It was growing increasingly difficult to separate Alex Rodriguez’s arbitration hearing from the media’s portrayal of Alex Rodriguez’s arbitration hearing. With A-Rod supporters surprisingly congregated outside of court rooms — holding suspiciously similarly styled signs — and MLB executives appearing on late-night talk-shows, it seemed that no one was more aware of this than the participants.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, the New York Yankees third baseman (for the time being at least) stormed out of his hearing when the arbitrator (who is somehow both independent and selected by Major League Baseball) refused to require Commissioner Bud Selig to testify. From there, Rodriguez made his way to WFAN studios in New York where he spoke with Mike Francesa live on air, and further bound the actual arbitration process to the reporting of the proceeding.
Hot takes flooded social media timelines with otherwise respectable journalists claiming that Alex Rodriguez “lies pretty much all the time,” or that A-Rod’s name could be substituted for Lance Armstrong’s and not much else would have to change for accuracy to be maintained.
In columns on websites across the country, descriptions of Rodriguez leaving the hearing were filled with words like tantrum and hissy-fit, while his skills at public relations became a place holding target of scorn for those eager to judge. On Thursday morning, we even heard Peter Gammons compare the player to the Boston Marathon bombers.
The reaction is bothersome. It’s not so much that we should all believe Rodriguez when he told Francesa that he hasn’t used performance enhancing drugs since he played in Texas, or that he hadn’t obstructed any witnesses, or that he didn’t send a signed baseball up into the stands to pick up a couple of women during a playoff game. It isn’t even the overwhelming arbitrariness with which the use of certain substances have historically been punished – not just in terms of suspension, but also public perception. What’s bothersome was that those expressing the most perturbed opinions over Rodgriguez’s actions were journalists.
There was an almost tangible provocation of outrage from writers and reporters seemingly bent on portraying A-Rod as a misfit to the public. When he conveyed a salient point in his interview on WFAN, it was “obviously rehearsed.” When he sounded like a human being, and not the archfiend of all that was good and fair, it was a “softball question from Francesa.” By the way, I’d be very interested to learn what questions the critics would’ve asked that Francesa — whose jocular manner with Rodriguez perfectly camouflaged his purposeful inquiry — failed to broach.
It’s amazing that the same reporters who find it so easy to believe that Rodriguez has no defense against MLB’s allegations fail to consider that the commissioner of baseball, who serves at the behest of the owners, might have an axe to grind with the player who has cost his empowerment more than any other in terms of both straight salary and salary escalation.
I almost wish there was proof these journalists were merely placating their benefactors in baseball, like ESPN opting out of the League Of Denial documentary to soothe the worried fever of the NFL. At least then, their intellectual dishonesty could be rewarded in some sense. Unfortunately, there’s little evidence to suggest a conspiracy, and more intimations that the stance against A-Rod is rooted in groupthink from a cowardly crew.
The anti-Rodriguez sentiment is especially shocking when we consider that the soap box standers are the very same who are typically so apprehensive about expressing opinion. These are the reporters who grab quotes from players and management, and consistently take them at face value while maintaining their supposed objectivity.
They implore us to forget about the propaganda model and that cultural theory course we took in first year, and imagine human beings to have some sort of objective/subjective switch. The notion is ridiculous, and it’s been taken to its ugly extreme in the case of Rodriguez, where those covering the hearing wish to cling to their security blanket of objectivity while blatantly jumping into a pool of personal preference and opinion. The result is a wet blanket of little use to anyone.
I’m not suggesting that we should all join #TeamARod, and stick it to the man. In a battle between millionaires and billionaires, it’s difficult to classify one party as being especially afflicted. And even if you want to rally against the more comfortable of the two, it remains easy to question whether Rodriguez’s exit from the hearing on Wednesday wasn’t potentially motivated by avoiding questions under oath.
Taking sides isn’t the point. Misunderstanding is. Subjective takes from those claiming objectivity have a funny way of being mistaken for the truth. However, there’s validity to Rodriguez’s claims. Has anyone offered a viable explanation as to why he should be suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball?
Don’t let your hatred of a player or person push you toward believing only what you want to about them. You’re better than baseball writers. You can separate the case from the media’s portrayal.