09.24.07

Somebody Tell Will Leitch The Yanks Aren’t Laughing At A-Rod, They’re Laughing With Him

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 6:07 pm by

Lost by some amidst the quickly refuted reports there’s sort of Cubs ownership stake in the offing for The Third Baseman, was the following tidbit in Monday’s New York Magazine, penned by the ever-versatile Will Leitch.

Since early September, Rodriguez has developed what might charitably be called a œtic. When he reaches base, he rotates his left shoulder while holding his right hand over his heart. He claims that he™s stretching out a jammed shoulder. It™s an odd maneuver; it makes him look like he™s in pain. As Rodriguez rounded the bases after hitting his 50th home run in early September, becoming the first Yankee to hit that many since Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the Yankees bullpen, almost in unison, began rotating their left shoulders and holding their right hands over their hearts. When A-Rod reached the dugout, several other teammates were doing the same thing. As the blog Bronx Banter pointed out, an MVP, carrying his team to the playoffs, facing impending free agency, was being mocked for his idiosyncrasies the second he was cementing himself as the team™s best slugger of the past 50 years. However good-natured it was, it™s the kind of thing that does not speak to an undying attachment between player and team.

Adds Lupe Velez, “I interpreted it differently but hey, who am i to argue with the Deadspin guy. I’m sure he’d see the ribbing as a sinister, unfluffy ritual were A-Rod a Cardinal, right?” And sure enough, the original scoop-worthy entry from Bronx Banter’s Alex Belth, aided by a passage from the September 9th New York Times, characterized the incident as….uh, good-natured ribbing.

From the Times’ Pat Borzi :

A row of Yankees at the bullpen fence rolled their left arms in an inside-joke salute to Rodriguez, who hurt his left shoulder sliding headfirst last week and looked unsteady in subsequent feet-first slides. œI™ve never seen a team make more fun of one guy than this team, Rodriguez said, smiling. œThat was pretty funny.

Though dumping on Leitch has long been in vogue around these parts, I certainly hope others who’ve managed to dissect his flimsy New York offering aren’t accused of harboring a vendetta. Like, for instance, River Ave. Blues’ Ben K.

Unless Alex Rodriguez is an Academy Award-worthy actor, I don™t think he was too offended by the shoulder shenanigans. He was laughing it up with the bullpen and dugout when that shoulder thing hit. The Yankees were taking a serious situation ” a potential shoulder injury to their number one slugger ” and turning it into a joke. No one on the team was unconcerned, but they were impressed that A-Rod was hitting bombs with a sore shoulder. To take it as anything else is, in my opinion, a gross representation of the problem. Next up is another claim Leitch makes that I™m not too keen to accept. œWhen Rodriguez and Boras sit down this off-season and make their pros-and-cons chart, you™d have to imagine ˜Chicago Tribune Won™t Run Photo of My Night Out With a Buxom Blonde and Write That I™m Into the œShe-Male, Muscular Type˜ would be rather high up the list, he writes.

While The Tribune may not run A-Rod out of town, Jay Mariotti and The Sun Times sure will. If anyone knows that, it™s Will Leitch who, at Deadspin, has written extensively about Mariotti. The Chicago media will be just as brutal on A-Rod as the New York media has or hasn™t been this year. They won™t suddenly display oodles of midwestern hospitality. Chicago is a sports town with a history of mediocrity and flat-out failure. They™re sick of it, and they won™t take it lying down.

As much respect as I have for Will Leitch, I don™t like this article. For reasons of journalistic integrity, despite the thoroughness of the New York Magazine fact department, I don™t like the sources; I don™t like how MLB never had the chance to respond to these ownership claims in Leitch™s article. And as a Yankee fan, I don™t like to imagine A-Rod elsewhere.

15 Responses to “Somebody Tell Will Leitch The Yanks Aren’t Laughing At A-Rod, They’re Laughing With Him”

  1. Ben K. says:

    No vendetta from me. I think Will generally does a good job with Deadspin, and he’s been one who has helped legitimize what the rest of us do or are trying to do. I just wasn’t sure where Will and this unsourced and highly odd article were coming from.

  2. Mark Swiderski says:

    Wow. I’ve heard so much about this story over the last few days, and I’m just astounded that the likes of Will Leitch was behind it. This is a guy whose previous biggest “scoop” — that Albert Pujols’ trainer was named in the Jason Grimsley affidavit — turned out to be utter and complete fucking bullshit. And we’re supposed to believe that this guy had solid information behind a story for which there literally is no precedent in baseball history? Didn’t NEW YORK even think to have a factchecker run it by the league to see if a player ownership deal was permissible under league rules? Surprise, it isn’t.

