Only On YES is A-Rod a No

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It’s eerily appropriate that the acronym YES for the YES Network stands for “Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network” when their content is similar to that which you’ll find on Vince McMahon’s WWE (acronym for World Wrestling Entertainment).

McMahon changed the name to WWE from WWF because the World Wildlife Federation had trademarked the acronym WWF. In a successful 1989 effort to deregulate professional wrestling by admitting that it’s not a sporting event, McMahon publicly disclosed what anyone with a brain already knew: professional wrestling is staged. Maybe the Yankees should follow suit by admitting that YES has nothing to do with being a journalistic enterprise. With the Steinbrenners intent on saving money to the tune of downgrading their product from signing the likes of Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia to signing Russ Canzler and considering Travis Hafner (a welcome addition to any team’s disabled list), perhaps they can find a way to avoid paying the government freight that a news/sports organization has to pay for being a news/sports organization.

Perform a websearch with the words, “YES Network A-Rod PEDs,” and a perfunctory link comes up with the YES banner and an Associated Press news story. But if you go onto YESNetwork.com and look on the front page or do a search on their website for anything regarding A-Rod, there’s nothing.

How is it possible?

The YES Network is not providing one ounce of information that has not been vetted and is viewed as beneficial to the Yankees brand. As it has degenerated into a tacit example of spin-doctoring, they’ve lowered themselves to the degree that nothing they say can be taken at face value. All of their information must be verified elsewhere by an independent source.

It’s long been known that YES is the propaganda arm of the Yankees, but they’ve become so brazen in bypassing legitimate news and joyously wallowing in a lack of journalistic integrity that it’s basically an infomercial of positivity for the club and no one working there can be considered a journalist in any form.

This will undoubtedly come as another blow to the ego of Jack Curry, he of the Twitter tantrums, name calling and accusations of professional malfeasance when he “reports” a story simultaneously to others reporting it; a story that was approved by his bosses (the Yankees) and given to him directly through no effort on his part other than answering his phone. The YES Network is a sham of a sports news network and no amount of self-congratulatory shows celebrating 10 years of existence; Yankee-laced historical recollections of greatness; or pronouncements promising to dispense the latest Yankee news will supersede the unconscionable, egregious choice not to discuss the latest controversy surrounding Alex Rodriguez as if ignoring it can make it go away.

So immersed in their image as a worldwide brand that is aboveboard and “better” than those they perceive as beneath them, they refuse to allow reality to get in the way of maintaining the crumbling veneer even if it’s a story that is everywhere and being discussed by everyone.

Did the born on the Fourth of July patriot George Steinbrenner—he of the edicts that every player stand on the top step of the dugout during The Star Spangled Banner and that God Bless America be played in lieu of Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch—really want to create a network that is closer to what would be seen in North Korea and the former Soviet Union than it is to one of the foundations of our democracy, freedom of the press?

From the time Joe Torre was being peppered with questions from Kim Jones that were coming from upper management; to the failure acknowledge injuries to Jose Campos and other minor league “phenoms”; to the Brian Cashman blackmail scandal; to the latest decision not to intelligently discuss A-Rod’s latest leap from the back of the newspaper to the front of the newspaper, the depths to which YES plunges are a bottomless pit of subterfuge.

As the Yankees stars age and their on-field product declines, the lack of respect for the media has extended from Jason Zillo refusing to grant access to a credentialed reporter because Zillo is the “gatekeeper” and the organization doesn’t like the story that is being written. It’s tumbling further into an abyss of embarrassing and insular silence that benefits no one, especially not the Yankees.

There’s not a blurring of the line between what the club wants out there and what is actually going on. What they don’t want out there is treated as if it doesn’t exist. They’re miraculously surpassing their longstanding hubris by presenting content that makes each and every fan watching look like an idiot. Do they think that if the A-Rod story is not reported on YES, a vast number of fans won’t know about it?

