July 24, 2006
Now, I can't say I've ever really liked Yankee fans (with the exception of a short-lived infatuation with the team in fourth grade), but what's happened over the past week has been completely perplexing to me. Why do all Yankee fans hate A-Rod? It's not like this was hard to see coming - A-Rod has never really had the complete support of the Bronx faithful, even during his MVP campaign last year. But the guy's had one bad (okay, terrible) week, and suddenly everyone in the stadium is booing him? What's up with that?
I've never really understood the custom of booing players on your own team. A-Rod has only four hits in his last 26 ABs, with 5 errors in the past week - he knows he's in a slump. So it's not like you need to tell him he's performing poorly. How does booing him help him play better? If anyone has any reasons, please e-mail me and tell me. I really want to know. And it's not like Rodriguez has been playing terribly all year - his 71 RBIs are top-ten in the league, and his .379 OBP is barely off his career average. And the talk of him being bad in the clutch is ridiculous - he's hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position, and he has just about the same batting average in the postseason as the beloved Derek Jeter (with a slugging percentage 70 points higher).
So why boo A-Rod? The main reason - whether Yankee fans will admit it or not - is that he's not percieved as a "true" Yankee. Why? It's not his contract; if anything, having an enormous contract now is likely a sign that you're a Yankee (Jeter has a contract comperable in size to A-Rod). You don't have to come up in the Yankee farm system to become beloved by Yankee fans (see: Paul O'Neil). You don't even have to have a ring to be a true Yankee - Don Mattingly and Jason Giambi both have never won a title. Why does A-Rod remain an outcast? Your guess is as good as mine.
I'm not saying fans don't have the right to boo - when they pay for the ticket, they do earn the right to cheer, boo, or do whatever else they want that doesn't violate federal laws or common decency. But having the right to boo and feeling the need to boo are two different things. Adults in this country have the right to smoke cigarettes. Does that make it a smart decision? Of course not.
One other question jumps to mind - why have the Yankees been so reluctant to come to Rodriguez's defense? Mike Mussina recently threw A-Rod under the bus. Both Joe Torre and Jeter could ease the pressure on A-Rod by giving him some public support, but so far it's been quiet. I think Rodriguez will right himself sooner or later, but the longer this goes on, the less likely the Yankees are to make the playoffs. This year, he's been easily one of their two most productive hitters (along with Giambi), even with his struggles recently.
And one final note - why do people bother wasting energy about A-Rod trade rumors? Say it with me here: A-ROD WILL NEVER BE TRADED! 1) The Yankees shouldn't trade him - before the season, he was considered the second best hitter in baseball behind Pujols (and possibly Ortiz). Why should one week change our perception that dramatically? 2) The Yankees can't trade him - they would either have to eat his entire contract, or accept a paltry package of players in return. Either way, they'd be dramatically damaging their team. And 3) A-Rod won't go anyways - he has a full no-trade contract, and he's stated that he has no desire whatsoever to leave New York. People say he can't handle the NY pressure, but where were those people during his MVP season last year? It doesn't make sense to me.