In which a reporter cites herself as evidence that A-Rod is awful

29 Comments

Back in 2007 Selena Roberts, then of the New York Times, wrote a story portraying Alex Rodriguez as a slum lord. I criticized that pretty thoroughly, not so much for the facts reported, but for what was clearly agenda-driven reporting and overheated rhetoric that was obviously designed to put Rodriguez in the worst possible light based on the thinnest possible evidence.

A couple of years later Roberts wrote a book about A-Rod that took much the same tack. The reporting of facts which, in and of themselves, were difficult to question due to their heavy reliance on hearsay and anonymous sources, but which were nonetheless accompanied by sweeping character judgments that were totally unwarranted and unsupported by those facts, even if true.

One person saw A-Rod leave a light tip? A-Rod is cheap. A few residents complain about poor upkeep on apartments owned by a company in which A-Rod has an interest? A-Rod is a slum lord. A-Rod admits to taking PEDs? A-Rod is the worst cheater baseball has ever known.  I noted my skepticism then as well, arguing that, in her highest profile work, Roberts has been shown to retreat to character assassination whenever she can. And A-Rod is not the highest profile example of her taking that tack.

The upshot? Whatever her merits as a reporter, in no way am I ever going to give Roberts the benefit of the doubt when it comes to her editorial voice, because she has shown to be irresponsible in the extreme when it comes to drawing conclusions from a set of (often limited) facts presented. And in no way should anything I say on the matter of A-Rod serve as evidence bolstering her world view of the guy.

Against that backdrop, Roberts has a post over at Sports on Earth today in which she speculates about Alex Rodriguez’s financial health given his looming suspension, legal fees, etc.  In the post she revisits the slum lord meme:

“Being a landlord — or a slumlord, as Rodriguez has been called in headlines –– isn’t a winnable position for anyone …”

That link? To my own post at HardballTalk in which I specifically call out Roberts for irresponsibly tossing the slum lord accusation around in the past. In other words: she is citing herself as evidence that people are calling out A-Rod as a slum lord in the headlines.

Of course, she also spends much of that article citing examples of A-Rod’s quite savvy financial decisions — following Warren Buffet’s advice, diversifying investments, downsizing his real estate holdings — as evidence that maybe A-Rod is going broke, so it’s pretty clear she’s still pathological when it comes to the subject of Alex Rodriguez. If there are multiple ways to interpret his actions they will be interpreted as either evil or stupid, full stop. It’s the only way she knows how to understand the guy.

Maybe A-Rod is a slum lord. Maybe he is going broke. Maybe he is the worst cheater the sport has ever seen. But don’t take whatever Roberts has to say about it as evidence, because she’s perhaps the most startling example of A-Rod Derangement Syndrome in recorded history.

Miguel Cabrera has two herniated discs in his back

Jason Miller/Getty Images
1 Comment

Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera underwent an MRI which revealed two herniated discs in his back, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. With six games remaining in the season, if Cabrera plays again, it will be as a designated hitter.

The back issues shed a lot of light on Cabrera’s uncharacteristically subpar season. He’s batting .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 529 plate appearances this season. He carries an adjusted OPS of 92, which is eight points below the league average and 14 points below his previous career low set in 2003 with the Marlins.

Cabrera, 34, is signed through 2023 and is owed a minimum of $192 million through the end of his contract.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

Getty Images
2 Comments

No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.