Monday, January 26, 2015

4 comments The Yankees Re-Sign Chase Headley, Which Means New York Sports Media Will Feverishly Start a Third Base Controversy

The Yankees re-signed Chase Headley to a four year $52 million deal. Forgetting to even care about this for half of a second, the New York immediately sets up a Headley-Rodriguez-Cashman battle for who gets to actually play third base during the 2015 season. Sure, no one has actually spoken to A-Rod and he's never actually said he plans on playing third base this season, but that doesn't matter. A-Rod having or not having spoken is irrelevant. What is relevant is the Yankees now have a third baseman and the New York media wants drama around the (lack of a) battle to play third base. If there isn't drama, they will do their damnedest to manufacture some drama. It all starts with Headley being re-signed and Brian Cashman stating Headley is the starting third basemen, while A-Rod is the full-time DH. Here is what Cashman stated:

Cashman confirmed Tuesday that Chase Headley will be the Yankees' starting third baseman after he and the team agreed to a $52 million, four-year contract this week.

"I can't expect Alex to be anything," Cashman said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I've got to think the worst and hope for the best. Even before the suspension, he wasn't the same player at third base on the defensive or offensive side. And that was before the suspension.

"And now he's been out of the game for a year. He's approaching 40 years of age. And just to automatically assume given his circumstances that he'll be able to plug right in, play third as an everyday guy and hold up and be productive, I think that would be dangerous thinking from my perspective, in the seat I'm sitting in."

Welp, the situation is settled then. Brian Cashman states that A-Rod will play sparingly at third base and DH full-time.

"So given all that circumstance, we look forward to him hopefully solidifying himself as a tremendous DH for us, and if he shows he has retained athleticism, then he can play third as a choice when Joe decides to give Headley a rest," Cashman said. "He can compete for Joe's thought process, whether it's Prado swinging over or Alex playing third."

"I don't need to. I've been very consistent with my conversations publicly from October on," he said. "I have not heard from Alex on any of that, and I know he reads all this stuff."

Decision made. A-Rod may not have to like it, but he really has no say in this decision. In fact, A-Rod may hate this decision, but this is the way it is. Rather than accept this as a reality, the New York media (and John Harper and Bill Madden/Mark Feinsand specifically) take Cashman's comments as a challenge to drum up some controversy and get pageviews. The story isn't that the Yankees re-signed Headley, it's about A-Rod being a full-time DH now and HOW IS HE GOING TO HANDLE THIS? HE'S SAID NOTHING SO LET'S JUST ASSUME HE HATES IT.

The title of Feinsand/Madden's column is "Yankees, Chase Headley Agree on Four Year, $52 Million Deal" but any discussion of that is thrown to the end of the column because "WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR A-ROD" is what obviously needs to be discussed first. Oh yes, there will be controversy. The New York sports media will make sure of that.

The first sentence is this:

Alex Rodriguez is officially a designated hitter.

Have to get the most important part out of the way immediately.

The Yankees reached an agreement on a four-year deal with Chase Headley worth $52 million, bringing the free-agent third baseman back to the Bronx.
The deal ends any speculation about A-Rod’s role in 2015 and beyond, as general manager Brian Cashman made it clear last month that Headley would be the Bombers’ starting third baseman if he returned.

By writing "The deal ends any speculation about A-Rod's role in 2015 and beyond..." what is really meant is "This is the role that Brian Cashman says A-Rod will have, but let's speculate what A-Rod thinks about this in order to churn out a few easy stories and perhaps a little controversy will erupt."

“That was something we discussed early on with the Yankees,” said Headley, who will also serve as the Yankees’ backup at first base behind Mark Teixeira. “I view myself as a third baseman and that’s where I feel like I help this team the best. … I think the vast majority of my time will be spent at third base.”

While the vast majority of A-Rod's time will undoubtedly be spent upset that he isn't the Yankees' starting third baseman. At least the media hopes so.

A-Rod sat out last season while serving a 162-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. The Yankees struggled to replace him, using Kelly Johnson, Yangervis Solarte and Zelous Wheeler at the hot corner before acquiring Headley in late July.

