February 7, 2007

It's The Fans, Stupid

This writer has been defending Alex Rodriguez all winter claiming that he will have a superb 2007 season, and that past criticisms of his performance were too harsh. After reading today's Newsday forget everything I said.

For a long time now, this writer has asserted that the fans care more about their favorite team's performance than the players do themselves. There are people out there who will dye their dog's fur blue and orange if they are Mets fans, or name their kids after their favorite players (Hi, this is my son David Wright , and my daughter Mookie Wilson ). How many baseball fans do you know who contemplate suicide after the team they would be willing to bleed for loses a big game? The day after the Mets were eliminated from the NLCS, nearly every Mets fan at this writer's place of employment did not show up to work. This is not an exaggeration. One co-worker who is not a big baseball fan observed "These guys are home crying while the players are luxuriating in their mansions." It just goes to show you, it's all a matter of perspective: the fans love their teams, the players love themselves.

After all of the criticism A-Rod has faced during his tenure as a Yankee, some of it deserved, some of it exaggerated, he is now considering opting out of his contract in 2008 so he can make even MORE money elsewhere. Forget the fact that he is the highest paid player of any sport on the planet; he now wants to suck more life and cash from the pockets of some other team (and thus the slavish baseball fans) to make himself wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice.

In reality, when all of the pretense of fan faithfulness and a player’s loyalty to a franchise are removed, Alex Rodriguez has the absolute right to earn as much money in this capitalist society we live in and to provide for his family and future generations so they may live comfortably. However, I'd have more respect for him and other ball players if he just came out and said it. I'm tired of having the wool pulled over my eyes by players who won't admit that they can't play in New York, don't care that much if they win or lose, getting injured and missing an entire season is not the end of the world for them, and playing for a particular team only matters if it pays enough.

In that respect, Alex has almost fulfilled the above requirement by not confirming or denying a report in Newsday stating that he will exercise his option to leave the Yankees in the 2008 season for more money. What hurts is the fact of after to listening to players such as A-Rod spew the party line about wanting to do "what's best for the team", his tacit admission is a smack in the face. Players used to mask their attempts at a cash grab. This one is so blatant, it makes the most hard boiled and cynical fan cringe. Just come right out and say that you want to be a billionaire, Alex. However, fans reserve the right to dislike your greediness. Yes, it is greedy to try to wiggle out of a contract with a team that got ZILCH from you in the post season (which you were hired for) so you can squeeze a freighter-load of cash out of another team with perhaps less demanding ownership.

The sad fact is that someone is going to cave into Scott Boras and pay him what he wants for A-Rod. The fans will still scramble to the stadium on "Alex Rodriguez Souvenier Pencil Day" to see him play at shortstop while eating $9.00 hot dogs and drinking $8.00 sodas. If they're lucky, they can hang around the stadium after the game and watch as A-Rod trots past them and into his limo while the rookie players on the team pause to scribble their signatures on their $40.00 programs.

It is a rare breed of baseball player these days that will stay with a team for their entire baseball careers. Two of them come to mind: Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, and they're both bound for Cooperstown.

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