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.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.