To be fair, those three players would have trouble replacing nearly any above average third baseman over a 162 game season.

Headley reportedly had a four-year, $65 million offer on the table, though it was never revealed which team it came from. He declined to get into specifics about any negotiations during a conference call with beat writers on Monday, though he did confirm that he could have made more money had he not signed back in the Bronx.

“The New York offer wasn’t the biggest offer,” Headley said. “We left some money on the table to be where I wanted to be and that was New York.”

Unlike A-Rod who has TWICE taken as much money as he could get on the open market. Chase Headley is a nice guy and future true Yankee. What a guy for turning down this mysterious offer from an unknown team that hasn't been confirmed really did exist and could have been used to get the Yankees to go from a three year offer to a four year offer!

But Headley’s return now shifts Prado back to second base as the full-time starter.


Wait, that's not a narrative that anyone in the New York media really cares about (especially now that he has been traded), mostly because Prado has no issue playing second base and he actually takes the time to talk to the media. A-Rod has not taken the time to talk to the media, which is undoubtedly a source of irritation for them, so they will just imagine what he thinks about being a full-time DH. Of course, if A-Rod had talked to the media through his suspension, some enterprising New York sportswriter would write about how A-Rod is so vain he just can't stand being out of the spotlight for a year and has to put himself into the public eye in order to gain attention.

Whatever happens, there has to be a circus created around this situation. That's where John Harper steps in and sees if there is a way to create drama. Sure, the Yankees had their third base situation figured out before 2015 even began, but that's no fun to cover a team that has their shit together like that. Let's find some sources who will say that A-Rod is NOT going to like that he isn't the everyday third baseman and run a story based entirely on these unnamed sources. Ready? Break!

Brian Cashman can’t make Alex Rodriguez go away but on Monday he spent an awful lot of money on Chase Headley to make it clear he doesn’t want A-Rod playing third base for the Yankees anymore.

That's assuming where he stated specifically that A-Rod isn't playing third base anymore wasn't clear enough. And really, the re-signing of Chase Headley isn't about Chase Headley, but more about what his re-signing means for Alex Rodriguez. The world revolves around A-Rod and the pageviews he provides. Every roster move must be looked at as to how it affects A-Rod, and if there isn't a story to be presented, there's fun in creating a story out of problems that may or may not actually end up existing.

You can understand the GM’s concern; blindly trusting a 39-year-old A-Rod and his two surgically-repaired hips to come back from a year’s PED suspension and play regularly at third would be nothing short of irresponsible.

But that's not going to stop the New York media from drumming up some controversy and trying to act like there is a question of who will play third base for the Yankees.

Nevertheless the signing of Headley may well increase the potential for the type of drama the Yankees were already fearing would accompany A-Rod’s return to baseball.

One of the reasons it "may well increase the potential for the type of drama the Yankees were fearing" is because the media is going to be determined to act as if the question of who plays third base, as well as the question of A-Rod's role, is still very much up in the air. It is not. Of course these sportswriters live for this type of drama because it makes it easier to write a few columns, so they will create tension where there is none at every possible opportunity.

Because, according to a person who has spoken to him "several times" in recent months,

Sources! Unnamed sources who have "spoken to" A-Rod "several times" in recent months. Who knows what the hell that all means, but to John Harper it is plenty of information to build an entire column around and state, "A-Rod doesn't want to be the full-time DH and how far down will A-Rod sink this team when controversy starts over who plays third base?"

A-Rod is determined to reclaim his old position in the infield and wants no part of being a full-time DH.

So for John Harper's readers to believe this statement as true, which makes it a little odd to me that Harper is running with this rumor as much as he is, the reader would have to believe that the person is reputable, is being told the truth by A-Rod, is telling the truth to John Harper without an ulterior motive, and John Harper is relaying the information without any gaps in what was said. This is basically third-hand information. A-Rod told some dude something, that dude told John Harper, and now John Harper tells his readers this information. For the reader to have a clue about whether this is true or not then they have to trust that John Harper trusts the source in believing A-Rod feels this way and isn't afraid to tell others.

