Wednesday, March 2, 2011

4 comments Mike Lupica Thinks Alex Rodriguez Has Been Too Far Under the Radar

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Mike Lupica continuously has a problem with Alex Rodriguez. His problem isn't that he needs a step stool to interview A-Rod (cheapshot/short person joke alert!), but it is that Rodriguez has been TOO quiet this offseason. When Rodriguez is out cavorting with famous actresses and doing anything other than playing baseball he is distracted and when A-Rod isn't making headlines then this puts the focus on how well he needs to play this year for the Yankees to be good. When Mike Lupica is in doubt of what to write about he falls back on his typical bashing of Alex Rodriguez. He doesn't need a reason because he can always find one. I don't like defending A-Rod, but sometimes Mike Lupica forces me to.

I am not sure anyone personally likes A-Rod, but he is still a pretty good baseball player, even after coming off a mediocre year (for him). The disparity between media coverage of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez has always been a source of interest to me. Derek Jeter stays out of the headlines in the offseason, that means he keeps his private life private, while when A-Rod stays out of the headlines in the offseason this just puts a glaring focus on how well he has to play this year. Even when Hank Steinbrenner made his comment about Yankees being too busy "building mansions" everyone was shocked he would pick on Jeter like that. I have a feeling this would be a legitimate criticism if it were directed at Rodriguez. A-Rod is his own worst enemy at times but he doesn't have to do much to get bashed by Mike Lupica...other than merely exist.

It is officially baseball season now in New York, even though baseball is never really out of season around here, even when the Giants are falling apart and Rex Ryan's Jets are making another run, even when the Knicks get so hot they make people believe they are better than they really are.

Who are those "people" who believe the Knicks are better than they are? Mike Lupica himself. It not shocking that Lupica falls to mention he has written articles this year about the Knicks titled, "Donnie Walsh Deserves Extension from James Dolan as He Has Turned Around Knicks with Amar'e Stoudemire" and "Surprise! Amar'e Stoudemire's Knicks Are More Impressive Than LeBron James' Heat."

Lupica has also referred to the Knicks turnaround here, calls them a playoff team here, and says the Knicks are better than expected here. But yes, there were some "people" who bought into the Knicks being better than they really are...not Mike Lupica though. This is believable as long as you don't search through his archives since November.

Here is how baseball ended last season, on a Friday night in Arlington, Tex., across the street from where the Super Bowl was played last Sunday night:

It ended with the bat on Alex Rodriguez's shoulder against a flashy relief pitcher named Neftali Feliz.

A long time ago, a former Rangers owner named Tom Hicks had paid Rodriguez a quarter-of-a-billion dollars to put the Rangers in the World Series and now all this time later, Rodriguez had finally done that, just in a way nobody could ever have foreseen.

As always, the ALCS loss (which happened four months ago and yet Lupica is still harping on it) was mostly Alex Rodriguez's fault. Alex Rodriguez is responsible for the 6.58 ERA from the Yankees pitching staff in the ALCS. Yes, Rodriguez didn't have a great series, but there are plenty of other Yankees who didn't hit the ball well either. Mark Teixeira didn't have a hit in 14 at-bats (before he got injured) and Nick Swisher had 2 hits in 22 at-bats. Even the immortal and uber-clutch Derek Jeter hit .231/.286/.423 in the ALCS.

Sometimes I think sportswriters either are too lazy or are not capable of taking complex bits of information and turning this information into a coherent conclusion. I feel they believe when a team loses a series it is their job to find the person "at-fault" for this. While some greatly contribute to a team losing a series (Brooks Conrad) there are other reasons a team may lose a series. I feel like this is overlooked. Sure, the Yankees didn't hit against the Rangers, but their pitchers didn't pitch well either.

Rodriguez was such a spectator in that moment the only thing missing, really, was Cameron Diaz feeding him popcorn the way she did in Arlington last Sunday night.

You know Mike Lupica has been waiting all winter to take a shot like this at Alex Rodriguez. It is the position Rodriguez is in as the best hitter on the Yankees, but it is an unfortunate position to be in. If he wins an MVP award, well that was expected of him. There is nowhere to go but down (cue the world crying for A-Rod).

