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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shocker! ESPN's Wallace Matthews actually writes something fair on A-Rod!

ESPN New York's Wally Matthews is a huge A-Rod hater. Time after time, he writes columns criticizing Alex Rodriguez on the most petty of issues, so it was a big surprise to see Matthews' name attached to a very good story entitled "A-Rod shows more class than Torre."

For all the talk about A-Rod snubbing Joe Torre, nobody on the Yankee beat seemed to notice that Torre didn't exactly fall over himself approaching Rodriguez, either. Until now. Matthews writes:

All weekend, Torre talked about how he had no hard feelings toward Rodriguez, how he hoped that Rodriguez held none toward him and how he would "certainly go over and shake his hand.''

Torre talked and talked and talked. But Rodriguez was the one who acted.

And whether you think it was staged or not -- Rodriguez was seen huddling with Yankees media relations director Jason Zillo up the right-field line before suddenly turning and bolting with his hand outstretched toward Torre -- the fact is, A-Rod made the first move.

Heck, A-Rod made the only move. And for that, he deserves some credit.
Matthews was just griping this weekend about how A-Rod made this story about himself by not approaching Torre. But the real person who orchestrated this story in the media was Torre himself, by talking about it with reporters constantly. If shaking Joe's hand was so important to him, why didn't he make the first move?

Matthews even sent a little criticism St. Joe's way in his column:
Considering the difference in age and maturity, and the fact that it was Torre who co-wrote the book which contained embarrassing passages about A-Rod, it certainly seemed to be Torre's place to approach Rodriguez, rather than vice versa.

But Torre never did that. And his disclaimer -- "Well, he was busy'' -- to explain why he and A-Rod managed to not cross paths came off as disingenuous and even a little snarky.
Good points, and that's what the media completely missed in this story - that Torre should have been the one to approach him, and not vice versa.

Like Michael Kay, I myself was hoping Rodriguez wouldn't bother talking to Torre at all. But in retrospect, I think what he did worked out fine. A-Rod did look like the bigger person.

As for Torre, I had to laugh when I read that he was ticked off at the Los Angeles Times for not completely writing the party line about him:
Torre was upset with a story in the Sunday edition of The Times in which it was written that Rodriguez was described as "a head case" in "The Yankee Years."

Here are a couple of quotes from the book about Rodriguez that are directly attributed to Torre:

-- "When it comes to a key situation, he can't get himself to concern himself with getting the job done, instead of how it looks."

-- "For me success was still going to be about pitching. But seeing his personality concerned me because you could see his focus was on individual stuff."

Torre later explained that whatever he was quoted as saying in the book, he had already said to Rodriguez directly beforehand. The reason he became upset Sunday, he said, was that he was tired of how the book was portrayed as a hit piece on Rodriguez when it was about the landscape of baseball.

Landscape of baseball, eh? Get over yourself, Joe. Your score-settling hit piece will never be mistaken for "The Glory of Their Times II."

What do you think? Tell us about it!

14 comments:

Brien Jackson said...

"-- "For me success was still going to be about pitching. But seeing his personality concerned me because you could see his focus was on individual stuff.""

This is what pisses me off about Torre. This just makes no sense. Torre though pitching was going to be important, and was worried about A-Rod because...he wasn't concerned with pitching? I mean, what? I still don't understand what A-Rod was supposed to do differently. Bunt more?

Uncle Mike said...

A-Rod was concerned about individual stuff at the time? Explain to me how Torre was wrong when he said that.

A-Rod became a different person. A better person. What Torre said about him is no longer true. It was true then.

Come on, Lisa. Torre led our team to 6 Pennants and 4 World Championships. A-Rod has now been a key figure on 1 World Series winner with a chance at more. They've both done their duty with this team, if not together, and there's no reason to keep harping on their split.

