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Friday, August 5, 2011

Why the Timing Is Suspicious on A-Rod Poker Story

Not to put on a tin foil hat here, but isn't it interesting timing that the Alex Rodriguez poker story broke this week just in time for the Yankees-Red Sox series? Especially given that two of the games will be nationally televised, which means that we can have Tim McCarver tell us about how in his day, Bob Gibson would never play poker. And ESPN's broadcasters can be shocked, shocked, that any ballplayer would ever be playing cards for money. You know, just the way that when A-Rod was caught cheating on his wife, they all pretended to act like he was the only baseball player to ever do such a thing?

Yes, I'm pretty cynical, but here's the thing. This is not even a new story that just happened to break about ARod; this is a story that was originally published over a month ago. So why is it being regurgitated again?

Let's take a look at the timeline:

* The week of July 1, Star Magazine ran a story about A-Rod being involved in high-stakes Hollywood poker games. Patrick Courtney, MLB Senior Vice President Of Public Relations, told RadarOnline, The Star's online partner, "This is the first we have heard about this and we will look into it."

The New York Daily News wrote about the article July 1, but the story didn't get much traction.

* A month later, just in time for the Yankees getting national media attention via Fox and ESPN game broadcasts, Star Magazine runs another story about the exact same topic -- A-Rod playing poker at these high-stakes Hollywood poker games. But they threw in some salacious details to get more media attention. There was titillating details about a near-fight, about some poker player using cocaine, and about rumors of sexual shenanigans as well. They re-released the story again this week, just in time for Yankees-Red Sox.

This time, the article proved to be catnip to the media, and it's been wall-to-wall A-Rod coverage in the press for the last two days. This, even though Dan Blizerian, the sole named source in the Star story, told the Daily News that the Star messed up the details about what poker match Rodriguez was at, insisting that A-Rod wasn't at the one with cocaine and a near-fight:
"A-Rod was not at that game," pro-poker player Dan Bilzerian told the Daily News. "It's ridiculous."


Bilzerian claimed to be the main source of the Star story, but insisted the magazine got it wrong.


"I would remember because I got stiffed," said Bilzerian, adding that the game took place at Leibel's house in November 2009.


"He wasn't there, I'm telling you," Bilzerian said of A-Rod. "He was playing in the World Series at the time."
Shockingly, Bilzerian's defense has made it into very few stories about Rodriguez playing poker.

And of course, as is usually the case when it comes to Alex Rodriguez, nothing is ever put in context. In 1997, Albert Belle admitted to not just gambling, but illegally betting on professional sports, and losing at least $40,000. (Hat tip -- Baseball Think Factory.) MLB investigated it to see if he had bet on baseball, determined that he hadn't, and never instituted any sort of disciplinary action about his bets. At the time the story broke, Sports Illustrated ran this about the issue (emphasis added):
The revelation that Albert Belle indulges heavily and frequently in sports betting had barely come to light last week when the pooh-poohing began. Even before pledging that baseball would investigate Belle's gambling, acting commissioner Bud Selig reminded the press that betting pools and friendly wagers are a part of every big league clubhouse. Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the Chicago White Sox, the team that signed Belle to a five-year, $55 million free-agent contract in November, said he was "not worried" because "there is no indication Albert bet on baseball." Belle himself downplayed the gambling issue, telling USA Today that he did not bet on baseball and that he and his teammates merely bet casually on other sports. Said Belle, "It's no different than anyone else's office pool."
Aside from the fact that nothing was done to Belle, I also found that Selig information interesting. Players owing money to each other, especially when some of them may be rookies or journeymen making the league minimum, is apparently okay with Selig. (And remember that anybody tells you about MLB's zero tolerance policy on gambling.) But a guy worth hundreds of millions playing poker with Hollywood A-listers is the crime of the century. Good grief.

There's also been all sorts of speculation about whether MLB will suspend Rodriguez. Aside from the fact that baseball will look to have misplaced priorities in suspending somebody for playing cards, when six MLB players have gotten DUIs this year, and none of them received any disciplinary action from baseball, there is the fact that there is nothing in MLB's rules that prohibit playing poker for money. The only rule regarding gambling is Rule 21, which specifically addresses betting on baseball. Not playing poker with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

And forget about the idea of having A-Rod's contract voided. In contract terminations, MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the Players' Union to get an arbitrator to hear the case. And historically, the players have usually won here, as a Sports Illustrated story from last year shows. Lamarr Hoyt was convicted on drug charges, and still ultimately got paid. And Sidney Ponson and Denny Neagle ended up getting most of the money owed to them, despite drunk driving (Ponson) and prostitute solicition (Neagle) issues.

Anyhow, I guess it's too much to expect any sort of perspective or context from the press when it comes to Alex Rodriguez. But, what else is new?


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1 comment:

alliswell said...

Agree, Lisa. And people wondered why A-Rod had to hire a publicist. All that talk about having a big ego. Well, this is why. Yesterday I heard some analysts from ESPN say that because A-Rod didn't deny anything, he probably did something and should be suspended. I really hope the MLBPA has A-Rod's back during this meeting and takes a stand against the obvious double-standard when it comes to A-Rod. Enough is enough already.