That's why Lupica is really sad A-Rod has been quiet, because it doesn't give Lupica a chance to bash him. Of course, in the absence of any headline-making news during the months of November-February, Mike Lupica has to go back four months to bash A-Rod. It's like a compulsion of his.

It was reported afterward that A-Rod was furious that the television cameras had shown him eating popcorn this way, as if he were somehow allowed to act surprised that a star New York Yankee with a movie-star girlfriend sitting in some big-ticket suite might be on a cameraman's radar.


Sometimes you wonder if the guy will ever get it.

Who reported that A-Rod was furious? I don't think this was ever actually reported. Sure, maybe he was furious, but he has also joked about it publicly. I don't think he should have been furious, but there is a good chance this is pure speculation and A-Rod was fine with an actress feeding him popcorn on camera...even if it is a mediocre actress like Cameron Diaz. So Lupica immediately has this sharp rebuke of Alex Rodriguez's reported anger at being caught on camera being fed popcorn. He just needs a slight opening and now he has an entire article to bash A-Rod. It's a Lupica wet-dream scenario.

But you know what? The popcorn moment was the closest A-Rod came to making real news in this baseball winter dominated by just about everybody except him.

I guess my question is whether A-Rod should have made news this winter? I would think not. So why does Mike Lupica seem somewhat critical of A-Rod in this aspect?

There was the Yankees' pursuit of Cliff Lee and then Lee's great escape to Philadelphia. There was the throw-down between the Yankees and Derek Jeter over Jeter's new contract. And there was all the fun when the Yankees signed a relief pitcher, Rafael Soriano, whom the general manager admitted he didn't really want.

Just to refresh everyone's memory, Jeter's new contract came after his 36th birthday, after the worst year of his professional career, and after Jeter's .286/.286/.286 and .231/.286/.423 playoff line in the two playoff series the Yankees were in during 2010.

This immediately caused Mike Lupica to write an article where he basically said the Yankees should just give Derek Jeter as much money as he wants. Because aging and declining 36 year old shortstops should be given a blank check and all. Jeter may bounce back this year and obviously the Yankees were going to re-sign him, but I didn't find Lupica's point of view to be reasonable then and I still don't now.

With all that, the highest-paid baseball player in town and in Yankee history, the highest-profile baseball player in town, remains Alex Rodriguez. He doesn't have to worry about his own insane contract because it seems to run from now until the end of time.

That Derek Jeter was just fighting for a small piece of the pie wasn't he? Jeter is just the little guy trying to get by on the meager amount of money he makes. While A-Rod is sipping champagne and having actresses feed him popcorn, Derek Jeter just wants a contract extension so he can feed his family and possibly not have to get a second job. It's so sad to see Minka Kelly having to do FOUR episodes of "Parenthood" this year because the $189 million Jeter made over the last 10 years just doesn't stretch as far as it used to.

I know Lupica isn't directly comparing Jeter to A-Rod, but I can't help but make the comparison with Lupica's view on Jeter and other highly-paid Yankees. Jeter's contract runs until 2014 when he is 40 years old and Rodriguez runs until "the end of time" (i.e. 2017) until he is 41 years old. A-Rod's contract is ridiculous, but Mark Teixeira's contract runs until 2017 as well and CC Sabathia's deal runs out in 2016 (if he doesn't opt out after this year, which he will). So the Yankees hand out "insane" long-term contracts pretty regularly.

Because in a moment of insanity a few years ago and after Rodriguez had walked away from the team the Yankees not only begged him to come back, they paid him more money than they were already paying him.

Which is exactly what they will do for Sabathia after this year. Yeah sure, Rodriguez got a raise by opting out of his contract, but what were the Yankees other options at third base that offseason? Was there a way to replace A-Rod's production that I am not aware of? That's called "leverage" and A-Rod had it. It is insane to think the Yankees should have let Rodriguez walk. Every fan of a team in the AL East and in the American League begged for this to happen. This is what happens when Mike Lupica lets spite get in the way of good judgment.