As Yankee Fan Jack Nicholson might say, Torre has neither the time nor the inclination to explain himself to a person who rises and sleeps under the banners of the very Pennants he provided, then questions the manner in which he provided them. To him, I just say, "Thank you," and go on my way, and happily watch A-Rod pick up his weapon and stand his post.

Brien Jackson said...

Seriously, what the hell do you mean? Specifically. Did A-Rod hit too many home runs? Drive in too many home runs? Account for too many wins above replacement? Have too many OPS points? What was he doing that was hurting the team on the field?

Uncle Mike said...

You want specifics? They should be familiar to every Yankee Fan by now. How about:

* Going 2-for-17 with 2 RBIs and one monumentally stupid slap play in Games 4 through 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

* Going 2-for-15 with no RBIs in the 2005 ALDS.

* Going 1-for-14 with no RBIs in the 2006 ALDS, even less than you would expect from a hitter normally batting 8th.

* And going 0-for-4 with 3 Ks and a popup in what turned out to be telltale game of the 2007 ALDS, Game 2.

Whether Joe Girardi learned how to get something out of A-Rod in October that Joe Torre never learned is irrelevant. What is relevant is that A-Rod, as much as any other person, in uniform or out, prevented the Yankees from winning a Pennant between 2003 and 2009.

There is room in a Yankee Fan's heart for both the man that Joe Torre was as Yankee manager and the man that Alex Rodriguez has become. But there is no excuse for what A-Rod did, or failed to do, in those 4 Octobers. All the homers in the regular season were warmups for what he should have done in the postseason, and yet didn't do... until 2009.

Brien Jackson said...

So all you have is 12 games spread over 4 years? I rest my case.

Lisa Swan said...

Gotta agree with Brien here. Remember, what was the whole theme of the "Lonely Yankee" SI article? That even though the team was in first place, and had swept the Red Sox in five games in August, Torre was angry that A-Rod's individual numbers weren't good enough. Here's a tidbit from that 2006 story:

"Before Giambi went to Torre, he had scolded Rodriguez after a 13-5 win in Boston on Aug. 19. Irked that Rodriguez left four runners on base in the first three innings against a shaky Josh Beckett, Giambi thought A-Rod needed to be challenged."

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/magazine/09/19/arod0925/1.html

Keep in mind that they WON the game! But because A-Rod personally didn't have a great night, he was going to get chastised for it. If that isn't Torre et al focusing on "individual stuff," then I don't know what is.

Lisa Swan said...

And Uncle Mike, if A-Rod is going to get the blame for those four Octobers, shouldn't Torre get the blame, too? It's not Alex's fault that Torre didn't have the team bunt on Schilling. Or take the team off the field over the midges. Or run on Wakefield. Or wear out the bullpen so much that they were running on fumes in October.

Subway Squawkers said...

Another thought on this: Uncle Mike says "A-Rod became a different person. A better person. What Torre said about him is no longer true. It was true then."

Not buying that. The only thing that changed is that Alex cares a lot less what people think. He should have told Torre to stick it a long time ago. Instead, by "The Yankee Years" own account, he kept on desperately trying to please Torre and get his approval. It was really kind of pathetic on Alex's part, and it also showed that Torre can be a real jerk when it comes to any player who's not "his guy."

Remember the anecdote about how Torre wouldn't invite A-Rod to the Safe at Home dinner, but invited his favorites? And how upset Rodriguez was that he didn't get to go, and how he literally begged for an invite? That was just sad.

Brien Jackson said...

And seriously, is there anything more petty than complaining about one bad game in the same season A-Rod had one of the best years in team history? I mean, they're not playing in that game without A-Rod.

Uncle Mike said...

Brien: Yes, I chose 12 games over 4 years. Those are the games Yankee Fans care about the most: Postseason games. I realize that A-Rod defenders sound like I did when justifying Dave Winfield a generation ago, but at least Dave did help the Yankees win 1 Pennant.