    And as far as that take on the Yankee pantomime of A-Rod’s shoulder rotation … has Leitch ever been on an athletic team before? I’m just not sure that anyone who has had teammates could ever look at something that self-evidently playful as indicative of a bad relationship. Besides, if Leitch had, I don’t know, watched a Yankee game, he might have heard Michael Kay mentioning for the umpteenth time that the ribbing started when Larry Bowa goofed on A-Rod for it.

  3. GC says:

    Ben,

    i was just joshin’ about the vendetta stuff. I have no reason to believe you have a hard-on for Screech. That’s my turf.

    But I do agree with you — Will has most certainly legitimized what some sports bloggers are trying to do, ie. appropiating someone else’s observations (in this case, two week old coverage from Bronx Banter and the New York Times) as part of a high profile MSM crossover.

    Mark,

    I’m not sure if anyone, let alone New York, actually employs factcheckers these days. I cannot remember the last time I spoke to one. Still, I can’t blame Will for trying to make the vibe in the Bronx seem more soap opera-ish. Short of A-Rod owning a piece of the Cubs, would be could a hotter story than The Third Baseman not having the respect of Kyle Farnsworth?

  4. David Roth says:

    Will’s been in big magazines several times before (I believe he was in that New York Times sports magazine at least once), and will probably continue to be in them because he’s 1) in the network with the editors who make decisions on these things and 2) is on his way to being a recognizable brand-name sports pundit. The quality of his “work” at Deadspin (or whatever legitimizing effect he might’ve had on blogging, or whatever) probably doesn’t enter into the equation much. And he’s a decent enough writer, I think. That said, this is a bad piece. To my mind, it’s definingly bad: the sports-journalism equivalent of the lazily reported, inch-deep “scandal” pieces that John Solomon runs in the Washington Post and the spectacularly uninformative inside-baseball political punditry you see on shows like Hardball: “how will this gaffe hurt X, Norah O’Donnell?” and the like. No one learns anything from that, not just because Norah O’Donnell (or whomever) has no idea how whatever gaffe will affect anything else, but because it’s fundamentally useless, substance-free: it’s gossip, with all the lack of substance and free-floating scurrility that word implies, delivered with a straight face. And so it is here.

    To me, the basic problem with it is that there isn’t a story here. Hats off to Will for getting that money (New York pays very well, and at 2500 words this was certainly a decent payday for him), but I’m kind of surprised that he was able to get this picked up. What, for instance, do we learn from a passage like this (about the decision-making chain in the Yanks organization on the next A-Rod deal): “Who has final say? Who knows? With no formal hierarchy in place, it will come down to a Hobbesian knife fight.”

    There’s no information there, except that it’s “going to get ugly.” But that’s the frailest and least useful bit of “insider wisdom” imaginable — everyone knows that Boras contract negotiations will be rough, and the Yanks are the Yanks. And the “ugly” part is a disappointingly standard part of contemporary journalism, simply (I think) because it’s easier to speculate on optics and hyped up slap-fights and pseudo-scandals than it is to report an actual piece. How would we know if Will was wrong in that statement, for instance? How would it matter if he were?

    So it’s a shallow, limp piece. But that’s only partially Will’s fault: his real mistake was writing an article with no news in it, no new perspective, no new information save for some speculative gossip that (from all appearances) has no import whatsoever. The real problem is with the editor who waved this into print. This pitch probably should’ve been declined, or the article spiked when it became obvious that there’s nothing to SAY there. Not just nothing new: nothing much at all. Leitch spends 2500 words spinning his wheels to tell us…that A-Rod will stay in New York if he feels like it, and leave if he doesn’t? That his next contract will be of record size? That A-Rod’s kind of a weird guy and that the Post’s sports page is bottomlessly nasty? Yankee fans are tough? Come on. Getting a couple of dollars a word (at 2500 words!) to write a piece with no named sources that breathlessly, cleverly reports that sky is blue isn’t a bad deal, if you can get it. I just need to find out how to get it myself.

  5. Ward York says:

    David:

    I believe the URL felchingdavidwright.com is available, & aching to have you embellish your pithy, straightforward, possibly ill-informed observations vis-a-vis sports with pictures of cheerleaders or drunk pro athletes or drunk pro athletes with cheerleaders who may or may not be drunk. If you don’t get a regular column w/ the Village Voice within 6 months, I will gladly pay the webhosting fees.

  6. David Roth says:

    That’s a generous offer, but I’m going to go the (free) blogspot route with nuzzlingfranhealy. Not right away, though. I evidently have a lot of work to do on the pithiness thing.

