Alex Rodriguez reminds me of my eight year-old son

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I was once told a story about Alex Rodriguez, the specific details of which, unfortunately, I cannot share. It was told to me by a person who was party to the events which took place and had absolutely no reason to lie. I have 100% confidence that the story told to me was true.

The upshot was that Rodriguez engaged in Profoundly Aberrant Behavior X immediately after being told that Profoundly Aberrant Behavior X was something he TOTALLY should not do. No one was harmed, it was nothing that would cause a scandal if it came to light in the media. It was just a matter of “Don’t do that,” followed directly by A-Rod doing that and it made everyone involved want to smack their damn heads.

When asked what in the heck he was thinking, A-Rod simply and honestly said that he thought it was OK to engage in Profoundly Aberrant Behavior X. He was genuinely surprised that what he did created any problems at all. He had no malice, actually. It wasn’t plotted. To the extent he had any agenda it was a half-formed “I’ll show them” kind of thing that your eight year-old son might do If there was part of him that thought he was getting away with something.

I have an eight year-old son who does that kind of stuff a lot.  Sometimes he actually tries to get away with things — truly plots out his behavior — but his deviousness and malevolence are  just not particularly well-formed and his eight year-old brain is just not all that great at thinking more than a step or two ahead yet. It doesn’t mean he’s dumb. It doesn’t mean he’s bad. He just doesn’t operate on a level most people do when strategic thinking is called for.

I sort of feel like that’s where we are with Alex Rodriguez.

I have no idea what, exactly, A-Rod was trying to accomplish by sending Dr. Michael Gross out on that little media tour yesterday. It appears as though it was his effort to fire shots at a Yankees team he perceives to be working against his interests somehow. I can understand the impulse. He probably has a bit of a siege mentality at this point, and for good reason. People are comparing him to mass-murderers for cryin’ out loud, and the league in which he plays is trying to end his career before he wants it to end.

But the facts of his quad injury and rehab are such that trotting out Dr. Gross was gonna get messy no matter what. According to the Yankees, A-Rod did say his quad was hurting. According to the CBA there are right ways and wrong ways to get competing medical opinions. Even if Rodriguez is, on the facts, totally on the side of the angels here — if he can play and wants to and the Yankees are just dithering for P.R./political/Biogenesis reasons, there was no clear path to P.R. victory here for Rodriguez and he probably would have been better off not even sending Dr. Gross on Mike Francesa’s show yesterday. But based on what we can know about A-Rod from a distance, one gets the impression that that sort of thing just doesn’t register with him.

Or maybe I’m way off, I don’t know. Engaging in armchair psychoanalysis like this is even harder than diagnosing a quad strain via an MRI and a phone call.

But I do know this much: Dr. Gross had no idea what he was getting into when he went on his mini media tour yesterday. After saying that he agreed to look at A-Rod’s MRI and that he didn’t take any payment for it, he said this to ESPN New York:

“I did it because I thought it would be fun,” Gross said. “I thought it would be interesting to be on this side of stuff. It was a lot of fun until the last half hour.”

I almost feel sorry for him. But really kids: if Alex Rodriguez asks you to go out and say things on his behalf, by all means, wear a freakin’ flak jacket. They’re firing live bullets out there. And A-Rod probably didn’t plan the operation like Wellington planned Waterloo.

Bryce Harper is really just a tiny bit better Adam Lind when you think about it

Associated Press
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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post writes about an important matter facing the Washington Nationals over the next year: what to do about Bryce Harper, who is entering his walk year and will be a free agent a little over 12 months from now.

That’s a fine and important question. The Nats do need to decide whether to offer Harper a long term deal, when to offer it and, above all else, how big that deal should be. Should it be $300 million? $400 million? Should it be conventional or unconventional, with opt-outs and such? It’s not every day that a generational talent comes along and it’s even more rare that the generational talent hits free agency at the age of 26, so the decisions facing the Nationals are not easy ones.

Boswell acknowledges that bit of trickiness, but he also, strangely, spends a whole lot of time trying to portray Harper as an ordinary talent. He starts with health, comparing him poorly with Stephen Strasburg, who is ranked 30th in games started over the past five years. In contrast . . .

In those same five years, Harper ranks 90th in games played, just 126 a season, and now he says he should have skipped quite a few more games in 2016 when he had a balky shoulder. That’s almost six weeks out per season.

Nowhere in the column is it mentioned that the several weeks he missed in 2017 was the result of a freak injury in wet conditions and that, despite that, Harper worked his tail off to come back and be ready for the postseason. Not that Boswell doesn’t mention the postseason of course . . .

Harper, for the fourth time, failed to lead his team out of the first round and has career playoff batting average and OPS marks of .215 and .801. By the high standards of right fielders, he’s Mr. Average in October.

I suppose it’s not Boswell’s job to refrain from insulting a player on the team he covers, but he certainly seems hellbent on insulting not only Harper, but our own intelligence via comparisons like this:

In the past five years, in those 126 games, Harper averaged 26 homers, 72 RBI and a .288 average. Over the last nine years, Adam Lind averaged 128 games, 20 homers, 70 RBI and hit .273. That’s selective stat mining. Harper is much better, in part because he walks so much. But Harper and Lind in the same sentence?

“A person can eat delicious chocolate cake or lead paint chips. The chocolate cake is much better, but chocolate cake and lead paint in the same sentence?” I guess Boswell gets points for acknowledging that it was a misleading comparison, but if he thinks it is, why make it in the first place? If you want to eliminate this one as an outlier, cool, because he makes a lot of other comparisons like that in the piece.

This is not necessarily new for Boswell. Here’s something he wrote about Harper in 2014:

Harper has not driven in 60 runs in either of his two seasons. He has only five RBI this year. He’s never had more than 157 runs-plus-RBI. Ryan Zimmerman has had between 163 and 216 six times. Adam LaRoche, no big star, has had 175 or more three times. Fourth outfielder Nate McLouth once had 207. Can we get a grip? Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player. If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twice. Harper is in a self-conscious, fierce scowl-off with baseball. Rendon dances with it and grins. Baseball loves relaxed.

That was written 16 games into his age-22 season.

I’m not sure what Boswell’s beef with Harper is. I’m not sure why he’s contorting himself to portray him as an ordinary player when he is fairly extraordinary and, most certainly, a special case when it comes to his impending free agency. In his career he already has 26.1 career bWAR, 150 homers, an MVP Award under his belt and, if it wasn’t for that freak injury in August, would have a strong case for a second one. Guy has a career line of .285/.386/.515 and he turned 26 four days ago. He’s younger than Aaron Judge.

My view of things is that players should ignore the media for the most part, but they don’t always do that. Sometimes the hostility or criticism of the local press — especially from the most respected portions of the local press who have the ability to shape fan sentiment — gets to them.

Which is to say that, if this kind of noise keeps up, I wouldn’t be shocked if Harper puts up a line of .340/.480/.650 in 2018 and then walked the hell out of D.C. for New York or Chicago or L.A. or something. Would anyone blame him?