I can't imagine A-Rod is thrilled to be a full-time DH, but the decision is made and some third-hand source isn't going to really tell me information I don't think I already know. It's asking a lot for readers to believe that some dude has talked to A-Rod several times in recent months and this is news worth reporting. Since Headley just re-signed with the Yankees I would imagine this mysterious unnamed source hasn't spoken to A-Rod specifically about this given situation, but I guess that doesn't matter to John Harper. Run with it and create drama and a lack of certainty when there is no reason to. Perhaps I'm too jaded about anonymous sources who "know" athletes.

“In his mind, he’s still the third baseman," the person said on Monday. “That was before (Headley was re-signed) today, anyway.

Ah! So this mysterious person hasn't spoken to A-Rod since Headley re-signed? Brian Cashman says A-Rod is the DH, that's his role, and we all move on, right? Maybe the New York media will take A-Rod's side like the Rangers' media took Michael Young's side when he was forced from third base to full-time DH once Adrian Beltre was re-signed? That's how it will work isn't it? A declining position player is being forced to be a full-time DH due to the signing of a younger, hot shot third baseman?

Obviously it isn't going to work the same way, because A-Rod is evil and Michael Young is the white knight forced to play full-time DH against his will for the benefit of the team.

“Based on what he was being told by the Yankees, Alex believed he would get the chance to play third base, and he believes he can do it.

Well, it doesn't matter what A-Rod believes or what he was being told by the Yankees. The message is very clear right now. A-Rod is not playing third base for the Yankees during the 2015 season. Message sent, decision made, we all move on. Except................there is that mysterious source of John Harper's who speaks for A-Rod and gives Harper a chance to create drama in a situation currently devoid of it.

“Whatever (poor) decisions he’s made, he’s still addicted to the game and he says he’s working hard to be ready. He’s said to me, ‘people are going to be surprised,’ meaning he’s convinced he still has game."

Great, this means he can show how much game he has while hitting a baseball as the Yankees' full-time DH. 

That all sounds good but A-Rod had to know the Yankee brass wouldn’t be waiting breathlessly for him to return as some sort of savior.

Contrary to Harper's insistence on drumming up some kind of controversy I think that message was sent to A-Rod when the Yankees spent $13 million per year on a third-baseman.

For another, nobody can reasonably know what to expect from A-Rod, since he’s admitted to a grand jury that he had been using PEDs in recent years.

I don't even understand why the Headley re-signing is about A-Rod. In fact, the Headley re-signing should make A-Rod less of a topic of discussion because his role on the Yankees' team is clear. But that's not good enough for the New York media, they have to continue speculating.

Can he play without the juice — if he actually goes that route?

Who knows? That's why his role on the Yankees' team has been minimized. Does John Harper not understand what the Headley re-signing means? It's pretty clear, yet he has to continue discussing A-Rod, because that's his default setting. When in doubt, vaguely accuse A-Rod of using PED's when he returns and then try to read his mind in order to generate controversy.

The person who speaks to him regularly

So this mysterious source has gone from speaking to A-Rod a few times over the past few months to "a person who speaks to him regularly." I didn't know speaking to someone several times over a several months' span is "speaking regularly." Wow, it sounds like this mysterious source who is a conduit to A-Rod inner-most thoughts is getting closer and closer to A-Rod's inner circle even as Harper writes this column.

Pretty soon Harper will refer to this person as "someone who is basically A-Rod's brother." Of course, to believe anything Harper is writing here the reader has to trust Harper's source and believe this source knows exactly what A-Rod is thinking.

“It’s always been about his head, so it’s hard to say where his head will be, especially now if he thinks the Yankees don’t believe in him. From what he’s told me, they’ve said everything they should say to him. But that doesn’t mean they believe in him."

It's clear the Yankees don't believe A-Rod can be the everyday third baseman. Few teams would spend $52 million over four years on a third baseman if they believe they already have a sufficient third basemen on the roster. I'm loving the amount of speculation in this column. Sure, what A-Rod thinks really doesn't matter and the Yankees are making decisions that don't factor A-Rod in, but this speculation is crucial to creating a story in a situation where there isn't currently a story.

Clearly the Yankees don’t believe he can play third base or they wouldn’t have locked up Headley for four years and $52 million.