This also sounds like the people who said don't judge Ted Williams by the 1946 World Series, the '48 Playoff, and that 2-game final against the Yankees in '49. Well, those were the biggest games he ever played in, and he failed. It didn't make him NOT a great player. It DID make him an individualist instead of a team player, and it did make his career incomplete.

Lisa, the reason Torre doesn't get criticized as much for 2004-07 is because he had built up so much goodwill in 1996-2003 -- A-Rod didn't. It's why Casey Stengel gets forgiven for screwing up in the 1960 World Series, because he'd already won 10 Pennants and 7 World Series.

I realize the Yankee Fan's "Winning is all that matters" mentality can hurt guys who don't do it, including players on their favorite teams in other sports. Look at Patrick Ewing. And if the Rangers had lost Game 7 in 1994 -- either the Conference Final or the Cup Final -- instead of "the Mess-iah," Mark Messier probably gets tied up, taken downstairs from the Garden to Penn Station, and run out of town on a rail as the biggest failure in the history of New York sports, because he had cost so much, and talked so much... But he didn't fail.

Torre's failures followed so many successes, and so most of us overlook them. It's the difference between being Joe Torre and being, say, Grady Little: If Little had won a Series for the Sox, they wouldn't have been so upset at him for futzing things up in 2003. It's why Sox fans forgive Papi and Manny for their blatant, now-caught cheating. It's why Laker fans forgive Kobe for what he did. And as soon as Tomcat Woods wins another major, he'll be the beloved Tiger again.

Until October 2009, A-Rod was perceived as a loser, because... those 12 games proved that he was one. The regular season is a stepping-stone. So A-Rod hit 54 home runs in 2007. In 1998, Mark McGwire hit 70, Sammy Sosa 66. But Sosa's team made the postseason, and he got the MVP. Whether either one deserved it is, of course, now debatable.

But the A-Rod defenders need to ask themselves this: Did you know that Ralph Branca won 21 games at age 21? Or, did you know that Branca co-founded the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), which has helped hundreds of ex-ballplayers in dire financial need? Or, when you hear the name "Ralph Branca," do you think of something else?

It may not be fair to Branca. Or to Bill Buckner -- especially since the game in his question was already blown. But Alex Rodriguez redeemed himself in 2009 because he HAD to. Joe Torre does not need to. Alex did.

And that's why we no longer HAVE to judge Alex by 12 games. We can now judge him by 11. The 11 wins he was supposed to bring us in 2004.

If the Knicks do sign LeBron James, and DON'T win an NBA Championship with him, as the Cavaliers have not, it'll just make my point all the more. And if they don't sign LeBron, well, that's a whole other story, but it won't make them look any better.

Uncle Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brien Jackson said...

This might be the dumbest thing I've ever read:

"Yes, I chose 12 games over 4 years. Those are the games Yankee Fans care about the most: Postseason games. I realize that A-Rod defenders sound like I did when justifying Dave Winfield a generation ago, but at least Dave did help the Yankees win 1 Pennant.

This also sounds like the people who said don't judge Ted Williams by the 1946 World Series, the '48 Playoff, and that 2-game final against the Yankees in '49. Well, those were the biggest games he ever played in, and he failed. It didn't make him NOT a great player. It DID make him an individualist instead of a team player, and it did make his career incomplete."

Uncle Mike said...

And yet, you don't say WHY it "might be the dumbest thing I've ever read."

There's a huge difference between us, Brien: I love winning, you love A-Rod, and it took until 2009 for the twain to meet. And until we get a definitive answer as to why, you'll continue to blame the greatest manager of the last 50 years, Joe Torre, and I'll continue to lay blame on a number of people, which includes the Red Sox' steroid dealers, Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield, Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth, Bruce Froemming (for not stopping the Bug Game)...

...and Alex Rodriguez, who did not get the job done in those postseason series, and that fact is undeniable, even by those people who fawn over him as if he were Justin Bieber.

Uncle Mike said...

And now, Joe Girardi is to Joe Torre as Chan Ho Park is to Scott Proctor. Chan Ho has got to go.