Tom Verducci's A-Rod Article
(not sure how many of you guy's saw this...
In The Papers yesterday:
The New York Yankees wrapped up the American League East title last night, learning shortly after their loss to the Toronto Blue Jays that the Minnesota Twins had beaten the second-place Boston Red Sox. That caps a remarkable run to the title for the Yankees, who beat the Bosox rather easily despite losing sluggers Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield and second baseman Robinson Cano for large stretches of the season.
It's been an impressive season, but also a strange one: Some well-earned champagne flowed last night, but good luck finding a column about that this morning. Instead, the Bronx Bombers are once again facing questions about behind-the-scenes doings.
The latest distraction? An article2 by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, a baseball writer with sit-up-and-listen stature, portraying Alex Rodriguez as a lonely figure in the Yankees clubhouse, neither loved nor supported by his teammates. (One anonymously suggested A-Rod get his eyes checked; another actually wondered if he might be afraid of the ball.) As Mr. Verducci's piece unfolds, A-Rod is challenged by manager Joe Torre, counseled by Yankee legend Reggie Jackson and confronted by teammate Jason Giambi. His responses vary from tepidly corporate to vaguely combative -- like this quote, destined to be the latest tin can attached to A-Rod's bumper: "[Mike] Mussina doesn't get hammered at all. He's making a boatload of money. Giambi's making [$20.4 million], which is fine and dandy, but it seems those guys get a pass. When people write [bad things] about me, I don't know if it's [because] I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team...."
Oh my. With the Verducci column front and center, cry havoc and let slip the columnists of war.
In the New York Post, Mike Vaccaro reviews3 A-Rod's juicier (translation: "dumber") quotes, concluding that "Alex Rodriguez still can't get out of his own way. … The only thing [the Yankees] need from A-Rod is to blend in, to fit in, to not be a diva, a distraction, a disruption. And now, less than two weeks from the playoffs, less than two weeks away from A-Rod's latest litmus test, he not only fills all three roles, he systematically starts throwing teammates onto the train tracks, too. Just for kicks."
In the Bergen Record, Adrian Wojnarowski takes aim at Mr. Giambi, quoted as saying that "Alex doesn't know who he is" in SI.
"Alex Rodriguez doesn't know who he is?" Mr. Wojnarowski asks4. "Really, Giambi, huh? Well, he knows who he isn't, and that's a fraud who souped up his body on steroids and HGH. A-Rod knows that he never shot himself up like a junkie, turning his ordinary, spray-hitting swing into a slugger's stroke. … As long as there are no tests for HGH, for instance, it's hard to believe that Giambi isn't still a chemistry project."
On ESPN.com, Bob Klapisch's reflections end up with the man at the center of this Bronx soap opera.
"All Giambi was doing was filling a conversational void created by the one Yankee who could have -- and perhaps should have -- confronted A-Rod," writes Mr. Klapisch5. "That would be [Derek] Jeter, of course. … But anyone hoping for a Jeter-Rodriguez summit shouldn't hold their breath. The cold war between them is even more pronounced than the one with Mussina. Jeter reportedly has never forgiven A-Rod for the disparaging remarks he made in Esquire in 2001, and as one Yankee official said, 'There is no coming back from one of Derek's grudges. Once you're gone, you're gone.' "
And there's the real story. In the Verducci article and its spinoffs, A-Rod comes across much as he has all year -- a nice guy with a sense of honor (he didn't claim he was misquoted, the low road typically taken by athletes), but also a guy who's pathetically insecure and weirdly tone-deaf. (The anecdote about him meeting with Red Sox officials at 1 a.m. in a natty suit and tie is creepy, and when he decides to curse he sounds like a too-young executive trying not to get kicked out of a dockworker bar.) Mr. Giambi comes across as rather brave, refusing to let his own issues render him mute in a clubhouse that needs voices. But the eye of the storm is Jeter, icily and obviously letting a teammate suffer over foolish words said five years ago.
And so on a morning when the talk should have been of champagne and steely resolve and masterful managing, Yankee fans get "Heathers" in pinstripes. Again.