Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Comparing Jeter to A-Rod: It STILL Doesn't Help A-Rod

For about a week now, I've been in an online argument with Lisa Swan, the tasteful half of the Subway Squawkers blog, over whether the Yankee brass or Derek Jeter is in the right.

I think Jeter deserves what he's asking for – or, at least, what his agent Casey Close is asking for. Lisa disagrees, sure that Jeter isn’t worth the money.

The problem is, Lisa and I both have this nasty habit of comparing Jeter with Alex Rodriguez. This makes both of us a bit irrational at times. The difference is, I side with the guy who won 4 rings before the $252 (now $275) Million Dollar Man ever got to the Yankees; she sides with A-Rod and doesn’t buy all the hype about Jeter:

He was not the reason the Yankees won those 4 World Series from 1996 to 2000, or those 6 Pennants from 1996 to 2003 – and neither was Joe Torre. (She seems to have had it in for Joe ever since he batted A-Rod 8th in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS. Hey, if he's batting like a Number 8 hitter… )

He was never as good as A-Rod, and should have been the one to move to 3rd base.

His image of "class" and not being "in it for the money" is fake.

This went back and forth between us on Subway Squawkers until she launched a fusillade at me… and I haven't responded.

And I won't respond on Subway Squawkers, for 2 reasons. The 1st is practical: My response would just be too long.

The 2nd reason? Not that I'd be wrong. Not even that I'd be forming the classic definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result – in this case, trying to convince Lisa she's wrong, when I know she'll hold her position. I'd have more luck going on Faith and Fear In Flushing and trying to convince them that Whitey Ford was a better pitcher than Tom Seaver. (And even I don't believe that.)

No, the 2nd reason that I won't issue my response on Subway Squawkers is simple. It's Rule Number 1 of running a blog: Always remain in control of your blog.

Lisa's simply keeping control, running both a defense and an offense. And I can't fault her for that.

So it's better if I respond on my own damn blog.

Here's the discussion thus far, with errors of spelling (on my side as well as hers) corrected:

Lisa, posted this past Sunday, November 28, 12:51 PM: << I haven't been much of a believer in Jeter's intangibles -- he's got just as much of an ego as any other superstar diva, he just hides it better. And the way the captain held a grudge against A-Rod when it hurt the clubhouse for years was completely unacceptable.

Which is why I find it laughable that he thinks he deserves extra money for his leadership. What leadership? Telling the fans not to boo Chuck Knoblauch and Jason Giambi, but refusing to do the same for A-Rod? Puh-lease. >>

Before I get to my response to that, let me point something out: When Knoblauch had his throwing yips in 2000 and '01, he was making $6 million a season; when Giambi was going through his steroid controversy and illness (possibly connected) in 2004, he was making twice that, $12.4 million; when A-Rod was hitting poorly in the postseason, 2004 to '07, he was averaging $23 million a year, and hadn't accomplished nearly what Knobby and the Giambino had in Octobers. (Lest we forget, Knobby was a major figure in the 1998, '99 and 2000 postseasons, and Giambi hit 2 homers in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, making that great comeback against Pedro the Punk and Aaron Boone's walkoff homer possible.)

In other words, the great actor John Houseman's words, A-Rod came by that booing the old-fashioned way: He earned it.

So here's what I said, on Sunday, posted at 6:28 PM, admittedly a little pissy, especially in reference to the posters who agreed with Lisa that the Yankee brass was right and Jeter was wrong:

<< So what "hurt the clubhouse for years" was Jeter holding a grudge against A-Rod?

Riiiight, that's the reason the Yankees lost in the Playoffs in 2004, '05, '06 and '07, not because A-Rod turned into Sergio Ferrer when the money was on the table. (If you don't remember Ferrer, ask Squawker Jon.)

Lisa, that's a very impressive Greek chorus you've got around you. But you're starting to write about Jeter the way Mike Lupica writes about Isiah Thomas. With one big difference: Lupica is right. >>

Ferrer was a weak-hitting shortstop in the 1970s, first for the Minnesota Twins, then in 1978 and ’79 for the Mets, where he would have been watched by Jon Lewin, a.k.a. Squawker Jon, the half of the Subway Squawkers writing team without good taste.

I did kind of go too far.

