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View Full Version : Good article about A-Rod/HR record



vaticanplum
04-02-2006, 11:49 PM
As always with the Times, you must register, but it's free:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/02/sports/baseball/02homers.html

A good read. I think it's kind of premature to speak about A-Rod's possibilities of surpassing Aaron -- and, more to the point, Bonds, if he passes Aaron first -- and the whole steroid situation is still pretty sticky. But the article paints A-Rod in a very good light that I think we sometimes forget.

I was speaking with a friend today about the intense hatred A-Rod endures. Much of it, of course, comes simply from the fact that he's so freaking good, and so there's bound to be jealousy, sour grapes, what have you. But even so, I wonder why he's not more revered and looked up to than he is. He is absolutely vilified in some circles, for some of the following reasons, as far as I can gather:

1. "He's wishy-washy." First of all, as this article goes to great lengths to point out (not that it's not pretty obvious), Alex Rodriguez has one of the strongest work ethics in the majors. He's kind of a freak about it, actually. Not exactly what I'd qualify as wishy-washy. Then there was the whole what-team-do-I-compete-for fiasco with the WBC. I think this is perfect evidence of A-Rod's biggest character flaw -- not problem, but flaw, as we all have: he is still so concerned about what other people think about him. It is, in my opinion, what hampers in the postseason. He puts so much pressure on himself to be perfect that it backfires on him. It's not wishy-washiness; it's immaturity and self-doubt. He'll grow out of this once he learns to say I don't give a flip what you think once in a while.

2. "He went with the money." Well, cry me a river. You show me one kid who wouldn't have taken that kind of money to go play for a perenially contending team, and I will show you a kid who does not play major league baseball. Notably absent from these people's arguments? He switched positions for the good of his team. he deferred to the hero of the team, who is a poorer shortstop, in order to play for the Yankees without disrupting the atmosphere of their clubhouse. We can argue the management's decision in this case all we want -- I happen to think that, in the end, it was a good one -- but the fact is the decision and the work that it took to become the excellent third baseman that he has are noble things.

3. "He knocked the ball out of Arroyo's hand." He was in a desperate situation. he panicked. It was not intentional, and many people would have done the same thing.

And all the rest. He has pink lips. He admitted being in therapy. etc. These really aren't even worth argument.

The funny thing is, I am a huge Yankees fan and I was appalled by this trade. I thought it was a horrible move for a name player and I didn't think things would work out. I wasn't convinced by his first season there; he did have trouble adjusting in all the ways I expected him to (and frankly, the fact that he did so more last year makes me think better of him. He's gotten used to not being the only superstar anymore.) And he's never been my favorite guy. At times, he has rubbed me the wrong way. But in a sport filled with guys who are nasty, who knock down cameramen and are awful to fans, I have gotten to the point where I am really at a loss as to see why A-Rod is regarded as a jerk. And this article really brings it all home to me. He is an amazing, amazing ballplayer, offensively and defensively. He's hit 400 homers earlier than anybody else in baseball. he works incredibly hard. He's rumored to be a pretty nice guy. He doesn't have that unshakable confidence that his teammate Jeter has, but then many people who use this as a reason to hate A-Rod use that exact contrary argument to hate Jeter as well. A-Rod is a superstar with the media and makes tons of money in endorsements, but I don't get the impression that the country as a whole views him with much affection.

I guess my point is kind of that I feel A-Rod's accomplishments to date are amazing, and while they're certainly recognized, I feel that if he had a stronger personality -- even stronger in a "bad" way -- or if he played for any other team, he'd be a million times more revered for them. It's still very early, but if A-Rod does continue on this path to break the record, and he doesn't get the attention for doing so that Bonds does, for any of the reasons listed above, or because he's a Yankee, or because he doesn't have the inflammatory look-at-me personality that Bonds does, or because there's no controversy because there's no evidence of steroids with A-Rod then I think that will be a really sad commentary on the sport of baseball.

Cyclone792
04-03-2006, 01:45 AM
I guess my point is kind of that I feel A-Rod's accomplishments to date are amazing, and while they're certainly recognized, I feel that if he had a stronger personality -- even stronger in a "bad" way -- or if he played for any other team, he'd be a million times more revered for them. It's still very early, but if A-Rod does continue on this path to break the record, and he doesn't get the attention for doing so that Bonds does, for any of the reasons listed above, or because he's a Yankee, or because he doesn't have the inflammatory look-at-me personality that Bonds does, or because there's no controversy because there's no evidence of steroids with A-Rod then I think that will be a really sad commentary on the sport of baseball.

