I have come to the conclusion that there are three topics that should be avoided in polite conversation because too many people are unable to talk about them without becoming bat-guano crazy. Those three are religion, politics and Alex Rodriguez.
The latest evidence: By a 2-1 vote, the panel of baseball thinkers on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" believes the New York Yankees should trade Alex Rodriguez. Dump him. Get rid of him.
And not because the Yankees have a lot of needs that could be filled by a great package of players Rodriguez might bring. Oh, no. The idea is that the Yankees need to trade Rodriguez because he's a lousy baseball player now. Rodriguez has been struggling since the start of June, and is in a terrible slump at the moment, 4-for-27, with five errors at third base in the past week.
That's right, future G.M.'s, listen and learn. The advice here is: Sell low.
John Kruk disagreed. That's how crazy the idea the Yanks "need" to trade A-Rod is -- an idea illustrated with video of Rodriguez this week becoming the youngest player ever to hit his 450th career home run. John Kruk is the voice of reason. That crazy.
It's so out there it's "plutonic," if I may borrow a wonderful malapropism from a New Jersey divorce case in which New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is named as the other man. The Boston Herald reports that in court papers the wife in the case admits receiving gifts from a male friend she doesn't name, but that their relationship is "plutonic."
Plutonic. I've had a few of those relationships myself. But I digress.
"When booing becomes the thing to do with New York fans, you just can't beat 'em, you can't overcome it," Steve Phillips said on a cut-in segment during "SportsCenter." "And now we're seeing this compounded because he's struggling. He's over-trying, trying to compensate, trying to please the fans."
Demonstrating the kind of oracular vision he demonstrated when trading for washed-up veterans Jeromy Burnitz, Roberto Alomar and Mo Vaughn as general manager of the New York Mets, Phillips concluded, "His play won't come back, and he's not ever going to win over the fans in New York. I think it's time to move him before it's too late."
Harold Reynolds, who's a good game analyst whom I wish ESPN would put in the booth more often, said, "Steve, I kind of agree with you on the fact that they probably should move him but it's for different points." Reynolds then explained that the problems are that A-Rod is struggling in New York and getting booed a lot, and that "he's not going to get back to that player that we're accustomed to seeing, with all the turmoil going on."
In other words, those "different points" were the exact same points.
Good God, is there no one to inject some reason into this discussion? Oh, thank goodness, here's John Kruk:
"Gee, I disagree with both of you. You don't become the best player in baseball by being mentally weak or not being able to handle pressure situations. I think Alex Rodriguez is going to be fine ... I think he's going to come out of this, I think he's going to have a great season. He's not going to be MVP, but he'll be right there at the end."
Reynolds then brought up that Rodriguez would have to approve any trade -- he said this week that he'd have vetoed a rumored trade to Philadelphia were it brought off -- which is as close as anyone came to mentioning that trading A-Rod now might be a bad idea because, in the history of baseball, and in fact in the history of all humankind, A-Rod's trade value has never been lower than it is right now, in the last week of July 2006.
But let's look at the case being made: After roughly a decade as the best player in baseball, including an MVP award last year, won while playing for the Yankees and getting booed by New Yorkers, and including the American League Player of the Month award in May -- this May, two months ago -- won while playing for the Yankees and getting booed by New Yorkers, Alex Rodriguez cannot produce while playing for the Yankees and getting booed by New Yorkers.
"See, the problem he has is you can't be better than the best, and at the best, he continues to get booed," Phillips said, and buckle your seat belts, kids, he's about to veer into a logical ditch. "MVP, Player of the Month, it doesn't matter. He's not accepted in New York. He'll never be able to perform with the crowd on his back all season long."
Got that? Even when he's playing better than anyone else in the American League for a whole month or a whole year, he won't be able to play well because the fans are booing him.
I find it helps if you bang your head on a desk.
Rodriguez has had 10-plus sparkling seasons and seven bad weeks. This week, he'll turn 31, so it's not likely he's entering his decline phase. But something must be wrong with him. And if you don't believe me, just ask any team the Yankees might be talking to about trading for him.
They'll be happy to list all the reasons Rodriguez probably won't ever return to his MVP form as they offer a package of middle relievers and backup catchers for him.
Phillips would probably take it, which is what got him started in the TV business.
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Legit inside-the-parkers, and other myths [PERMALINK]
Since the death of the 500-foot outfield, is there such a thing as a legitimate inside-the-park home run? I haven't seen one.
I counted at least one and maybe two errors on Adrian Beltre's "home run" for the Seattle Mariners against the Boston Red Sox Sunday, and that's only because tradition dictates that an outfielder not be charged with an error if he misjudges a fly ball so badly that it lands several area codes away from where he's waiting for it.
Beltre lifted a towering fly ball to center field in the bottom of the eighth inning. Boston's Coco Crisp raced back, leapt against the fence -- and had the ball clang off the wall about 10 feet to his right.
Now, that wouldn't have been an error even if Crisp had been in the right place and just not made the catch, because catching it would have been a great play, which can't be expected. He also may have been in the wrong place because he lost the ball in the sun, which is usually not scored an error.
But it's a misplay. If you're not going to catch a ball like that, you have to at least get a body part on it so it doesn't carom back toward the infield, or you have to concede the hit and play the carom.
Left fielder Manny Ramirez -- doing the right thing by backing up Crisp, but let's face it, when Manny Ramirez is around, your chances for an inside-the-park home run go way up -- swiped at the bouncing ball with his bare hand, a move that knocked the ball back toward Crisp when Ramirez failed to grasp it.
Ramirez then helpfully pointed to the ball so Crisp could retrieve it. Even with that effort, it's an E7 in my scorebook.
Crisp picked up the errant cowhide and heaved it over the heads of a multitude of cutoff men. I'd call that another error, though most official scorers wouldn't. As Beltre raced for home, third baseman Mike Lowell finally picked up the rolling ball and threw home too late.
Little League home run.
You know what? Most triples wouldn't happen with solid outfield play, though there are exceptions when a fast runner finds a quirky corner of a park or hits one exactly where the defense thought he wouldn't.
And I'm still waiting to see a straight steal of home, grainy black-and-white Jackie Robinson highlights included, that isn't the result of the pitcher idiotically ignoring the very fast runner dancing down the line from third.
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