Can't get anything past you.

After all, Headley is a very good glove at third but even with the friendly porch at Yankee Stadium he only put up pedestrian numbers with the bat after being traded from the Padres last summer.

Headley hit .262/.371/.398 with six home runs in 224 plate appearances with the Yankees. He had hit .229/.296/.355 with the Padres prior to that. So he put up pedestrian numbers with the Yankees, but his numbers improved from his time with the Padres during the 2014 season.

As long as Headley is healthy, however, the Yankees’ infield defense should be among the best in the American League, as he combines with newcomer Didi Gregorius on the left side, while Martin Prado and Mark Teixeira man the right side.

Yeah, but defense is boring for sportswriters to talk about. Dingerz are really what counts in their mind.

Of course, you can make the case the Yankees would have been better off allocating Headley’s money for starting pitching, since that remains the obvious need for next season, while playing Prado at third and either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela, the two home-grown candidates, at second.

Plus, if that happened then John Harper could continue churning out "Will A-Rod be the Yankees Everyday Third Baseman?" articles over the next few months. That's the real goal here. Now the Yankees have made the decision on who will man third base and it's no fun. So the media will act like a decision has not been made and go on worrying about what A-Rod will think regarding being the full-time DH. For a group of people who seem to hate A-Rod a lot, they sure do love to talk about him, even when he isn't actively playing baseball for the Yankees.

Star power, much like offense, seems to be disappearing in the Bronx. If it weren’t for the $61 million he’s owed, A-Rod would be gone as well.

Let's ask John Harper's A-Rod source, a person who is closer to A-Rod than anyone else in the world, how this would make A-Rod feel.

As it is, the Yankees on Monday essentially told him he doesn’t really need to bring his glove to spring training. Which, from the sound of things, probably means A-Rod will start taking extra ground balls in the coming days and weeks.

You wish this would happen so there is a story to be written. A-Rod may end up playing third base, but the question of A-Rod's role on the 2015 New York Yankees team has been answered and this answer is not dramatic enough for many of those who cover the Yankees. It's best to act like the third base situation hasn't been resolved.

How soon till Tampa?

I have a feeling we will spend most of Spring Training having a non-story thrown down our throats. The first time A-Rod acts like he isn't 100% okay with DH-ing, then it will open the floodgates for more stories about this current non-controversy. I'm sure there is a way to spin that A-Rod's positive approach and flexibility will actually hurt the Yankees in some way.


Ericb said...

Wasn't A-Rod originally a shortstop and was relegate to third base when he joined the Yankees because Jeter had a lock on the position?

Snarf said...

"Headley hit .262/.371/.398 with six home runs in 224 plate appearances with the Yankees. He had hit .229/.296/.355 with the Padres prior to that. So he put up pedestrian numbers with the Yankees, but his numbers improved from his time with the Padres during the 2014 season."

I would argue that Headley's numbers with the NYY were well better than pedestrian. In his 224 PA with the Yankees, that slash = an OPS of .768, which is higher than Headley's career number (.756) and good for an OPS+ of 119, so clearly above league average. Of course a NY writer would label this "pedestrian."

Chris said...

I read a story that A-Rod called a meeting with the Yankees to "apologize" (for what I'm not sure since everything happened well over a year ago), and the Yankees rejected to meet. I can't wait for the hot takes to come rolling in on that one.

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, yes he was. And at the time he was the better shortstop. But see, there was never a question that Jeter would have to move positions so not causing a fuss isn't a credit to A-Rod.

It's probably not pedestrian. I think Headley should have the 3B job, but I also think having A-Rod as a backup isn't a terrible option either.

You will find me in a museum as the last guy who doesn't like A-Rod but doesn't get why the NY media hates him so much. He's a cheater, self-involved, but I'm guessing there are many other very self-involved athletes who the media goes easier on.

Chris, I know, right? I timed this post well in that regard. I thought it was a good move to apologize, but apparently the Yankees hate him so much they won't allow that to happen. If anything, the issues b/w the Yankees and A-Rod will be a problem this year, but I'm sure A-Rod will get all the blame.