Also to characterize it as "walking away" from the team is a bit deceiving. Rodriguez had a clause in his contract saying he could opt-out of the contract. Any person who thinks they could make more money by becoming a free agent would think about making this exact same decision. So I wouldn't characterize it like A-Rod held out of spring training for more money.

A-Rod came to the Yankees seven years ago this week from the Rangers. When it happened, the Yankees were supposed to win the World Series forever, everybody else in baseball was supposed to go home.

I am not sure who decided the Yankees would win the World Series forever, but I am going to go on a limb and say the media decided it since they seem to set the tone for most discussions about sports. The reason the Yankees haven't won the World Series forever? Alex Rodriguez.

Perhaps if he had won more than two MVP's since joining the Yankees (Jeter has 19 MVP's and 32 Gold Gloves, including 4 Gold Gloves as the Designated Hitter, in the same time span. Mark Teixeira has won 9 World Series MVP's in that time span) or had learned to pitch a little bit better (the Yankees have NEVER won a playoff game that Alex Rodriguez has started) the Yankees would have won the World Series in perpetuity, or at least until "the end of time," when A-Rod's contract runs out. This hasn't happened though.

Is it a coincidence the year the Yankees got great pitching they won the World Series? Mike Lupica would like for you to believe this is true.

A-Rod and the Yankees have won once. They were supposed to win again last year, especially after they came back on the Rangers the way they did in Game 1 of the ALCS.

Who the hell said they were "supposed" to win in 2010? Why does Lupica keep believing unrealistic expectations are the standard the Yankees and Rodriguez should be held to? I know the New York media always thinks the Yankees should have won the World Series, even in the strike year of 1994, but it is just not accurate. We have seen enough playoff series to know the team that is "supposed" to win doesn't always win that playoff series.

Still: Last year's playoffs made you remember all the other Octobers when A-Rod came up short, every October (and November) except for the one in 2009

I will again reference the Yankee pitching staff's 6.58 ERA in the 2010 ALCS. Mark Teixeira has 15 hits in 88 at-bats as a Yankee in the playoffs. Rodriguez isn't the only Yankee who did not hit well in the ALCS.

Yes, A-Rod has not been good in the playoffs every single year, but in baseball one specific batter can struggle in a series as long as the other players around him play well. That didn't happened. It is very hard in baseball to pin an entire playoff series on the back of one player, but that doesn't prevent Mike Lupica from trying.

He hit .219 in the 2010 postseason. He did not have a home run and had three RBI. This coming off a regular season when he hit .270, even if he did get to 30 home runs again, and 125 RBI. In 2007, he hit 54 home runs for the Yankees. Now he turns 36 this season.

Which is the current age of Derek Jeter. The guy who Mike Lupica pretty much said the Yankees had to do anything to keep around. The whole "he's getting old" thing doesn't work in this situation.

The Yankees need him to be great again this season. They need him to do better than 30 home runs with Mark Teixeira hitting in front of him.

It would also help if Derek Jeter hit higher than .270 and OBP'd higher than .340 as well. Rodriguez played in 137 games this year so it is not like he hit 30 home runs in a full season. Teixeira only hit 33 home runs and batted .256 in 158 games hitting behind Rodriguez. Of course, Mike Lupica easily overlooks this because it doesn't fit what he is trying to do or say.

We obsessed all winter about Jeter's stats and how Jeter is in decline after a year when the Yankee shortstop hit .270. But Jeter isn't supposed to carry the Yankees.

Oh that's right, I forgot there were lowered expectations for Derek Jeter. He's not supposed to carry the Yankees, yet get paid like he does. So I am to believe the Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter is supposed to get a break because he isn't supposed to carry the Yankees? What his job then? Getting on-base? A-Rod had a higher OBP last year than Jeter. Playing good defense? Jeter isn't great on defense. Traditionally, Jeter has been a great player, but if Lupica can pick on A-Rod for his bad season then he can't make excuses for Jeter's bad season either because "Jeter isn't supposed to carry the team." Neither player did their job exceptionally well last year.

