it would give the Yankees the opportunity to shed some payroll, refill their depleted farm system, and get rid of a guy who just isn’t going to fit on their roster because 1) the fans hate him, 2) the team captain hates him and 3) he’s in a market that loves to needle their stars when they realize he can’t handle it. It gives the New York media another guy to point to when they proudly say: “Some people can handle New York pressure and some people can’t.” It almost seems tailor made.

The fallout from all of this is that the Yankee fanbase will have run a guy out of town who, if he stays healthy, has a pretty good shot at reaching 755, an almost guaranteed member 3,000 club, an outside shot at being the third guy ever in the 4,000 club, a fairly solid chance at driving in 1,001 (as of Sunday 7/26) more RBI and being first on the All-Time RBI list, and very possibly, the best player we’ll ever see in this generation.

And why? Because of this misguided notion that he isn’t a “clutch” hitter, even though he led the league last year (Yes, even ahead of David Ortiz) with 20 game winning RBI, he has a league-leading 14 thus far this year season? Because of some comments he made about Derek Jeter 6 years ago after signing a 10-year deal with another franchise and assuming he’d never be playing on the same team as him (He called Derek Jeter over-rated. Newsflash: most people who aren’t fans of the Empire agree with that assertion)? Because the Yankee fan, in their infinite wisdom, thinks Jeter really IS a better shortstop than A-Rod, simply because Derek was fortunate enough to be on one of the best-assembled teams in baseball history in the late 90s? Because he was supposed to turn down a quarter-billion dollars because, obviously, everyone would have turned it down with an “I can’t possibly accept this money. It’s just too much”?

At the end, the real reason is because A-Rod simply gets no support from the city of New York and no support from his teammates. When Jason Giambi was struggling last year with all of the steroids falling out of his system, Derek Jeter rushed to his defense. This year, Alex is struggling with no one telling the fans in Yankee Stadium to back off. Now, A-Rod is likely going to play out the rest of his career, and win his rings, elsewhere. When he breaks records, it will be in a different hat, and Yankees’ fans will have the gall to say it’s not that big a deal, even though in the 3 years he’d played for them, one of them was an MVP season. This year, anything short of a World Series victory will mean A-Rod leaves the team in the offseason; hopefully to a group of fans will appreciate the fact they are very likely watching history every time he’s up to bat. Yankee fans, on the other hand, who have become so spoiled since 1996 that they can’t deal with the idea of a lean year, will be able to watch some inferior third baseman and smugly declare “That A-Rod was good, but not good enough for us” as they watch the team of senior citizens they’ve assembled in the last few years continue to break down. Meanwhile, in about 2020, A-Rod goes into the Hall of Fame with a little C on his hat instead of an NY.

But hey… I’m sure he’ll be right along-side Miguel Cairo or Nick Green, right?