Fans are fickle, and oftentimes some fans do not even realize just how special a player is while the player is still very much in their peak seasons. I'm a fan of Alex Rodriguez, and much of that is because it's fun to watch a player that you know is already one of the greatest ever to play the game. I could care less how much money he makes or what kind of personality he has, and I'm not going to let something as petty as those reasons rob me from enjoying how special of a player Rodriguez is. I guess it's just a deep apprecation for how great of a player he really is. Albert Pujols also fits that category of a present player entering his peak or still in his peak who will likely retire and be on the very short list of some of the greatest players the game's ever seen.

Even if Alex Rodriguez never played another baseball game in his life, I would still rank him in the top 25-30 position players of all-time, perhaps even higher, in a list that also included Negro Leaguers. That's simply remarkable for a player that's not yet 31-years-old. He's already arguably the second greatest shortstop ever to play the game (after this season, he should be a lock for that title), and it's possible that he may still finish his career with more games played at shortstop than any other position, including third base. So long as he plays more games at shortstop than any other position, he'll be considered a shortstop.

I do think Rodriguez is a much better defensive shortstop than Jeter, and I also think the Yankees made a mistake in moving Alex instead of Derek, but the historical reasoning is the biggest reason I was disappointed that the Yankees moved him to third.

No worries, though, Rodriguez will get the accolades he deserves eventually. It may not be until he's past the age of 35, but other fans will start to recognize just how great of a player he's been. Unfortunately for some of them, they won't realize it until his skills are diminished and he's beyond his peak, but that'll be their loss.

Jpup
04-03-2006, 07:16 AM
The reason that a lot of people don't like him is simple, he plays for the Yankees. I think that he is the greatest baseball player on the planet and I don't think it's even that close.

big boy
04-03-2006, 10:41 AM
2. "He went with the money." Well, cry me a river. You show me one kid who wouldn't have taken that kind of money to go play for a perenially contending team, and I will show you a kid who does not play major league baseball.

I don't recall Texas being a perennial contender when he went with the money.

vaticanplum
04-03-2006, 10:45 AM
I don't recall Texas being a perennial contender when he went with the money.

Well, I was talking about the Yankees...did people have much of a problem when he took a bigger salary to play in Texas too? I don't remember that...did anybody really expect him to stay in Seattle? If that's people's argument against him, that's ridiculous. That's why free agency exists and every single decent player in baseball goes through that.

DropDocK
04-03-2006, 11:08 AM
I like A-Rod and always have. There were two baseball posters on my wall growing up: Barry and A-Rod.

Had he stayed in Seattle and really made it his team after Junior left, I think he might be judged in a different way and become more of a leader. I couldn't blame him for taking that un-godly amount of money from Texas either, even though it disappointed me. And now I WILL tune in and watch the Yanks instead of cursing and changing the channel.

The therapy issues are his private life and don't bother me. This day in age it shouldn't be something to snicker about. He's a good guy and felt he needed the help, so what? Good for him. Maybe he can be a better father than his dad was.

A-Rod will always be my favorite out of his generation of shortstops.

WMR
04-03-2006, 11:21 AM
If Barry passes Hank, I'll become a huge fan of seeing A-Rod become the HR champ. Such is my disdain for Barry Bonds that I'd root for a Yankee to hold yet another record...

puca
04-03-2006, 11:45 AM
I used to be a huge fan of ARod. He was my favorite player when he came up, but I thought he played Seattle and really damaged them in the end. That and the fact that I hate the Yankees has brought me to the point I openly root against him. The thing I find most odd is that the other baseball players don't seem to like him very much, and I really don't know why that is.

He is without question the best natural (at least I think he's natural) player of this decade, and he's not outwardly a bad human being, so I'm sure in the end I will be rooting for him to pass Bonds.

big boy
04-03-2006, 01:42 PM
did people have much of a problem when he took a bigger salary to play in Texas too?

I believe he took some heat when he insisted that winning was his priority but, in 2001, Texas stunk while Seattle won well over 100 games. He could have been the difference Seattle needed to win the World Series. Instead, he chose the big dollars.

UC_Ken
04-03-2006, 01:49 PM
Put me in the camp of ARod fans who were disappointed he took Texas' money but completely understood. If someone offers you $250 million you would have to assume that he's serious about winning and will try to put people around him. I still can't believe that the Yankees are wasting his talent at 3rd base. Jeter is one of the worst defensive shortstops of all time, that isn't opinion that's a fact. If you don't believe it read Mind Game, the story of the '04 Red Sox and it explains it clearly.

vaticanplum
04-03-2006, 02:03 PM
Jeter is one of the worst defensive shortstops of all time, that isn't opinion that's a fact. If you don't believe it read Mind Game, the story of the '04 Red Sox and it explains it clearly.

Jeter is not on A-Rod's level, but I strongly disagree that he is "one of the worst defensive shortstops of all time". His range is limited, though much improved, especially to his left. If anything A-Rod has helped him there, allowing Jeter to cheat up the middle more. He's not particularly great with his feet either. But he's got great hands, good instincts and speed, and he's excellent at tracking fly balls. He's not a high-above-average shortstop, but he's certainly decent, and though he's overrated by some in the media I do feel that as a shortstop he's sometimes underrated by people who don't bother to watch the Yankees regularly.

Maldonado
04-03-2006, 02:13 PM
I guess my point is kind of that I feel A-Rod's accomplishments to date are amazing, and while they're certainly recognized, I feel that if he had a stronger personality -- even stronger in a "bad" way -- or if he played for any other team, he'd be a million times more revered for them. It's still very early, but if A-Rod does continue on this path to break the record, and he doesn't get the attention for doing so that Bonds does, for any of the reasons listed above, or because he's a Yankee, or because he doesn't have the inflammatory look-at-me personality that Bonds does, or because there's no controversy because there's no evidence of steroids with A-Rod then I think that will be a really sad commentary on the sport of baseball.[/QUOTE]

This shows a simple axiom of human nature - when you're on top, there are an abundance of people who want to knock you down. A Rod bashing is now a cottage industry.

Cyclone792
04-03-2006, 02:40 PM
Jeter is not on A-Rod's level, but I strongly disagree that he is "one of the worst defensive shortstops of all time". His range is limited, though much improved, especially to his left. If anything A-Rod has helped him there, allowing Jeter to cheat up the middle more. He's not particularly great with his feet either. But he's got great hands, good instincts and speed, and he's excellent at tracking fly balls. He's not a high-above-average shortstop, but he's certainly decent, and though he's overrated by some in the media I do feel that as a shortstop he's sometimes underrated by people who don't bother to watch the Yankees regularly.

Jeter has a career -124 FRAA (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/dt/jeterde01.shtml).
In 2005, he was among the worst defensive shortstops according to David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range (http://www.baseballmusings.com/archives/012856.php).
Bill James writes in The Fielder's Bible (http://www.actapublications.com/detail.html?&id=063) that Jeter is A) likely the worst defensive shortstop in the game today, B) likely the worst defensive regular in the game today at any position, and C) quite possibly the worst defensive shortstop of all-time.
In Lichtman's UZR, Jeter was downright awful. TangoTiger (http://www.tangotiger.net/UZR0003.html) analyzed UZR from 2000-2003, applied a weighting system for each season, and concluded that Jeter is approximately -28 UZR runs per 162 games played. That was good for dead last among shortstops, and it was the fourth worst total among regular players at any position with 120 minimum weighted games.
In The Hardball Times (http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/2005-gold-gloves/), David Gassko introduced a fielding range system that showed Derek Jeter at -16 runs above average in 2005.

Fielding metrics still have quite a bit of work to do, but it's essentially unanimous among many highly touted systems currently available that Jeter is beyond lousy defensively at shortstop. Gassko's fielding range system disagrees with Pinto's PMR on quite a few players, but even they agree that Jeter is terrible. Unfortunately for Jeter, he's only going to get worse as he ages (see Junior Griffey). Right now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that Jeter is the worst defensive shortstop of all-time, but if he plays the position for another half dozen years, he'll certainly have a say in laying a claim to that title.

If the Yankees were smart, they'd have moved Jeter to third when they acquired Rodriguez.

vaticanplum
04-03-2006, 03:13 PM
If the Yankees were smart, they'd have moved Jeter to third when they acquired Rodriguez.

I wouldn't argue that. In the end, it worked out better than I expected, but I do agree with you there.

The stats are good, and telling to a degree -- but 2005 was a particularly bad year for him defensively. I think 2006 will be better for him with Cano permanent and improving and no Bernie behind him.

UC_Ken
04-03-2006, 05:16 PM
Someone probably has the stats but I believe 2005 was Jeter's best year ever defensively and he was still way below average. Anyway I understand you defending your guy but Jeter is a miserable fielder, always has been, always will be.

vaticanplum
04-03-2006, 05:30 PM
Someone probably has the stats but I believe 2005 was Jeter's best year ever defensively and he was still way below average. Anyway I understand you defending your guy but Jeter is a miserable fielder, always has been, always will be.

I'm too caught up in the game to look it up right now, but I believe that 2004 was his best year defensively.

Look, I'm not defending "my guy", I'm under no delusions that he's an excellent fielder. But the original point was that he's the "worst shortstop of all time" and that's simply not true. And I do feel that people sometimes rag on him unnecessarily without ever really watching him.

Cyclone put up stats; that's valid and they show his weaknesses very well. But out-and-out blanket statements about how miserable he is "and always will be" are weak arguments and are not going to convince me in and of themselves.

gilpdawg
04-03-2006, 07:27 PM
Interesting article. It's weird. I still think of A-Rod as a "young" player, even though he's over 30 now. It's weird to me that he'll hit his 500th homer sometime in 2007, seeing as how he was a rookie when I was in high school. I'm getting old, guys. :) I think A-Rod is a lock for 650-700 homers, and probably a lot more unless he retires early, which is possible.

Cyclone792
04-03-2006, 08:35 PM
Look, I'm not defending "my guy", I'm under no delusions that he's an excellent fielder. But the original point was that he's the "worst shortstop of all time" and that's simply not true. And I do feel that people sometimes rag on him unnecessarily without ever really watching him.

The worst shortstop of all-time label may not be as difficult to achieve as it appears. Shortstop has long been considered a defense-first position in the majors, and guys who weren't able to play the position adequately defensively usually found themselves at another position or out of a job altogether, depending on how well they swung the bat. It's very rare for a bad defensive shortstop to remain at the position for as long as Jeter's been there.

When James published Win Shares after the 2001 season, he included defensive win shares included through the 2000 season via both letter grades for a quick-reference and also graded by defensive win shares per inning. Jeter's defensive win shares per 1000 innings was 4.11 through 2000 with the average defensive shortstop being around the 4.85-5.15 mark (Rodriguez was 4.77, or in general, average defensively).

James' defensive grade he assigned Jeter illustrated that fact as he gave him a D+ for his work defensively at shortstop (Rodriguez was given a C+). Remember, that's using the 1995-2000 seasons, the seasons where Jeter should be at or near his peak defensively. Considering that UZR ranked him dead last from 2000-2003, it is possible that Jeter's defensive win shares grade is worse than a D+ by now.

Other shortstops who at least played a fair amount of games at shortstop and were graded below C- ...

Don Buddin (D): 1956-1962
Ivan DeJesus (D+): 1974-1988
Joe DeMaestri (D+): 1951-1961
Julio Franco (D): 1982-1987
Bill Gleason (D+): 1882-1889
Chris Gomez (D): 1993-2000
Mark Grudzeilanek (D+): 1995-2000
Ricky Gutierrez (D+): 1993-2000
Enzo Hernandez (D+): 1971-1978
Rudy Hulswitt (D-): 1899-1910
Sonny Jackson (D+): 1963-1973
Larry Kopf (F): 1914-1923
Harvey Kuenn (D): 1952-1961
Eddie Lake (D-): 1939-1950
Johnnie LeMaster (D): 1975-1987
Ed McKean (F): 1887-1899
Denis Menke (D+): 1962-1974
Jose Offerman (F): 1990-1996
Topper Rigney (D): 1922-1927
Andre Rodgers (D): 1957-1967
Jack Rowe (F): 1881-1890
Heinie Sand (D): 1923-1928
Roy Smalley (D): 1948-1958
Kurt Stillwell (D-): 1986-1996
Billy Urbanski (D): 1931-1936

Of those 25 guys, only 12 played the position for 10 seasons, and that is deceiving itself as most of those players were part-time players during parts of their 10+ season stretch. I haven't glanced at the total games played for any of those shortstops (I can do that, if you wish), but it's likely that the players on that list who played more games at short than Jeter has can be counted using only one hand. It's also likely that Jeter will finish his career with more games played at shortstop than any of the 25 guys on that list.

Also, glance at that list and ask yourself if any of those players belong in the top 35 or so at the position all-time, and the answer is a clear no. I checked the defensive win shares grades for my own top 35 players at shortstop, ranging from Honus Wagner to Al Dark. Excluding Jeter, Ernie Banks and Jim Fregosi came out with the worst defensive win shares letter grades of those 35 players, each of them receiving a C for their work in the field. Banks moved to first base midway through his career (and actually played more games at first base than shortstop), and Fregosi was done playing shortstop regularly by the time he was 30-years-old. Put simply, Jeter's been worse defensively than the rest of the top players at the position in the history of the game.

I don't mean to pick on Jeter, and I don't have any ill will toward him like some fans do, but I honestly do believe that if Jeter continues to play shortstop for another five or six years, the tag of worst defensive shortstop of all-time will be quite appropriate and very accurate.