It’s not going to go away. Nor is A-Rod. So they might as well put forth the pretense of doing something other than selling the Yankees brand by informing rather than covering up. Everyone knows about it whether YES has it on their website or not. Trust me. All they’re succeeding in doing is making their network look more absurd than it did before, and that’s no small accomplishment.

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The Hypocrisy of the Melky Cabrera Aftermath

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Amid the shock (really?) and indignation (really?) at Melky Cabrera’s failed PED test and admission that he took a banned substance, few if any have acknowledged the juiced up elephant in the room that was present while Cabrera was being celebrated for dedicating himself to physical fitness and fulfilling his so-called “potential”. That elephant being a wondrous jump in production that was so unlikely and unexpected that it should’ve been asked months ago: is he taking anything to account for the newfound success?

Instead of the preemptive suggestion that the foundation of Cabrera’s career year was the result of hard work and more than a little luck, there’s the postscript from people like Joel Sherman saying that there were “whispers” that he failed a test in late July. Then why didn’t you report it Joel? Or plant it as an anonymous story somewhere? Considering who you work for and your nonexistent journalistic ethics, you know how to do that, don’t you? Of course you do.

Mr. Twitter Tantrum and thin-skinned re-tweeting maestro himself Jack Curry continued his skill at stating the obvious by speculating on how much money Cabrera cost himself as a free agent at the end of the season without accounting for the fact that Cabrera wasn’t a particularly highly regarded player before and if he hadn’t used, he wouldn’t be putting up the numbers he is now; objectively, it was worth it for him to try and get away with it in the interests of getting paid.

Jon Heyman, after the fact, said it was “too good to be true”. Yeah. No kidding.

And Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi sounded like the conservative dad shaking his head at “kids today” by saying Cabrera’s predicament was “disappointing”. Was it “disappointing” when Alex Rodriguez got caught and admitted to drug use? Or did A-Rod’s use and the Yankees’ silence as an organization regarding it fall under the auspices of supporting a “family” member because he was a Yankee? In hindsight, judging from his increased injuries and declining numbers, is A-Rod’s fragility and slowing bat attributable to age or was he taking boosters as a Yankee and getting away with it?

A-Rod was a mentor to Cabrera and has talent that Cabrera could never dream of having, drugs or not. They’ve worked out together and A-Rod pushed Cabrera to get in shape. I haven’t seen anyone saying that perhaps Cabrera emulated A-Rod to the point of doing what his mentor once did and had justified with contracts that, by the time he’s done, will have netted him around half-a-billion dollars.

The hypocrisy and bottom-line self-righteous idiocy is profound.

The reality of this kind of statistical jump and era of drug availability and use can’t even be mentioned for fear of a raging freakout similar to Raul Ibanez’s in 2009 when it was asked how a good player suddenly morphed into an MVP candidate in his first half-season with the Phillies. Ibanez was never caught having used anything and his numbers fell precipitously after that first half. But Ibanez was a very good and underrated player before he got to Philadelphia and had consistent power numbers throughout his career, so the cloud of suspicion was purely circumstantial. Without in-depth research to the whys of his decline, it could be explained that the pitchers in National League were challenging Ibanez with fastballs the first go-round through the league and once they discovered how to exploit his decreasing bat speed and that he had to start his swing earlier to account for it making him susceptible to off-speed stuff, they got him out when he guessed wrong. It’s probably more due to that than any drug use.

But at the time, it was fair to wonder.

Had Cabrera found a way to circumnavigate the test or simply gotten lucky and not been tested, this would’ve continued along with the media and fans nodding appreciatively at Cabrera’s rise; he’d have finished with a career season, maybe a batting title, MVP votes and possibly a championship ring. Then he’d have gotten paid handsomely this winter as a free agent.

Instead he got caught.

