Oh look, someone is forcing the “A-Rod is an ego-driven diva” narrative

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It’s obvious that, for years, Alex Rodriguez’s ego caused him trouble. He often came off as vain and self-centered in the media. Usually in ways that had little if anything to do with baseball, it should be noted. More as it relates to his public image and the like.

But we haven’t seen that for a while now, and all traces of it have been beaten out of him, it seems, in these difficult past two seasons of his. He hasn’t been the superstar slugger he’s paid to be, but he seems to have said and done the right things and has been a team player.

Which is making life somewhat difficult for the people who cover him. Because the whole thing about Raul Ibanez pinch hitting for him last night and becoming a hero begs for some old “A-Rod is an ego-driven diva” narrative, and the facts, sadly, just aren’t cooperating.

Take David Lennon’s stuff about him at Newsday today. First, from his story, which is headlined “A-Rod fails, but Ibanez stands tall,” natch:

Ibaez rewarded Girardi by swatting the tying home run in the ninth, then followed with the winning blast off lefty Brian Matusz in the 12th in a 3-2 win. Not only was Girardi vindicated, Rodriguez had no choice but to celebrate what had to be an incredibly humbling moment for him personally.

I was watching the game and what I saw was A-Rod immediately look exuberant about the homer and then bound up the steps to be one of the first to congratulate Ibanez when he crossed home plate. Indeed, even Lennon’s own quote of A-Rod belied the notion that this was some problematic moment for him:

“Maybe 10 years ago, I react in a much different way,” Rodriguez said. “But I’m in a place in my career right now where team is everything. I don’t think there was anyone in the ballpark more excited for Raul than me.”

But hey, if you want to believe that it was a moment or personal torment for the guy and that he had to force himself to act happy, I guess I can’t prove you wrong.

Lennon’s tweet about it was curious too:

What has happened in New York recently that even remotely suggests that there is a “24-1” mentality surrounding Alex Rodriguez? That he gets some sort of special treatment — or expects it — because of who he is or what he’s paid? He has struggled, but he hasn’t complained. He hasn’t ducked responsibility. He has acted like the consummate teammate and professional through these struggles. And, again, he himself talks about how it’s all team-first in the very article that Lennon is teasing here.

A-Rod has a history. Of this there is no doubt. But to treat him as if nothing has changed about him, to assume, as Lennon appears to do here, that his humble words, his team-first attitude and his happiness for Raul Ibanez last night is anything other than genuine and sincere is simply unfair and uncharitable in the extreme.

I know it may be hard to find things to write about now that you don’t have the old, egotistical A-Rod to kick around anymore, but perhaps it’s worth looking for something.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.