Tuesday, May 23, 2006

See You in Cooperstown, You Bum!

Alex Rodriguez's 439th career home run was a no-doubter, soaring through a stiff breeze to land in the last row of the Green Monster seats atop the left field wall of Fenway Park.

As Rodriguez circled the bases, there was also no doubt in the minds of a fevered minority of baseball fans and the media quacks who cater to their illness. To them, A-Rod's bomb was yet more proof that the American League's 2005 MVP is a no-good, gutless choker.

Rodriguez hit the two-run shot last night in the top of the ninth with the score Red Sox 9-Yankees 1 (New York lost 9-5). It was, therefore, "meaningless", a vainglorious act contrivuting only to Rodriguez and not his team. A real star would've done something to REALLY help the Yanks. Presumably in this case, A-Rod should've turned in history's first five-homer game. Then New York would've won, assuming A-Rod also switched from third base to pitching.

Rodriguez's credentials are in question for two reasons. He's in a bit of a slump, hitting only .270, and is on track for a measley 35-40 homer, 110-120 RBI season. What a pantywaist! More seriously, A-Rod had a miserable three games against the Mets last weekend, and as we all know, any event that takes place within the five boroughs has infinitely more significance than the same event in another location. One loss to the Mets is a truer indication of worth than a 12-RBI game against the Blue Jays.

Logic suggests the absence of Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui from the Yankee lineup plays some role in Rodriguez's struggles, just as Johnny Damon's presence has contributed to Derek Jeter's superb start at the plate. But we're talkin' baseball, not logic. We're talkin' the eternal, moronic, unbeatable belief that when a team loses, it's always the best player's fault. He shoulda been better yet.

Rodriguez is a sensitive sort, so he won't heed the following bit of advice. Relax and enjoy the sneers, Alex. You're in good company. The "gutless puke" residence might be the largest structure in baseball Valhalla.

In the author's lifetime, the following hitters have carried reputations as guys who couldn't delivered when it mattered, men of hollow accomplishments and hollow souls: Ted Williams, Orlando Cepeda, Carl Yastrzemski, Mike Schmidt, Jim Rice, Dave Winfield, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, and for a short time in the late '50s, God save us all, Willie Mays.

All of those worthies are in the Hall of Fame except Rice, who should be, and Ramirez, who will be. Counting new scapegoat A-Rod, they have a combined total of over 3500 homers and 20.000 hits. In the most amazing statistical anomaly in human history, none of those hits and homers helped their teams win games. Bud Selig really should have Bill James look into this.

James is a busy man, so I'll do it. The anomaly stems from a simple formula: 1+1=1. One statistical fact plus one emotional truth equals one nasty fallacy.

Fact: Hitters fail. In over 95 percent of baseball games, there are more outs than hits. In 99.9999 percent, there are more outs than runs.

Emotional truth: To fans, whenever their team's top slugger comes to bat, it's a clutch situation by definition. It doesn't matter if it's the top of the first or the bottom of the ninth. By God, that out is why we lost today.

Combine those elements, and voila! A legendary hitter stands revealed as a cowardly stumblebum. It's a wonder any of them drew a salary.

Those who believe this are morons, of course. Had Rodriguez hit that homer in the first, the game's final score wouldn't have changed. They're also communists who hate the free market economy. The market set Rodriguez's $25 million a year salary, and while the market can be wrong, it's seldom that wrong.

Fans can be excuse for their pathologies. Rooting is a socially acceptable way of id-venting, after all-a setting where irrationality is accepted behavior. The alerr reader will note a disproportionate number of slugging scapegoats played in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia-the cities boasting the game's noisest and most arrogant fan bases. They're PROUD of going overboard. It's a civic birthright.

Reporters and commentators who egg on the delusional have no such excuse. They' have a professional responsibility to maintain at least a tenuous connection with reality. At least they used to. Loud, stupid, and uninformed has become a path to a big paycheck.

As a capitalist, I must point out that A-Rod proves there's still more money in being a choking slugger than in dissing one.


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