New York Magazine has a feature about A-Rod and whether he'll opt out next season. One interesting take is that the new Steinbrenner -- ie. new Yankee obsessed with paying big money for big names -- is president Randy Levine, who writer Will Leitch says doesn't get along with Cashman or Torre. It says Levine is responsible for the new Stadium, which means Levine is responsible for its idiotic monstrosity and lack of care for the fans which might rival the boondoggle that is the Arthur Ashe tennis stadium near Shea for sheer awfulness though we won't know for sure until it opens. The article also claims the Chicago Cubs dangled an offer that would ultimately lead to A-Rod owning a piece of the team, which apparently goes against MLB rules although I'm not certain if that includes retired players. The Cubs have denied it, though obviously the offer comes from the FUTURE owners of the Cubs, not the current team. Other things to take issue with:
1. Leitch says "the real reason they're headed to the post-season again is third baseman Alex Rodriguez." Uh, no. Pettite was never the real reason the Yankees made the post-season, Mo was never the "real" reason, Bernie Williams was never the real reason and even my beloved Jeter was never the real reason -- it was ALL those players as a team and more importantly the particular combination of all those players. If A-Rod isn't our third baseman, we don't have his massive numbers and Gold Glove level of play this season. Anyone who replaced him would be much inferior, of course, especially this year. But who would replace him? How would they spark the team? Andy Phillips can't "compare" to Jason Giambi but he and now Doug M. are a much better spark plug than Giambi and the other three people they plugged into at first. If we hadn't spent $18 mil on Clemens and simply brought Hughes and Kennedy up to the majors earlier (and the claimed reason we bought him was so we WOULDN'T have to bring them up) then I bet they at least double the games he won from 6 to at least 12. Straight numbers don't tell the story. That's an example of simply NOT signing a player making us stronger. You never know what happens when you add or remove a player, even one that contributes mightily. A-Rod "won" us six games? Well, Clemens lost us six games so get rid of both and we're right where we are right now. But not really because you never know.
2. Leitch characterizes the team imitating A-Rod's shoulder stretch at first after getting a hit as indicating underlying tension and lack of love. This is the exact opposite take as everyone else. A-Rod's public comments on it were so awkward, I noted them as his usual inability to be one of the guys, but in his own gawky way I believe -- like everyone else on the team and those covering it -- that A-Rod relished this teasing as good fun and a sign he was accepted, NOT a sign he was as usual unaccepted. I personally think it's a sign they're TRYING to accept him and make him feel comfortable, but wouldn't read too much into it. In order to argue the exact opposite of every indication, Leitch should have more to go on than his "black is white" stance.
3. Leitch reminds us A-Rod was willing to take a pay cut to go to Boston. That's pretty relative when you're talking about $250 million, and it was more of a nicety about how the deal was structured than any real sacrifice on his part. And it's not so much a sign of how eager he was to play for Boston as it was a sign of how bad he wanted to get out o a miserable situation in Texas.
4. Leitch says if A-Rod plays well and the Yankees win the World Series, he's a lock to return. I'd say the exact opposite. He will have accomplished everything in NYC that he wants and the desire to cash out one more time -- urged on by Scott Boras (and truly, I think less of any player who choose Boras as an agent) -- and get onto a team where he can be the leader and have no angst will make it much more likely he'll leave. If he doesn't play well in the post-season and they don't win, A-Rod will perhaps feel pushed by ego and the opinion of others to stay put so no one can claim he couldn't handle New York.
5. Leitch again places the weight on the fans, as if Yankee fans -- or any fans -- want to get rid of a player that produces day in and day out and carries themselves well and doesn't turn every game into a mini-drama that distracts from the game itself. Yep, it's the fans who are to blame, even though they cheer A-Rod every single time he comes to the plate for four years in a row now. Idiots afterwards booed him if he did poorly, of course. But ultimately it's the player's performance and how they respond to that performance in the media that influences how the fans treat them, not the other way around. Fans don't expect perfection. And they'll cheer a cheater like Giambi and a wonderfully egotistical moody bastard like Gary Sheffield if they perform.
6. Leitch says if the Yankees don't re-sign A-Rod you can look for a direct result: "the consequent near-guaranteed crumminess of next year's team" which he says would be a catastrophe that would topple the Torre-Cashman-Levine-Trost management dynasty. Bollocks. If A-Rod opts out and the Yankees choose not to resign him, they'll have $30 million to play with. If they don't resign Clemens (obviously) and Abreu or Damon or Matsui (god forbid) to free up the logjam in the outfield, you're looking at $60+ million to buy pitchers, an outfielder and a third baseman. That's a lot of money, even for the Yankees. And you DON'T need superstars. Even before signing a new pitcher, the Yankees will have Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Kenndy, Joba (assuming he's not the bridge to Rivera) and probably Mussina. Two of those rookies will come through, I believe, which means our strongest and youngest starting rotation in many years. Plus, Jeter, Posada, first base w Mientkiewicz/Phillips (Hey, I can dream), Cano and Melky turning into genuine stars, Matsui and/or Damon and/or Abreu in the outfield, you've got a great core for next year. How could that team -- which is what we are STARTING with before going for a good third baseman, new kid in the outfield, catcher to mentor under Posada, a pitcher, etc -- be calamitious? I can't WAIT to see the team next season, with or without A-Rod. If he doesn't opt out and they keep him, I won't be upset and I WON'T expect him to have the career year he did this year. I just hope he won't be a distraction. But you've got that core and you think the team will clearly suck because A-Rod's not in the lineup? You're crazy.
7. The analysts on YES got it all wrong tonight. They insisted that A-Rod has finally decided not to care what people think about him (he'll still be nice but not angst over what they say) and that's freed him up to have a great season and he's never been more relaxed. They've got it backwards. A-Rod has had a tremendous season and though he's gone into slumps for all of May and July, his numbers overall were so consistent and overwhelming he could never GET uptight. How could you tense up when having a season few players in history have ever come close to? The great season MADE him relaxed, not the other way around. When he comes back down to earth and has merely excellent numbers or god forbid goes into a real slump and starts piling up errors, A-Rod will get tense and angsty in a heartbeat. And of course it's adversity that is the real test of character, not the magical season when everything unfolds like a dream.