Here's what Lisa said the next morning, Monday, November 29, posted at 5:39 AM:

<< Mike, If Jeter is such a great captain, then why did the Yanks have a clubhouse that was so "broken," as Brian Cashman put it, that CC Sabathia was asked to help fix the clubhouse chemistry? Still waiting for a Jeter fan to explain that. >>

My explanation, posted at 1:20 PM that afternoon – the "13 reasons" referring to A-Rod's uniform number:

<< Why was the Yankee clubhouse broken? I'll give you 13 reasons. Surely, it can't only be money behind neither the Mariners nor the Rangers lifting a finger to keep A-Rod.

It would be different, Lisa, if you attributed the 1996-2003 successes to Joe Torre but not to Jeter. At least then you'd have a point.

But to dismiss both the greatest manager of the last 50 years and the greatest Yankee player of the last 40 years, and side with A-Rod, who was a self-made loser until some new pitching and Teixeira were brought in, reducing his burden...

I've often mentioned a game I saw at the old Stadium in 2005 or '06, where these 2 young women were sitting in front of me, wearing RODRIGUEZ 13 T-shirts, and commenting on how A-Rod was "so hot." I called him a loser, one turned around and said, "So what, he's hot." I began to wonder what Thurman Munson would have thought. These women clearly had the wrong priorities.

And, lest we forget, in the 2010 postseason, A-Rod's on-base percentage was .289, with 3 RBIs as the cleanup hitter; Jeter's OBP was .286 with 2 RBIs as the leadoff hitter. Functionally equal, and Jeter is a year older. Tell me again, which one is in decline? Tell me again, which one doesn't deserve all that money? >>

I've told that story before, and to this day, it really pisses me off. I think the Yankees won that day, although I can't remember the date, or the opponent. I do remember that we were in the upper deck. Maybe if I can find the ticket stub…

But "an MVP" shouldn't be a cleanup hitter whose stats are, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same as those of a leadoff hitter who's "in decline." Especially in October.

Here's Lisa's response to that, posted just half an hour later. Here's where I have to address it, point by point:

<< Oh, please, Mike. Is that you best you got, some anecdote about girls thinking A-Rod is hot? As is every single girl wearing No. 2 shirts is a baseball expert. >>

No, it doesn't make every single (or married) girl wearing JETER 2 shirts a baseball expert. It does make them supporters of a player who's done more for the Yankees – or any other team, for that matter – than A-Rod.

"As for the clubhouse chemistry, it has been reported by a variety of sources, including none less than Joe Torre's book, that the Jeter-A-Rod feud divided the clubhouse. It was up to the captain to welcome A-Rod to the team, and not hold a jealous grudge. If Donovan McNabb could welcome a dog killer who ended up taking to his job to the Eagles, then Jeter could have gotten over his pettiness and treated A-Rod as a valued teammate."

Sorry, Lisa, but you can't trash Torre and his book for 2 years and then use it as a source. That's intellectual dishonesty. It would be like me saying, "If Roger Clemens really wanted to hit Mike Piazza with an object, Piazza would have gotten hit with it" – when I know full well that, 3 months earlier, that very thing happened: It does my cause more harm than good. (And I have used that argument, and it's backfired.)

Jeter put the jersey on A-Rod at the signing's press conference. That's more of a "welcome to the team" than Thurman Munson, or any other Yankee, did for Reggie Jackson – whom both of us cite as our favorite player while growing up. Munson and Roy White were at Reggie's introductory presser, but Jeter went one better. What was he supposed to do, kiss A-Rod's ring? Oh, that's right, he didn't have one.

Who held a jealous grudge? It wasn't Jeter who begged to come to A-Rod's team because he was desperate for attention, money and winning, it was the other way around.

As for McNabb, Michael Vick didn't take his job. The Eagle brass took it and gave it to Vick, who, at the time, had done nothing to earn it. (He has since, but then, Vick's Eagles and McNabb's Redskins have split 2 meetings this season, and it remains to be seen whether the move was right for either side.)

Then she takes issue with me calling A-Rod a loser:

<< A self-made loser with three MVPs, two as a Yankee. >>

And he deserved none of those MVPs. "MVP" stands for "Most Valuable Player." If you didn't help your team win your league's Pennant, you are not that league's most valuable player. Simple. Barry Bonds won 7 MVPs, but only once did he ever lead his team to a Pennant – and that was in 2002, when just about everybody believes he was steroided-up to an insane degree. True, he did win 2 MVPs with the Pittsburgh Pirates in seasons when they at least won their Division (1990 and '92), at a time when everybody agrees that he probably wasn't juicing yet.

