Commentary | Millions can't buy approval for A-Rod
Alex Rodriguez is on the verge of setting another record for Richest Contract, one that could pay him up to $300 million by the time he...
MIAMI — Alex Rodriguez is on the verge of setting another record for Richest Contract, one that could pay him up to $300 million by the time he is 42 years old. But he has to wonder what this deal cost him, too.
A-Rod, much to his chagrin, has an image problem. It is not entirely his fault that he is nicknamed A-Fraud and known as an insincere, greedy egomaniac who chokes when it counts.
Rodriguez is also the best player in baseball, a hard-working, intelligent guy, and likely to break Barry Bonds' career home-run record and restore honor to the mark within six or seven seasons.
Yet he is not beloved by fans, New York Yankees loyalists or teammates. Maybe the ex-Mariner shouldn't care, but I think he does. He is phony too often — manipulative, disingenuous, obsessed with perception. But he is also misunderstood.
His public snub and groveling rapprochement with the Yankees was so bizarre and botched that it made him look neither smart nor humble.
Blame the mess on Rodriguez's agent, the divinely devious Scott Boras, who has trained his eyelids never to blink. Or place some of the blame on A-Rod, for miscalculating his greatness and the public-relations backlash.
First, Boras and Rodriguez virtually flipped off Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his sons, by sauntering into free agency before having a meaningful conversation. They did it on Boston's big night, when the Red Sox clinched the World Series. Rodriguez could not have been more gauche if he had held an autograph-signing session in the middle of his best friend's wedding.
Then Boras and Rodriguez looked foolish as A-Rod's availability in the marketplace was greeted by a collective shrug. Owners were turned off by Boras' rumored $350 million minimum for Rodriguez's "iconic value." They despised the prospect of dealing with Boras. And they were unconvinced Rodriguez would make their teams winners.
Rodriguez's sparkling statistics turn to paste in the postseason. The Yankees have been playoff duds three years in a row, in part because Rodriguez has hit .159. Who wants to pay $300 million for Mr. April?
When Rodriguez declared his free agency, Hank Steinbrenner essentially said, "Don't let the door hit you on your way out."
The two sides held their intractable positions. Until Rodriguez caved. Urged by Warren Buffett and Mariano Rivera to make up, Rodriguez returned, declaring that from Day One of spring training, "I said I wanted to stay a Yankee and I loved New York." Steinbrenner caved, too, paying A-Rod more than he said he would, leaving some to speculate the whole thing was orchestrated by Boras. Forgiveness all around. Next we'll see them on Oprah, giving self-help advice on how to negotiate a win-win deal.
Rodriguez might love New York, but New Yorkers don't love him, at least not the way they love Rivera or Derek Jeter or their Yankee legends. On a recent trip, I asked fans what they thought of him.
"The feeling was good riddance, we'll get someone who can handle pressure," said Howard Feller, a stand-up comic.
Christian Joyner, ice skating at Bryant Park, said, "He's show-offy and money hungry and not a team player."
In public and at the plate, Rodriguez tries too hard. He comes off as bland and self-serving, hiding the real Alex they know at Miami's Southwest Boys Club. Rodriguez is saddled with a sense of unease as big as his talent.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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