That is supposed to be A-Rod's job, even if they had to pay Teixeira $180 million to come help him do it.

Alex Rodriguez won two MVP's before Teixeira joined the team. Using the same logic Lupica uses here I guess the Yankees had to bring in A-Rod and pay him over $200+ million to help Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter help carry the offensive load. Yet, the addition of A-Rod isn't seen in that same light as the addition of Texieira. Probably because it wasn't Posada and Jeter's job to carry the team.

Baseball season again in New York. Spring training games in a couple of weeks. The real spotlight goes back on A-Rod then, and for something a lot more important than eating popcorn.

I am fairly sure Mike Lupica hates whatever Alex Rodriguez does. If he saved 100 children from a burning building, Lupica would whine that Rodriguez didn't sufficiently give good enough medical attention to these children as he scooped them up and bounded out of the burning building, so therefore he should pay these children's medical expenses. (If Derek Jeter did the same thing he would be a hero because it is not his job to give the children appropriate medical care. If Mark Teixeira did the same thing he would accidentally drop 5 of the children out a window and everyone would ignore this happened.)

I like to think Mike Lupica stayed by the television (I imagine Mike Lupica sits on the edge of his couch and interrupts reporters on television since that is what he does on "The Sports Reporters") on his elevated couch, so he doesn't have to look up at the television, and waited for Alex Rodriguez to do something. The second he saw Cameron Diaz feeding A-Rod popcorn he immediately submitted this column.

Mike Lupica will feel victorious the day the Yankees no longer have Alex Rodriguez on their roster (otherwise known as "the end of time"). At that point, the dead weight of A-Rod will be off the roster and the Yankees finally starting winning more World Series again.


rich said...

It ended with the bat on Alex Rodriguez's shoulder against a flashy relief pitcher named Neftali Feliz.

Okay and the Phillies' season ended with Ryan Howard watching a strike. It's a cute way of subtly digging at ARod, who had one of the team's three hits and scored the lone run. Oh and the game ended 6-1 and there was no one on base. So even if ARod had gotten a hit, do the Yankees go nuts and get 6 runs?

ARod also saw 22 pitches that day. It's too bad he didn't go 0 for 4 with a strikeout on 10 (10!) pitches like Jeter did. Then Lupica would have to call him gritty.

as if he were somehow allowed to act surprised that a star New York Yankee with a movie-star girlfriend sitting in some big-ticket suite might be on a cameraman's radar.

Ya, heaven forbid ARod think that going to the biggest game for a sport he doesn't even play, the cameras might not be trained on him and he act human. Again, if this had been Minka Kelly feeding Jeter popcorn, would anyone had said anything other than "awww how cute!"?

He doesn't have to worry about his own insane contract because it seems to run from now until the end of time.

Well someone else had to sign that contract right? So how dare ARod sign a contract paying him a shitload of money. I certainly would have turned it down.

the Yankees not only begged him to come back, they paid him more money than they were already paying him.

BGF, not to take away from what you said, but it was in his contract that he could opt out. A contract the Yankees absorbed in the trade. So to think that they were somehow surprised that he might opt out is stupid. Oh, they gave him more money? The horror of it all. He should have taken a paycut, that way they could have afforded to give Jeter the 20M he was looking for.

A-Rod and the Yankees have won once.

HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN. Only once!?! Holy crap, what a bum. Albert Pujols has won the world series every year he's been in the league, so his 30M a year price tag is a no-brainer.

This is why people hate NYers. As a Phillies fan, I was left speechless for a week after they won. If they never win again for the rest of my life, I will be happy that I got to witness that one and I'm sure you can relate BGF as a Braves fan. "Oh no, we've only won one WS with our All-Star team! We're cursed!"

They need him to do better than 30 home runs with Mark Teixeira hitting in front of him.

He was 8th in the AL with those 30 HR. Mark Teixeira was 4th... with 33 HRs. Teixeira also had a .250 BA and a .365 OBP. Maybe Teixeira is/was the problem and not ARod.

even if they had to pay Teixeira $180 million to come help him do it.