One of these days, I've got to do a piece on who really deserved MVPs, but this is not that time, especially with this Jeter circus going on (and not caused by him) and with my Yankee All-Time Regional Team still yet to be posted. (I have it selected, I just need to write the explanatory text.)

But here's a preview: In 2003, Alex Rodriguez won the AL MVP; his Texas Rangers finished last; the true most valuable player (note the lack of caps) was a member of the Pennant-winning New York Yankees, and the Yankee who had the best season was… Jason Giambi. But then, also a steroid suspect, but then, the team the Yankees beat for the Pennant, the Red Sox, was also loaded with them; so the next-most-deserving Yankee, statistically speaking, was Jorge Posada.

In 2005, A-Rod won the AL MVP; his Yankees won the AL East, but the Pennant was won by the Chicago White Sox, whose most valuable player was… Paul Konerko. As far as I know, he was clean.

In 2007, A-Rod won the AL MVP; his Yankees won the AL Wild Card, but the Pennant was won by the Boston Red Sox, whose most valuable player was… David Ortiz. The most valuable player in Red Sox history. Which is why their 2 World Championships in this era are both frauds. So we can say their next-most-deserving player was… either Mike Lowell, Josh "Super Punk" Beckett, or Jonathan "Papelbum" Papelbon. Uh, let's go with Lowell.

Unless you want to punish the entire team for the steroids of a few, in which case we go to the team that lost the ALCS, the Cleveland Indians, and now the MVP is… tough choice, Victor Martinez, Ryan Garko, Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner were all good choices, so we could go with their most effective pitcher, but that's also a tough choice between CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona – Cliff Lee was their 5th-best starter!

So here's a case where the best untainted team doesn't have an obvious candidate. So maybe we should try the other Division Champions, who did, after all, finish 1st: The Anaheim Angels (using that name for simplicity's sake), whose statistically best player was… Vladimir Guerrero. I think he's been clean… I think…

A-Rod has played on 1 Pennant winner, the 2009 Yankees. And, that season, he was 2nd on the team in homers, RBIs and OPS+, behind Mark Teixeira. It can be argued that Teix hardly hit at all until A-Rod came back, thus maybe A-Rod should have gotten the MVP. Who got it? Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins, who did at least win their Division, so it wasn't a horrible choice – just not the best one.

But to use A-Rod's MVP awards as a reason why he wasn’t a "loser" prior to 2009, well, the Grammy Award for Record of the Year for 1964 went to "Downtown" by Petula Clark, when there was the little matter of the Beatles. Richard Nixon won 49 out of 50 States in 1972. Voters make mistakes sometimes.

Lisa continues: << A self-made loser whose worst season rivals Jeter's best season. >>

A-Rod's worst season? Take your pick of the 3 last-place seasons he had in Texas. Jeter's best season? Take your pick of 5 World Championship seasons. One of which, by definition, was also A-Rod's best season. It's not about the stats. Is it, Coach Lombardi? Is it, Coach Edwards?

Then she mentions my admission last November, after the 2009 World Series, that A-Rod was "a winner" after all: << So much for you and other Yankee fans promise to stop denigrating A-Rod when he got a ring. Oy. >>

Well, I never actually promised… But he did choke this postseason. Jeter did, too – but he's the one who's supposed to be "in decline." He's also not the cleanup hitter.

He's also the one who's done it plenty of times before. I'm not going to hold A-Rod to the standard of The Flip Play (2001 ALDS), but is it too much to ask for A-Rod to hit a postseason walkoff (2001 WS)? Or to win a World Series MVP (2000)? Or even to not hit a late-inning popup with men on base (2005 and 2007 ALDS)?

<< And your reading competition is getting spotty. I haven't dismissed Torre and Jeter; I just think that the Yankees have already paid several times over for the contributions, and don't need to keep on paying for rings won in the Clinton administration. >>

How soon we forget how we didn't win rings in the Reagan and Bush I Administrations. The value of those 4 Torre Era rings is incalculable… and yet you want to put a specific dollar figure on it? Granted, it's not World War II, or even the Space Race. But if you ever meet a Met fan who has a billion dollars, ask him if he would give half of that money to reverse the results of the 2000 World Series, the 2006 NLCS, or the last couple of games of the 2007 and '08 regular seasons.

