Yankees' Jeter and Rodriguez celebrate a solo home run by teammate Ibanez against the Baltimore Orioles during Game 3 of their MLB ALDS baseball playoff series in New York

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.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.