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July 14, 2008 at 11:05 pm ET
2 Comments
We’re the reason A-Rod wasn’t in the Home Run Derby

Rodriguez: You'll get nothing and like it!It’s a slow news day when the usually intelligent Jayson Stark, senior writer for espn.com, decides to write an article that mostly ignores logic, common sense, and, well, reality.

For some reason, Stark considers a home run derby in Yankee stadium without a Yankee participant to be some sort of crime. Then, since every crime needs a suspect, he assigns one: Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod not participating in the Home Run Derby (televised on ESPN by the way) is apparently tantamount to a crime.

According to his sources, Baseball wanted Rodriguez to be the centerpiece of the derby but Rodriguez just wasn’t interested. Without their first choice they ‘settled’ for David Ortiz, but after Ortiz was sidelined with a wrist injury they came calling for Rodriguez once again. Rodriguez turned them down again.

Somehow, in Stark’s mind, this was problematic;

it’s still an affront to the baseball fans of New York that a man who structured an entire contract negotiation last winter around his $300 million desire to set the all-time home run record as a Yankee couldn’t work a little Home Run Derby action into his schedule.

Apparently being an all-time home run leader candidate makes participation in home run derbys mandatory.

A-Rod, as a lame excuse, said that he didn’t want to set his swing back. Stark does an excellent job in the article of showing why that idea is ridiculous, which begs the question: Why isn’t A-Rod taking part in the derby?

The answer is quite simple. Us.

Stark asked a baseball official to enlighten us about A-Rod’s true reasoning for passing on the contest and follows it up with a ridiculous comment;

“I’ll tell you why he doesn’t want to do it,” theorized an official of one team Sunday. “He’s afraid he’s gonna get Madonna-fied.”

And there’s a good chance that’s exactly what A-Rod is afraid of. He’s afraid of not winning. He’s afraid of being ripped in the tabloids. He’s afraid of hearing it’s all Madonna’s fault. But ask yourself something. Is that how our biggest stars are supposed to think? Is that how they’re supposed to act? Don’t they have a responsibility to their sport that’s bigger than themselves? Don’t they have a responsibility to their team, in seasons like this and settings like this, to put their own personal schtick aside?

Stark is right that it’s not how our biggest stars are supposed to think, but it is exactly how Alex Rodriguez has been forced to think. Any responsibility that Alex Rodriguez might have to the game of baseball and to its fans is completely and utterly wiped out by the sour treatment he is given by the media and by the fans. The real reason Alex Rodriguez is not participating in the Home Run Derby is because the New York tabloid media and the rest of the sporting world has created a situation were he has nothing to gain and everything to lose. If he doesn’t do his best, speculation will sprout from across the country as to what caused this catastrophic failure. Was he out all night partying? Did he spend the night with a woman? Was he distracted by Madonna? These are only some of the questions that will splattered across media outlets after A-Rod fails to capture the Home Run Derby title in Yankee stadium.

If he were to play, and he won, what does he gain? Respect of his peers? Not really. Respect from the fans? Not really that either. Even if there was some gained respect for having a better batting practice on one given day, the next fantastic revelation into his personal life will wipe out all of that good will just like hitting into a double play to end the game. Will winning the Home Run Derby change the way he’s portrayed in the media? Not one single bit.

Basically, there are a laundry list of ways that participating in the Home Run Derby could go sour for Rodriguez and not one single way joining the festivities could benefit him. Yet, Jayson Stark feels that he owes us the privilege of seeing him perform. We have everything to gain and he has nothing, yet somehow he’s obligated to perform for us, similar to a circus monkey perhaps.

Stark really tries to get him with this zinger of an ending;

But it’s not important enough, apparently, for Alex Rodriguez to risk not living up to his own ego. How sad is that?

Some day, A-Rod wants people to watch him walk down the street and say, “There goes the real home run king.” Well, we hate to break it to him, but real home run kings think the Home Run Derby is part of their job description, not somebody else’s problem. Especially when it’s a Home Run Derby in their very own town — and their very own temple of baseball.

To be honest, I don’t think Stark believes anything he wrote in this article, save for the debunking of the Home Run Derby hurts your swing myth, but let’s examine that last statement.

“Real home run kings think the Home Run Derby is part of their job description.” That’s a little confusing. Real home run king can only refer to one of two people. The former home run king, Babe Ruth, who never participated in the Home Run Derby, for obvious reasons, or the current home run king, Barry Bonds, who took part in 6 derbys but declined to participate last season, the year he was to become the home run king, in his very own ballpark – and probably for the exact same reasons as Rodriguez. I may be reading into this too much, but the way ‘real’ is italicized, Stark appears to be taking a swipe at Bonds which is strange as Bonds is the only home run king ever to have participated in the Home Run Derby. Regardless, it just doesn’t make any sense to say that the fake spectacle that is the Home Run Derby is anyone’s obligation.

” Especially when it’s a Home Run Derby in their very own town.” Since Stark chose to tear apart the ‘bad for your swing’ myth, we here at Bugs and Cranks will not tear apart the ‘having a home town player in the Home Run Derby is a good idea’ myth.

In the last 20 years of the Home Run Derby there has only been a hometown participant half the time. Of the ten years that a hometown player took a swing at the Derby crown, exactly 4 of them have put forward what could even be called a semi-decent effort – one of those guys was Ivan Rodriguez who is by no means a home run hitter – and exactly zero times did the hometown player actually win the Derby. So hometown players only perform above mediocre 40% of the time and not a single one has ever won. This doesn’t sound like very stable ground to be standing on if you want to proclaim that having a hometown presence is a good idea, especially when you consider that the hometown idea gave us the luxory of watching natural sluggers Brett Boone and Nomar Garciaparra compete (5 combined home runs, by the way).

The idea that a hometown player needs to play in the Home Run Derby is ridiculous, but it’s overshadowed by the farcicle notion that a player who is treated so poorly and has nothing to gain and everything to lose should perform for our own entertainment.

Jason Stark is much smarter than this. It was a slow news day indeed.

photo by Rafael

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2 Responses to “We’re the reason A-Rod wasn’t in the Home Run Derby”
  1. Jeff says:

    Never thought of it like that, very good insight there Hulk.

  2. B.E. Earl says:

    I dunno. He’s opted out of the derby in previous years. Before he was afraid of Madonnafication.

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