Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Boutros on A-Rod

I agree with some of my man Bearfight's most recent post on Alex Rodriguez, his steroid use, and the newly-released book about the former by Selena Roberts. Like Bearfight, I hope Rodriguez performs poorly statistically and I hope the Yankees' season suffers because of his detrimental on-field efforts. This is because I root against him and his team as a baseball fan. In that regard, there is no animosity in my antagonism of the man.

But! The first item I must point out as potential falsehood is Bearfight's description of Rodriguez as "the greatest baseball player in the world right now." This is simply not true. He is not the most talented, he is not the most clutch, he is not the most feared, he is not the most productive. By no definition of talent or output is Alex Rodriguez the best baseball player in the world. Albert Pujols is the best baseball player in the world. And if it's "right now" you want, it would be hard to argue against Zack Greinke.

More importantly, though, I take issue with Bearfight's defense of Rodriguez's...soul, I guess? His argument is that because Rodriguez never hurt anyone else through his steroid use, he does not deserve the unilateral scorn he receives from the mass media, the fans and general public. But I totally disagree. I don't give a shit if he didn't hurt anyone else. He is paid over $20 million per year--about $45,000 per at-bat--to play baseball. He is at your disposal and my disposal and the disposal of every asshole out there who pays to see him play. He is meat. He is a commodity. He is goods and sundries. (And he obviously sees himself in the same way, considering what he is willing to do to his body to get ahead.)

People aren't so stupid or naive anymore that they decry steroid use as counter to the American wholesomeness of what baseball should stand for. That is a crock of shit. Everyone's on something these days; to call Rodriguez out as a taint upon the pristine crystal castle of nice fluffy innocence is bunk, bunk I say! But that doesn't mean you have to like it. And in a sad, sad way, it changes the self-aggrandizing reaction of the fan. It doesn't matter if you do steroids; it matters if you are a dirtbag, and it matters aun mas if you're a dirtbag who gets caught.

The fan has absolutely, positively no obligation to make excuses for the athlete. This is the life that they signed up for, because most of them are smart enough to know how to stay in the cut without committing some atrociously stupid crime or other mistake. If you are a superstar multimillionaire athlete in the sports-lunatic United States and you break the rules--the rules of the game, the rules of the road, the rules of your nuptuals--not only should you prepare to be caught, you should prepare to be skewered for the rest of your life. And you will deserve it.

Yes, Bearfight, most people are assholes. The ratio of asshole to not-asshole is depressingly high across the world. But do you know where it's even higher? In professional sports. These men do not care about you. They would not protect your image if it were in jeopardy. Why should you try to protect theirs? Alex Rodriguez is not going to send you a bouquet of flowers just because you rushed to his defense.

Ultimately, I don't care about Alex Rodriguez. His fate will not determine mine. I don't think he's evil and I don't think he should be imprisoned or suspended or whatever. But I also don't think people like Bearfight and Jim Caple should waste their breath coming to the defense of a man who means nothing to them and to whom they most certainly mean nothing. Perhaps I'm too cynical or apathetic to be a "true" sports fan, the kind that forms a one-way symbiotic nurse shark relationship with my favorite professional athletes.

An addendum: I'd like to point out to all five of you that yes, this is a most rare occasion on which Bearfight and I are not in full tandem-bass agreement. It's worth noting that in the three years since we entered college, Bearfight and I have arrived at different places with regards to our relationship with sports and the athletes that play them. As a staff writer in the sports department at the Michigan Daily, now the only newspaper in Ann Arbor thanks to the death of the Ann Arbor News, I have been on the receiving end of some undeservedly poor treatment at the hands of various athletic department staff and students. When you are blown off by an eleventh-string volleyball player on the second-worst volleyball team in the Big Ten, you cannot help but develop a thick skin. As a result of my three years of begrudging access to occasionally unwarranted elitism, my default perception of athletes is a negative one. I am this way for my own protection; this way, when a pine-riding chump on the diving team tells me I am not worth his time, my feelings are not hurt and I remain unfazed, and when a member of the women's gymnastics team smiles at me and answers all of my questions I am all the happier for it. Perhaps Bearfight has been in similar situations; perhaps not. The last thing I want to do is put words in his mouth. All I can tell you is that athletes presently exist in my life as disposable amenities, because I am no more to them. I would be foolish not to admit that this undoubtedly affects my opinions of professional athletes as well.


Bearfight Jones said...

162 game averages for ARod and Pujols:

ARod- 127 runs, 191 hits, 34 doubles, 44 HRs, 127 RBI, 22 steals, 78 walks, .306 BA, .389 OBP, .578 SLG. Gold glove defense first at shortstop then at thirdbase, two infinitely more demanding positions than first.

Pujols- 125 runs, 200 hits, 44 doubles, 42 HRs, 129 RBI, 6 steals, 92 walks, .334 BA, .426 OBP, .626 SLG. Gold glove defense at first base.

So Pujols has slightly better rates with the OBP difference being the most substantial, thanks mostly to a better walk ratio. However Rodriguez has much better speed and base-running abilities and plays equally good defense but at a much more demanding position.

Really it's a push, my only reasoning is that you can find above average producers at first all the time (though Pujols is really the best at his position), but it is much rarer to find a producer of Rodriguez' caliber at premium defensive positions. Put it this way, if you stuck ARod at first, there would be no drop-off in his play, perhaps even some improvement. If you stuck Pujols at third, he couldn't be as good a fielder and his production would likely suffer.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

jk, your numbers are valid. 3b and ss are infinitely harder to play than 1b.

Two items of note -- 1. Pujols was 1st in Range Factor among all MLB first basemen in 2008 whilst Rodriguez was 13th among all MLB shortstops and 2. I'm gay for Albert Pujols.

Anonymous said...

Overall I think you're right and my language regarding Pujols vs. A-Rod was probably too declarative.

but you must admit...Pujols is on pace this season to hit 62 home runs and strike out 56 times...the guy can play

Anonymous said...

^^^i meant 13th among 3b's.