On a team of 9 guys, can one player really "carry" a team? And as Teixeira's stats show... ARod was a better player last year, so um... what's the problem here?

You remember the kid who used to be really quiet at school, but when he did something it was typically weird? Ya, that's ARod. He's awkward and weird, but he's also really good at baseball, even at his age. No one forced the Yankees to give ARod the money they did and it worked to the tune that they actually won a WS and made it to the ALCS the next year. I'm sorry, but what kind of an egotistical cunt commander do you have to be to think that one person is to blame for this?

He was second in the AL in RBI and accounted for 14.5% of his team's RBI. If you add in his runs scored, he accounted for 23.1% of the Yankee's runs.

One guy was directly responsible for one-fourth of his teams runs and Lupica thinks that he didn't "lead the team"? Seriously?

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, don't you know A-Rod should have hit a 6 run HR to win the game? I hate defending A-Rod. I defend him to my in-laws, my wife and it feels like the general public. I think it all boils down to the fact he is a weird, probably abrasive guy but I would love to have him in the everyday lineup for my favorite team.

Lupica would say that Jeter would never appear at the Super Bowl like that with Minka Kelly. He is above doing things like that. It was embarrassing for A-Rod to be fed popcorn, but it wasn't a huge deal like some (Lupica) made it to be.

If anyone would should be criticized for the opt-out and dollar amount of the original contract it is the Texas Rangers. Like you said, they are the ones who put the opt-out in there.

It is all about holding yourself to a higher standard. I think at this point the Yankees and Red Sox are having a competition to see who can hold their team to the highest standard. The NY media thinks one WS win is a failure. I feel stupid because I still get excited the Braves 1 WS win in the 90's. Of course I think and want them to win more WS, but I also recognize it can't happen every year. Saying the NYY have only won 1 WS with A-Rod is just a cheap way to knock him.

My biggest annoyance through this entire article is that Tex and Jeter's numbers were ignored. Tex didn't have terrible stats but compare his to A-Rod's last year and you can see it wasn't like Tex was carrying the team while A-Rod did nothing. These are the type of things that make me defend him and it annoys me.

In baseball, a hitter can carry a team for a short period but the team still has to have good pitching as well. The Yankees didn't have that against Texas. You summed it up. He's weird and awkward, but he can hit a baseball well.

Lupica just likes bashing A-Rod, he doesn't care how much of the Yankees offense he is responsible for.

cs said...

And as a Yankees fan, 2005-2008 was the most annoying years of my sports life. I had to break out the post-season BA/SLG/OBP line of Bernie Williams, Reggie Jackson and even Mickey Mantle to show A-Rod (at the time, up until 2008) was actually a better post-season performer than all of them. But those three players are on holy ground because of various myths, legends, and really the luck of having won multiple championships.

2004 was set up for a WS trip, but due to the worst thing ever occurring (see: Roberts, Dave), we had to endure 3 more years of "what a fake Yankee faggot A-Rod is." Now that A-Rod has a WS ring, and had a good 2009 post season run, we are still talking about this dude like this?

As other people have said before me, where was the "Jeter can't win a championship" from 2001-2008? This was when he was The Man, and won nothing. Then the dude wins a 5th ring and turns around building mansions and shit. Come on now!

Bengoodfella said...

Cs, A-Rod had a pretty good postseason line in 2009 too if I am not wrong. 2010 may have ruined it a bit. There's something about A-Rod that makes people get on his case.

My wife's family are Yankees fans and they don't always like A-Rod either. It's just crazy to me. Whenever her father bashes A-Rod I always offer to trade A-Rod for a few players for the Braves and he declines. Jeter won a few WS in the 90's so he was on the good list for a while.

I think the biggest difference in A-Rod and Jeter is exactly what Lupica said. Jeter isn't supposed to carry a team, but A-Rod is. Jeter isn't a star home run hitter, he's just a star. So the expectations aren't lowered, he just doesn't have to carry the team and still get paid like he does.