<< And by the way, Jeter had zero rings as captain until CC, Swisher and even AJ helped change the clubhouse chemistry. Ken Davidoff wrote today in Newsday that the whole "Choose a Side: Jeter or A-Rod" dynamic that infected the clubhouse finally ended when those guys got on the team. But the Yanks are supposed to pay extra for Jeter's leadership? Spare me. >>

That takes into account that there was no Captain from 1996 to 2002, after What’s His Name (you talk about a failed Captain) went home to his horse farm in Indiana. So who was the de facto Captain then? Bernie Williams? Paul O'Neill?

But you said it yourself, Lisa: "Changed the clubhouse chemistry." Or, rather, changed it back. Who changed it in the first place? The guy who was already there and had won? Or the guy who came in with nothing to his name but stats?

<< Love the postseason comparison. You don't seem to get that the leadoff hitter having a .286 OBP isn't exactly anything to be proud of, do you? >>

It’s not as bad as the cleanup hitter having a .289. I think I have to post Coach Lombardi again:

<< Not to mention the leadoff hitter having the worst OBP on the team for the 2010 season, while the cleanup hitter was one RBI away from leading the league, even though he missed 25 games. >>

Oh, I see: Now we are the Atlanta Braves, measuring by the regular season's performance. Imagine how Roger Maris would have been ripped after the 1961 World Series if the Yankees had lost: The 61 homers would have been a waste.

Does anybody give a damn which single player leads the league in RBIs? Or even which team scores the most runs? You know what year the Yankees scored the most runs in any season in their history? 1931. And they finished 2nd, behind the Philadelphia Athletics. I don't see any notations at Yankee Stadium II or on the team's website advertising that. Or any player's MVP season, for that matter.

(Whoops: The Yankees do have a display honoring MVP seasons at the new Stadium.)

Comparing A-Rod to Jeter has never done the A-Rod fanboys and fangirls any good. Saying that, right now, A-Rod is worth the money he's getting and Jeter isn't, isn't helping.

If A-Rod were gone tomorrow, and played the 2011 season elsewhere, how many Yankee Fans would be upset?

If that happened to Jeter…

Pay the man. It's fire insurance. If you don't pay him what he wants, he goes elsewhere, and there's a firestorm among the fans.

Seriously, we're talking about the best player the franchise has had in the last 40 years against the owners of a baseball team. As Ken Singleton put it, "The owners screwed us for 100 years. We've got 75 more years to go."

Am I ignoring Jeter's 2010 stats? Yes. Of course I am. Do you want the Yankees to look like the idiots the Red Sox looked like when Roger Clemens pitched lights-out from 1997 to 2005? No, you don't. Do you want the Yankees to look like the idiots the Mets looked like when the Yankees were winning World Series with Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and... Joe Torre? No, you don't.

Hold tight to your offer to Jeter for a month, and you look principled.

Let him drive in the winning run in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the 2011 ALCS for the Angels – or, worse, for the Red Sox (as Dan Shaughnessy suggested in today's Boston Globe) – and you look like idiots.

1 comment:

Lisa Swan said...

Too long! I got bored reading this, and I was quoted in most of it!

Let me just take issue with this: "when Giambi was going through his steroid controversy and illness (possibly connected) in 2004, he was making twice that, $12.4M; when A-Rod was hitting poorly in the postseason, 2004 to ’07, he was averaging $23M a year, and hadn’t accomplished nearly what Knobby and the Giambino had in Octobers."

The Giambino, I've been told, is a very nice guy. But what, exactly, had Giambi accomplished in October? I'll grant you that he hit two solo homers in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Of course, the Yankees were way behind at the time, so if they had been by A-Rod, they'd be called meaningless stat-padding homers.

Maybe you mean when Jason Giambi begged out of starting Game 5 in the 2003 World Series, after reportedly being out late the night before? Was that part of Giambi's October accomplishments? How do you not want to play in a World Series game? And how could Jeter tell fans not to boo somebody who did such a thing?

How about when he was unable to even play in the 2004 postseason, due to some mystery illness? (Sully Baseball and I were talking about this very subject the other day, and how it's completely forgotten when discussing that series?)

But yeah, I know, Giambi's different. Jeter was never jealous of him!