  7. Will Leitch is best when he sticks to being a glorified inbox and reposts things that people email to him. I mean, he didn’t quote anyone in the article, didn’t list a source, and didn’t even check that a player offered ownership is against MLB rules.

    He should probably stick to reposting youtube videos for a while.

  8. GC says:

    “Will Leitch is best when he sticks to being a glorified inbox and reposts things that people email to him.”

    careful, Mr. F.G., i’m kinda partial to that sort of light workload myself. In fact, I’m just grumpy cuz I’ve been trying to legitimize having a shit work ethic for many years.

    David — while Chris Mottram might argue that Will’s rise to —-the middle? —- has come solely on merit, this all reminds me a bit of the last couple of general elections. Fraudulent, but also to some degree, exactly what the public deserves. If Will’s editor at New York couldn’t ID this piece as a huge waste of space, what about all of other national outlets (starting with the NY Post on Sunday) that mentioned the Boras-Cubs-new ownership angle as though it were a real possibility?

  9. Jason Cohen says:

    Don’t you guys think it probably should have read like this?

    They’re up for sale, but Boras says Boras knows which group is most likely to be awarded the team. (That’s not loudmouth Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, by the way; he has no chance.) Boras says Boras has already been in touch with that group about the possibility of a contract that could reach $30 million a year over the next ten years while deferring a certain portion of money toward an eventual stake in the franchise.

  10. Mark Swiderski says:

    @ Jason Cohen: Yes. Well, that’s what I assumed anyway.

    Billy Beane (pre-Moneyball): Peter Gammons as Scott Boras: Will Leitch.

    Which is just bizarre beyond words.

  11. Rog says:

    It took the ‘legit’ media a few days to figure out that A-Rod owning a piece of the team wasn’t even possible, but hats off to whomever did the digging to find out. The real story here (if there even is one at this point) is the (evil) genius that is one Mr. Scott Boras. The man will say anything that can make the price tag of his clients go up exponentially and the dumb-as-dirt sports writers accept it as fact, repeat it ad naseum and eventually Boras’ own made up prophesies come true. The only reason that anyone is saying that A-Rod’s price tag will top 30-35M is because Boras himself is planting that seed. I cannot wait until Boras reaches that point in his life where he’s just bored and starts taking on clients like Miguel Cairo or Doug Mirabelli just to see how high the bidding would be. He’d probably fetch a 5-year deal worth $20m for either one. Everybody’s being played by Scott Boras, even you.

  12. Ward York says:

    The only reason that anyone is saying that A-Rod’s price tag will top 30-35M is because Boras himself is planting that seed.

    As much as I’d like to credit Mr. B for this masterful negotiating tactic, I think the estimated price tag also has a little something to do with:

    - A-Rod signing a $25 million per year contract a few years ago
    - A-Rod being the best player in the AL (if not all of baseball, no slight to that 50-year-old slugger dude on that team of drunk reprobates Leitch is so fond of)
    - the largess of recent baseball signings, including (but most certainly not limited to) Roger Clemens getting the seasonal equivalent of $28 million to make like a beefy Tim Wakefield for all of 4 months
    - the rising cost of underground poker room buy-ins

    As for the oft-maligned Miguel Cairo: don’t think some enterprising AL team won’t drop a couple million on Joe Torre’s former amanuensis for his insight into the inner workings of the Yankee behemoth. You can’t put a price on that sort of knowledge.

  13. GC says:

    I think we have to assume that Boras wouldn’t advise A-Rod to opt out if the latter couldn’t reasonably expect an improved deal.

    If Soriano’s making $17million and Carlos Lee nearly as much, $30million sounds probably for Rodriguez. Though if the Angels are only bidding against themselves, perhaps they need not go that high.

  14. Rog says:

    My point was that Boras plants these numbers in reporters’ stories and, market demands or not, he’s the one who planted the idea of the Cubs somehow being involved (where Screech got the tidbit about the part ownership..who the hell knows) and that he is a master of making teams outbid each other. It’s just like when some club owner plants the name of some celeb in the pages of a tabloid in order to make their club seem like the hippest new spot, whether the celeb was there or not. And, anyway, the original A-Rod contract was negotiated by Boras himself…and no team even came close to offering what Texas offered him. Boras got the Tigers to outbid themselves for Magglio Ordonez. I’m telling ya, the kid’s got a future in this agent business stuff.

  15. Rog says:

    Oh, and opting out of an already-lucrative deal for the insane gamble of getting something even better has already been done. See: Drew, J.D. (2006); agent: Scott Boras.

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