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.

Waiting For The Hot Stove To Cook

Good morning Fackers. Well the long holiday weekend is behind us and we're back at the daily grind. While we slowed things down over the weekend the Hot Stove rumor mill kept a churning. The Roy Halladay machine kept rolling: he'll accept a trade to the Yankees, The Red Sox don't want to lose him to the Yankees, the Jays want a Major League ready arm and bat, and on and on and on.

Oh yeah, we also heard that the Blue Jays like Jesus Montero. Well, no kidding. You know who else likes Jesus Montero? The other 28 clubs in Major League Baseball. That's some ground breaking journalism there Heyman. Oh yes, the Blue Jays might be interested in Baseball America's number three overall prospect if they were to trade their ace pitcher. Surprise, surprise.

Meanwhile, an entirely different Hot Stove rumor broke, ramped up, and flamed out, all before the turkey carcass was picked clean. On the heels of his failure to reach a contract extension with the Marlins came the rumors that Josh Johnson was on the market. On Friday, ESPN's Keith Law speculated as to what the Marlins could get in exchange for Johnson (a lot) and things just snowballed from there. Next came word that the Marlins were "very willing" to move him for the right package. Almost immediately, contrary reports came out. Amazingly, it was chief rumor-mongerer Ken Rosenthal who broke what as of now is the going story: that the Marlins have no intention of moving Johnson prior to Opening Day.

I have to admit, I was intrigued by the possibility of Josh Johnson. Not that Roy Halladay isn't an outstanding pitcher, but as RAB's Mike Axisa pointed out last week, opportunities to acquire young, talented pitchers like Johnson are rare.

I hate to keep striking the same chord that we've been strumming all off-season thus far, but there's rarely any merit to these rumors. At this stage in the off-season, virtually everyone is up for grabs. Teams float weather balloons to see what the market is for a particular player or a particular type of player. But the truth of the matter is that this is dead time right now, and the national baseball writers have to write about something until the real moving and shaking starts happening.

The good news is that it's about to start happening. Today is the final day of November. Teams have until tomorrow to offer arbitration to their free agents. Once that's done, teams will know who amongst the Type A free agents carry draft pick compensation. Armed with the knowledge, the real free agent courting process will begin in earnest, leading into the Winter Meetings December 7th through 10th. Once the top free agents sign, market value will be established, the lesser free agents will fall in, and in some ways, the trade market will be determined as well. It's only a matter of days before the Hot Stove really starts cooking. Until then, I'm filing everything away as near baseless rumors.