Stop The Madness

by Greg Sullivan

Thank you, Steve Phillips.

Thank you for slowing down the A-Rod express. I was ready to give up hope and just accept the fact that baseball was tailspinning into a fiery hell in a plane piloted by Scott Boras. But now the flight, at least temporarily, is back on track and cruising along comfortably, while the rest of the sports world holds its collective breath, waiting for some stooge to meet the shortstop's demands.

And someone will - you know someone will. Just like you knew somebody would give Kevin Brown $100 million, everybody knows that A-Rod will get $200 million. There's no doubt about it. If anyone deserves it, it's A-Rod, but it's not even the money that is raising eyebrows. A-Rod needs his own office in the clubhouse. A-Rod needs his own concession stands in the stadium to sell A-Rod paraphanelia. A-Rod needs his own plane to fly his family in from all over. A-Rod needs to be marketed as the next Michael Jordan, the next Tiger Woods.

What's going on here? When did this become acceptable? Is this what Boras wants to be remembered as? What A-Rod wants to be remembered as?

For love of the game, I hope not.

Let me clear the air about a few things: 1) I hate agents, and 2) I admire A-Rod. From everything I've seen, he's what Peter Gammons might refer to as a "wonderful human being." He's only two years older than me, but he can do just about anything in the game of baseball better than just about anyone in the game of baseball, and he's always been humble about his situation. Until now.

Ask yourself this - would Derek Jeter or Nomar Garciaparra ask for their own office in Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park? How about Ken Griffey Jr. or Mark McGwire, the two closest things to a Jordan or a Tiger that there are in baseball today? I would have to say no in all four instances, and the reason why is simple: none of these players are trying to artificially anoint themself as the face of baseball.

Alex Rodriguez is, with a little help from his buddy Scott, and it makes me sick.

When you hear the name Tiger Woods, what do you think of? Most likely you think of record-breaking performances at Major tournaments, seemingly impossible shots that actually make golf highlights fun to watch, marketing millions, and titles, titles, titles. Michael Jordan? Clutch last second shots, show-stopping dunks, marketing millions, and titles, titles, titles. A-Rod? Unheard of power for a middle infielder, exceptional range to go with a howitzer of an arm, the potential for marketing millions, and, um, an appearance in the ALCS.

There's something missing here, don't you think?

Tiger is making his name by winning golf tournaments, seemingly at will, wherever he goes. He has brought golf to a non-white audience in the same way that Wayne Greztky brought hockey to an American audience. He has put the PGA back on the map. And he has done it all without the help of a private jet or prematurely comparing himself to a legend.

Jordan made his name by winning everything in sight, from scoring titles to MVP awards to six champioships in eight years. He made Chicago a basketball town and carried the NBA after Bird and Magic retired. The league and the sport aren't the same without him on the court. He built his legend with big plays, not big contracts and special perks.

A-Rod has a .309 career batting average and has only played 160 games or more in a season once.

Okay, that's not fair. I can't take anything away from the kid - he's an incredible player, and he's one of the biggest names in baseball. But he's not the biggest name - in fact, the beauty of baseball is that there isn't just one player that can be the face of the entire league. McGwire and Sosa, Maddux and Glavine, Pedro and Randy, Nomar, Jeter, and A-Rod - baseball just isn't an individual sport like others can be, and A-Rod can't be the de facto ambassador for the sport. Nobody can.

And that's what bothers me about this "$20 million a year for 12 years with a plane, an office, and our own little merchandising thing" thing. You can treat people as individuals in separate circumstances in other sports, but it just doesn't work in baseball. Everyone has to be on the same page, and sit in the same room before and after the game, or it just doesn't work.

Need some proof? Look at John Rocker in Atlanta, Carl Everett in Boston, and Rickey Henderson anywhere. Hell, look no further than Kevin Brown, whose seven-year, $105 million, six-private-jet-flights-from-L.A.-to-Georgia-each-season contract started this ugly ball rolling. Brown has pitched well, but what of the Dodgers? Underacheivers ever since he came to town.

Oh, and by the way, Brown is a Boras client.

So I ask, once and for all - would you give A-Rod what he wants? Some GMs, including the aforementioned Mets boss Steve Phillips, have said no. And when you think about it, the Mets need A-Rod more than anyone else in baseball. They have a shortstop who couldn't hit in Denver, play in the biggest market in baseball, are coming off of a World Series appearance, would love to add another twist to their rivalry with the Yankees, and play in a city that loves controversy.

But amidst all of that, Phillips said no, because he realizes that baseball is a team game and can not be won by one player. Given the rift that A-Rod's presence could cause in a clubhouse that already includes superstars Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, and Edgardo Alfonzo, the Mets resources would be better spent on pitching and an outfielder, preferably one who wants to be part of the team, not part of his agent's ego trip.

So I implore the brains behind the operations in Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, and Colorado. Follow the lead of the Mets. Let A-Rod pen his own legend before you treat him as if it's already written. And if he proves that he can be That Guy, then you can think about what might have been.

But trust me, it wouldn't have been - not in this game.

Send Sully your opinions, comments or verbal abuse at sully@JBaseball.

© 2000 JBaseball 

"How can you not be romantic about baseball?" - Moneyball.