Will an A-Rod-fueled Yankees-run do “immeasurable harm” to the game?

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Peter Gammons is one of the reasonable ones when it comes to PEDs and A-Rod and stuff. You’ll rarely if ever hear him going on about A-Rod being history’s greatest monster (Gammons actually likes Rodriguez). Maybe it’s smarts, maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s both, but Gammons tends to have some perspective about these things. He remembers ballplayers snorting cocaine and drinking and popping amphetamines and stuff and is among the last to say that the sky is falling.

Today’s Gammons column, then, does cause me to raise an eyebrow.  It’s a good column — he continues to engage in reason and doesn’t do what so many other columnists do and try to find the newest, freshest ways to make A-Rod out as Satan — but one passage does make me wonder. After noting that A-Rod is playing because he has earned his right of appeal, and noting that MLB probably dreads him in the postseason, Gammons says:

And if somehow he takes off on a month-long tear and heroically carries the Yankees into a one game post-season date with the Rangers, of all teams, he will have done immeasurable harm to the game that he plays so well, a game that provided him the stage he so embraces.

I agree that MLB will hate such a thing (at least when they aren’t paying attention to the TV ratings), but I disagree on the “harm to the game” part. If anything, I think A-Rod playing these past few weeks has done more to help the game than anything. No, not because A-Rod himself is helpful. That’s silly. But helpful because now he is a mere ballplayer. He’s not a symbol. He’s not a martyr. He’s not a monster. He’s not a source of day-in, day-out public scorn like he was over most of the summer. He’s just a ballplayer.

A ballplayer that can look bad at times. A ballplayer that has looked good at times. But a ballplayer who is, by necessity, subordinate to the game. No matter what he does, if the Yankees can’t get good pitching, his season is going to end in September. No matter how good the pitching is, if A-Rod gets hurt or struggles or shows that at 38 his bat just can’t get around on fastballs anymore, he will necessarily be humbled. Even if the Yankees do make an October run, it will be because of many moving parts and good fortune, not because of A-Rod.

We’ve made too much of sports heroes in the past, elevating them to such heights that they’re above the games they play. We’ve tended to do the same thing with sports villains too, making them out to be monsters who can destroy the games they play. Truth is, they can’t. The game will level it all out. Or make the heroes or villains anonymous in the way it is so good at doing.

No one is really talking about A-Rod now, even when he plays. That shows you that the game is just fine, thank you.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.