Money, Money, Money, Money… MONEY

“Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, I was worth, you know, being one of the greatest players of all time.”
– Alex Rodriguez on taking steroids

The Alex Rodriguez interview with Peter Gammons has seen greater analysis over the past few days than the Zapruder film has seen over the past 45 years. Every expert, columnist, purist and hack with a newspaper, TV show or Internet connection has ground and reground this grist in every way possible.

Perhaps one of the best views on this isRob Neyer’s take where he makes a pretty good point: A-Rod isn’t sorry he did it, really. He’s sorry he got caught. Penance after the fact from a man who opted out of the richest contract in baseball history to sign one that would beat it makes for a hard sell.

Wojo of the Tribhas noted that A-Rod pretty much took baseball and stabbed it to death with his syringe. He argues this is especially true since we were all waiting for A-Rod to wash the taste of Barry Bonds out of our mouths by hitting 800 home runs and making the most sacred record of the game clean again.

Personally, I think A-Rod killed baseball when he found some way to convince the Texas Rangers to pay him more than a quarter-BILLION dollars in 2001. If anything said, “there might be no “I” in “team” but there ain’t no “we” either” it was that contract. Others contracts that followed were egregiously damaging to the sport, but A-Rod started the downward spiral.

And that mega-contract is really where the trouble started.In the video of this interview, if you watch carefully when he started that line about wanting to prove something to everyone, he started to tell us the truth. He said, “I wanted to prove I was worth…” and he “you knows” himself into a rambling sentence that even Sr. Mary Kenneth couldn’t diagram. He tries to save the point by finishing up with something about wanted to be great. Here’s what he wanted to say but knew he couldn’t:

“I wanted to prove I was worth the money.”

If he made it about wanting to be great, he figured we’d give him a pass. Who doesn’t want to be great at their job? Who doesn’t want to be the best at something? Who doesn’t aspire to being an example of what’s right in the world? We could all find a piece of that in ourselves. When I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to college, my old man told me, “If you want to be a ditch digger, just be the best ditch digger you can be.” Greatness? We could buy it.

But that wasn’t what drove A-Rod to shoot up. This was about the expectations that come with being the highest paid player in the league. This was about hearing the boos from the fans in Seattle who you ditched for the money. This was about hearing how you are the symbol of greed in sports. This was about people on call-in shows grousing when you went 0-4 one night or booted a ground ball. This is about the stories in the paper about how you didn’t sign an autograph for a kid or didn’t look grateful enough while you were playing. This was about having your name etched next to guys like Wayne Garland, Mo Vaughn and Mike Hampton who signed mega-bucks free-agent deals and promptly imploded. In America, it’s not a sin to make money. It is a sin, however, if you’re not holding up your end of the deal and performing to the level commensurate with that money. (See Jude’s earlier post on the head of Associated Bank.)

So what’s enough performance when you’re the highest paid guy by about seven miles? No one knew. Apparently, A-Rod thought averaging 41 homers and 122 RBI over his previous three seasons wasn’t good enough or might not continue in Texas without a little help. So he put whatever he put into his body and hoped for the best. He upped his home run totals and RBI output substantially, even if he couldn’t lug a worthless Rangers team to the World Series. He was moved to the Yankees when George Steinbrenner decided he needed another expensive toy (never mind that he already had the greatest shortstop on the planet at the time in Derek Jeter).

If you believe A-Rod, he left his steroids in the Lone Star state. If you know anything about playing for a New York team in front of New York fans and the New York media, those words ring a bit false. If he was so freaked out by the prospect of being great in Texas, where baseball is about the ninth most important sport, that he had to shoot up for three years, are we really to believe he was Joe Cool when he hit the Big Apple? Hell, I’d need to take steroids just to ride the subway…

In the end, we have no way of knowing how this will impact the game, the upcoming season or our view of Alex Rodriguez. In some sort of perversion of reality that tends to breed in New York, this might be the rallying point for the boo-birds to come around and back A-Rod. “Youse guys can’t mess wit’ our guy” I’m sure will be uttered at least a half dozen times by some drunks in upper deck of the House that George Built. Maybe we’ll learn not to trust anyone any more and just enjoy the outcomes more than the processes. It could be a year in which a team comes out of nowhere (think the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays) and becomes the story of the year, thus relegating A-Rod coverage to the gaggle of local Gomers who bottom feed in the Bronx.

Still, in a perhaps unnecessary Machiavellian maneuver, A-Rod reminded us once again that in baseball, as is the case in most of life, it’s all about the money.

6 thoughts on “Money, Money, Money, Money… MONEY

  1. The steroid thing really makes me crazy, because it’s really not that hard to understand. As long as steroids can make you a better player than the guy next to you competing for the same multi-million dollar contract, people will use them. And if we figure out a way to keep players from taking steroids, it’ll be HGH, or the next thing, or the next thing.
    The punishments we mete out to those who violate rules against performance enhancing drugs cannot possibly outweigh the potential benefits to those who use them. I’d really love to believe that the players I enjoy watching compete are competing clean, but I decided a long time ago that I just couldn’t care that much about it. My feeling is that the player still has to compete, he or she still has to have the skills to compete at a high level, the mental right stuff to go along with the physical, enhanced or not. So that is what I choose to admire–the commitment, the drive, the mental stamina. If the player wants it so bad he or she is willing to risk their physical well-being over the long haul, that’s their problem. They have to live with knowing they could end up like Lyle Alzado.
    I’m just not going to spend my righteous indignation on them, when there are so many others who are much more richly (literally and figuratively) deserving. People talk about how exorbitant player salaries are, but *bankers*? WTF? At least I can enjoy watching athletes work. And I know that an athlete’s failure isn’t going to cost 4 million people their jobs.

  2. Yawn. A-Rod was doping??? Really???
    Doc, you are exactly right about the $250,000,000.00 tho’! Since when did anything ever done by a single man rate such wealth?? I was long over pro sports of almost any stripe by that time, but this was the end of any interest in Major League Baseball (the Congressional-sponsored business monopoly). All dead to me now.
    F A-Rod and his drippy syringe. And F the F’ing Yankees for keeping him around. If they had any respect for the sport the profess to love, they’d drum Alex out on his pin cushioned tush.
    But then again – it’s all business now, eh?

  3. The other thing that gets me is that at the time Rodriguez took the steroid, there was no law against doing so, nor any policy in major league baseball that prohibited him from doing so.
    As for getting paid a fortune, does anybody think that Bush and the other owners of the Rangers would have cut prices for fans if A-Rod HADN’T taken the dough?
    By the way, this morning on the MLB Network, an anti-steroid commercial was followed by a commercial for Extenz, the ersatz dick enlarging pill. I kid you not, as Jack Paar used to say.

  4. There may not be any “I” in “team”, but I do see “me” there, so showme the money!

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