Cameron Diaz and Alex Rodriquez at restaurant together in New York cityIt 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.

Comments (17)

  1. Thank you Dustin. Easily the best piece written about A-rod in weeks.

  2. should be noted that Gammons just took ownership, called it a dumb comparison and apologized

    • That is all well and good that he stepped up and took ownership. But that is the type of tripe that should never be published in the first place.

  3. Great article and great conclusion:

    “Has anyone offered a viable explanation as to why he should be suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball?”

    I think many have lost sight of what the hearing is really about.

  4. “Has anyone offered a viable explanation as to why he should be suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball?”

    Absolutely perfectly said, Dustin.

  5. “What’s bothersome was that those expressing the most perturbed opinions over Rodgriguez’s actions were journalists.”

    Haven’t you been paying attention to the media over the past couple decades? Nothing attracts viewership like outrage. Even faux-outrage.

  6. I don’t particularly like A-Rod (the Howie Clark incident still annoys much far more than it should) but the 211 games ban is ridiculous.

    Match the 50 game ban that everyone else got or even the 65 (ish?) ban that Braun accepted and I’d be fine with it but there’s just no reason or justification to go to 211 in my mind.

    Why are mlb trying to get me to side with A-Rod?

    • Gee, somebody else remembers Howie Clark. ARod for sure gets 50 games for drug use, but the 211? I think it was supposed to cover the balance of 2013, plus 2014. They have evidence, after all, that he did recruit other players for the clinic, and that he did attempt to buy up evidence in order to suppress it.
      He is up against both MLB, plus The New York Yankees in this case, who would just like to see him gone, but IMHO, they both made this bed, and should both be made to lie in it. I don’t think much of either party, so in this case I would love to see the suspension cut down to 80-100 games, then let The Yankees figure out what to do with this embarrassment to baseball after the All-Star Break.
      Nailing ARod sends a message to the players that nobody is above the rules, and sending him back to The Yankees sends a message to ownership that these huge free agent contracts aren’t worth the risk.

  7. I like the spirit of the piece, but Gammons copped quickly to his mistake. That should be noted rather than going for pageviews with the headline.

  8. Gammons is a paid journalist who made an insensitive (at best) and libelous (at worst) comment on the fucking internet where he is paid to post.

    Realizing he made a mistake and trying to placate those who were (rightly) offended by his obnoxious stance in no way changes the fact that he both thought it, and then wrote it down for all to see.

    He should be ridiculed, and no one should give him an ounce of credit for ‘realizing’ that the horribly insensitive thing he said was horribly insensitive.

  9. Great article– Gammons should be fired for such a ridiculous & completely inappropriate comment. Most of the “objective” journalists that throw the biggest fits about steroids are the same people that worshiped at the altars of McGwire & Sosa for saving baseball. You know, despite finding steroids in McGwire’s locker in the middle of the 98 season.

  10. Outstanding work. The polemic bullshit being spouted on both sides is growing tiresome. As a side note, I hope the suspension is upheld, purely because I still hold a grudge for A-Rod’s tactics when he pretended to call a fly ball in Toronto while rounding third.

  11. i would like to point out, Dustin, that sports journalism, and journalism in general, is never, ever objective. Even straight “news” reporting is skewed by the limited space available to report it, and the need to sell advertising.
    The very worst type of journalism is produced by so-called “analysts,” who offer opinion which is no more or less valid than mine, or anybody else’s.
    The growth of social media has only compounded this. An opinion, or rumor, promulgated on an obscure Twitter post or blog, will be re-circulated in ever increasing circles, and at some point be published in the “mainstream” media, and all of a sudden becomes indistinguishable from truth.

  12. As this whole ridiculous story has played out I have found that I am now actually rooting for A-Rod. I never would have thought it possible.

    However, this situation reeks of witch hunt and the pursuit of a personal vendetta. On the MLB’s list of goals and priorities for this arbitration hearing, I think that Justice ranks pretty far down.

  13. At this point, A-Rod may have become the truest “true Yankee” of all time. The glitz, glamour, cash, talent, records, spotlight, and fame – it is everything that both the Yankees and Rodriguez are about. They deserve each, so put them back together to equally dwindle out into the obscurity of mediocrity.

  14. FWIW, and I’m sorry I’m a week late on this, the MLB-MLBPA arbitrator is jointly chosen by the two parties. Hence the independence — either side can fire the person.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *