Monday, November 30, 2009

A-Rod For Sportsman Of The Year?

So, it's official, Derek Jeter won the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award. It's easy to understand why: The Yankees won the World Series this year, he's been an excellent player for a long time and nothing short of a class act.

What I can't possibly fathom, however, is the fact that Joel Sherman thinks that "If the competition were A-Rod vs. Jeter, it is not even close: Rodriguez is the Sportsman of the Year". He elaborates:
Alex Rodriguez should be the Sportsman of the Year. Before you hit me with how that title should go to someone who embodies the best in sports let’s remember that both Pete Rose and Mark McGwire have won the award, and before long we might remember that Tiger Woods has won twice.
Would you like a side of perspective to go along with your triple-stack of hindsight, Joel?

How does what happened with Tiger Woods over the weekend (if even the most salacious speculation is true) in any way alter whether he embodied "the best in sports" or more accurately, as the award says, was "the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement" in 1996 or 2000 years before he even laid eyes on his wife?

Pete Rose won the award in 1975 when he capped off a great regular season (5th in the MVP voting) by being named the the World Series MVP, ten years before he bet on baseball and almost 15 years before the rumors of those indiscretions came to light. Mark McGwire shared it with Sammy Sosa in 1998, six years before androstenedione was considered to be a steroid by Congress.

If Sports Illustrated had a crystal ball, perhaps they wouldn't have given the awards to Rose or McGwire in '75 & '98 (the Woods assertion is flatly ridiculous), but they need only a rearview mirror to realize that A-Rod was far from the right choice this year.

So what's Sherman's argument for Rodriguez?
Sports are publicly messier these days, and we should not run away from that. Heck, the initial broken story on Rodriguez’s steroid use was published by Sports Illustrated. He also touches on the advancement of sports medicine as he came back successfully from significant hip surgery months after undergoing the operation. And he was again a great player, this time finally in the postseason, as well.

In the end, A-Rod offers a story of second chances and redemption. He was a better teammate and was rewarded with the most positive feedback yet as a person while scoring that elusive championship.
So we should give A-Rod the Sportsman of the Year Award because he did steroids, recovered from an injury and was a "better teammate" (mostly because he was such a shitty teammate before)? How about the fact that Derek Jeter is widely assumed to never have done steroids, was not injured this year and has always been a great teammate?

Sherman has been pushing this story of the faux comeback of A-Rod for quite some time, but in reality, Jeter is the one who improved over last year in ways that can actually be measured.

Jeter raised his OPS+ from 102 to 132 and his UZR from negative to positive. A-Rod played in the fewest games he has since 1995 and had his lowest HR and RBI totals since 1997. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, Joel.

The award doesn't say anything about "second chances and redemption" it rewards "sportsmanship and achievement" and both of those things Derek Jeter has - and has had for a long time - in spades.


  1. So Sherman's suggestion is for the news outlet that broke the story about A-Rod using steroids to award him Sportsman of the Year? Maybe they could get Selena Roberts (who he temporarily accused of stalking him) to write the profile!

    Contrarianism can be one of Sherman's more valuable attributes, but this is beyond ridiculous. Get back to me in 2017 if he wins a couple more World Series and manages to keep a low profile the whole time.

  2. There are few sports pundits out there who vacillate so drastically between astute commentary and inane douchebaggery as Joel Sherman. To assert that A-Rod should be Sportsman of the Year because his ups-and-downs might somehow parallel those of previous winners--a couple of whom have been tainted by scandal (Rose and McGwire) and a third (Woods) mired in uncertain but unfavorable media attention right now--is insipid in the extreme in its facile application of hindsight analysis. This is something about which much of the punditocracy on "Around the Horn" would roll their eyes and laugh.

    To paraphrase the late great Bill Hicks: Go back to bed, Sherman. Everything is under control.

  3. who are the 46 full share recipients of ws money on the yanks?