I hope I don't fry your brain with knowledge here, but: Alex Rodriguez doesn't strike me as a particularly intelligent person. Now, I don't know this for sure: I haven't given him flash cards or played him in Scrabble or anything. But his life is not one that has necessarily lent itself to intellectual pursuits. His world is not a cerebral one. He's a guy who has hit and thrown baseballs for a living for almost 20 years now, two activities he has done exceeding well, and for which he has been compensated handsomely.
Those have been pretty much the only activities he's done well. His actions yesterday -- enlisting a doctor whom he hasn't even met to do a media tour saying his quad was healthy, which not only might have violated the CBA but has now led to MLB investigating A-Rod's ties to the doctor -- are not those of a man operating at the peak of his mental faculties. Everything A-Rod does makes everything worse. He's even a slumlord now. This video basically describes the last 36 months of Alex Rodriguez's life.
Alex Rodriguez is a clumsy dolt. He is also going to be a Yankee for the next five years. It is bizarre how many people -- most of all, the Yankees -- want to deny this. You cannot wish away Alex Rodriguez. Through it all, he has been nothing if not tenacious. He's almost too dumb to go away. More power to him.
When the business went down with Ryan Braun earlier this week, the immediate response, after "man, Braun's a real jerk," was, "all right, A-Rod, you're next." But the problem with Alex Rodriguez, the primary difference between him and Braun, is that A-Rod isn't savvy enough to make matters easier on himself. I know everyone hates Ryan Braun right now, but it's difficult to argue he didn't make a prudent decision by accepting the suspension for the rest of this season. He's already injured. The Brewers are toast. Braun's salary rises from $9.5 million to $11 million next year, so by not waiting he minimizes the amount of money he'll lose. (It'll be $20 million in by 2016.) Braun is taking a hit here, but he is prudent and weasel-y enough to limit the damage. He took a deal because, long term, it'll benefit him. He's no dummy.
A-Rod, though? Well, A-Rod has made it clear he believes the Yankees don't want him to come back, and not without reason. But rather than negotiate with MLB and the Yankee some sort of compromise, he's forging forward, punching in every direction, a drunkard's wobbled attempt to counterattack. He seems outmatched: Everyone involved is smarter, and surrounded by more competent people, than he is. But I bet he wins anyway. Because he won't quit.
Let's take a look at why A-Rod would fight in a way that Braun wouldn't.
- He has more money at stake. A-Rod's contract, unlike Braun's, is worth less next year: He makes $29 million this year, $26 million next year, $22 million in 2015, and $21 million in 2016 and 2017. If he accepts a suspension this year, it cuts into his salary right now. Braun, all told, saved money by settling. A-Rod has no such motivation.
- His team doesn't want him. Braun knew, bad PR hit aside, the Brewers didn't really want to get rid of him: He's still an awesome hitter, and will be for the rest of his contract. The Brewers need Braun. The Yankees, in a baseball sense, could certainly use A-Rod for the stretch run - they started Brent Lillibridge at third base last night - but that's the only time they can use A-Rod. With the luxury tax, and the Yankees' attempts to get out from under it, he's costing them even more than his salary over the next five years. Braun and the Brewers can be on the same page here; the Yankees and A-Rod will never be.
- He already knows everyone hates him. Braun has a whole career left ahead of him; you might hate Braun now, but I bet you've softened on him by the time he retires. No one will ever soften on A-Rod. He's forging forward because he knows he can't change your mind. He just want to play and get his money now.
A-Rod will allow the Yankees and Major League Baseball no quarter. If they're going to try to suspend him without a positive drug test, or they're going to try to ban him for two years, or life, or whatever, there is no positive incentive for him to accept it. Braun could find a middle ground, a threshold of pain he could tolerate. Every result for A-Rod is downside. So you see things like yesterday, desperate flailings that show A-Rod is up for anything. A guy willing to dig in and fight that way, a guy like that is dangerous.
And he should be. It's strange how everyone puts the burden of A-Rod's contract on A-Rod, like he held up the Yankees at gunpoint, or pulled some sort of online identity fraud or something. The Yankees gave him that money, and they did it just months after Jose Canseco had connected A-Rod to steroids. Every contract, particularly one as long as A-Rod's, comes with an implicit understanding: It'll be a bad deal by the end, but it'll be worth it in the first few years. (This was what the Angels did with Albert Pujols, except the "first few years" part isn't working out so far). But the Yankees got their money's worth the first few years: A-Rod had several excellent years. The Yankees won the World Series. You don't get the good part of the deal and not have to accept the bad part. They signed up for this. This is what they wanted. They knew who A-Rod was.
A-Rod is not going to give up any of that money without digging in and fighting this to the ends of the earth. Why should he? You wouldn't. I wouldn't. A-Rod is at a point that he's willing to burn down the whole village just to save himself. It won't work: A-Rod will never be able to be saved, and he'll always trip over his feet in the process anyway. But he can damn sure make certain he gets paid as everything burns.
Everyone keeps talking about how "ugly" the A-Rod situation is getting. But it has always been ugly. It should be ugly. This situation features a ton of self-absorbed, self-interested people -- A-Rod, the Yankees, Anthony Bosch, MLB's Biogenesis police -- scratching and clawing to get what they want. You get a sense that A-Rod's going to lose. But he'll lose in a Yankees uniform. He'll lose collecting every last cent. And you know what? He deserves to. He, and everybody else, deserves every last bit of it, of all of this.
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