Mentioning Ryan Braun in the same sentence with Cabrera is ridiculous. Braun is an All-Star player and MVP candidate without drugs. Cabrera isn’t. Braun legally stickhandled his way around a suspension for PEDs and Cabrera confessed. All that does is make Cabrera a more honest person than Braun, but not a talent in Braun’s class. With players like Cabrera, it’s as if we’re not even allowed to stop and say, “Wait a second…”; as if what should be a little obvious given the history of this player is somehow wrong. It’s not an accusation. In the end it’s just a question. And in the end, considering how Cabrera blossomed into an All-Star (and the MVP of the All-Star Game), it was a legitimate question because Cabrera didn’t blossom into anything. He used PEDs and got busted. The explanation for Cabrera is in front of us and the question could have been asked when he was being celebrated in May and the Royals, Braves and Yankees were savaged for letting him go.

Now we know why, should’ve suspected months ago and openly said it. But no one—including me—did. The pompous and judgmental head shaking is only making it worse. At least I’m not doing that.

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Revisiting the A-Rod Contract

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Rob Neyer wrote this piece in yesterday’s NY Times about Alex Rodriguez‘s contract with the Yankees.

Rationality doesn’t exist when Hank Steinbrenner insinuates himself into a negotiation so it shouldn’t have been a shock when the Yankees decided to reward A-Rod for opting out of his contract in 2007. Because the contract has become so toxic and A-Rod is physically deteriorating right before our eyes, the Yankees can reasonably wonder what they’re going to get from him in the immediate and distant future.

Tied in with that contract and the Yankees desperate hopes to get something—anything—out of A-Rod, it’s not surprising that they let him go to Germany for experimental procedures on his shoulder and knee.

Considering how onerous that contract is, that the team is cognizant of the new luxury tax guidelines and wants to stay below what amounts to a salary cap by 2014, A-Rod’s deal is a sinkhole in their budget and it’s showing up in their scarcity of moves this winter—they’ve stood pat when they really aren’t in a position to stand pat.

The horrible contract aside, it’s doubtful that they ever expected him to be a problem in the lineup as well as on the ledger.

There was always the “well, it’s A-Rod” argument that he’d produce for the team in some way independent of salary; the money’s gone and it’s not coming back, but at least he’d play every day and hit.

But he’s not playing every day; his hitting is declining; his defensive range is decreasing; and he’s got six years remaining on that contract.

Amid the numerous reasons why Steinbrenner’s intervention was idiotic, there were justifications that they’d get offense from the player for the duration.

Accounting for extenuating circumstances and the closing window of chemical assistance (PEDs), a 33% dropoff in his home run output in 2007 would still yield MVP-quality numbers with 38 homers plus huge on-base and slugging percentages. Greatness diminished is still greatness; if A-Rod were better than the rest of baseball while using enhancers, he’d be better than the rest of baseball playing clean.

It made sense in theory.

He’d been durable and the last thing the Yankees were expecting was this dramatic physical breakdown.

A-Rod’s contrition for the ill-timed opt-out during the 2007 World Series and subsequent split with Scott Boras masked the fact that he got what he wanted—a ridiculous extension—from the whole episode.

The drug use aiding players’ performance into their late-30s to replicate what they did in their 20s implied that there was little risk in a contract that kept a great player past his 40th birthday—worst case, he’d walk a lot and be a threat in the lineup with 25 homers. That’s still productive and useful.

But A-Rod is coming apart physically. If Steinbrenner had been persuaded that a mid-to-late 30s decline was inevitable while taking history and the new drug testing (amphetamines included) into account, the Yankees might’ve avoided this nightmarish contract. But the baseball people must’ve figured they’d get something out of him even in the old-man years.

Now it doesn’t look like they’re going to.

They’ll certainly be paying for it though.

Literally and figuratively.

I’m planning on adding a Fantasy Baseball page onto my site and don’t play Fantasy Baseball—you can see my conundrum. So if you can write and know Roto (and I really don’t care what you say as long as you don’t give me a lot of editing work, aggravation and know what you’re talking about), email me on the contact link at the top of the page.

It’s unpaid, but people will read your stuff.

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