Dw. Dunphy On… How Do You Solve a Problem Like Rodriguez?

Written by Dw. Dunphy On..., Sports

In what came as a surprise to no one, Baseball commissioner Bud Selig threw the book (some would argue it was more of a paperback novella given how effective it would ultimately be) at the Yankees’ embattled Alex Rodriguez for his role in the Biogenesis doping scandal. Rodriguez along with twelve other players, from across both the major and minor league spectrum, were all given hefty suspensions and all chose to accept and serve their time…except for A-Rod.

alex_rodriguez_kbThere are reasons for Rodriguez’s fight, with many of them being about the multi-million dollars he would lose out on from his contract, one of the largest the Yankees, known for their big-spending ways, have ever doled out. Ar least A-Rod could still count on his money during his medical abesnces of 2013, but the suspension would be unpaid, and so that overwhelming desire to get back to the team is rekindled. And why not? By appealing the decision, Rodriguez gets to continue to play, likely throughout the 2013 season as these procedures tend to drag on. His due 211 suspended games would have to be notched out in 2014, wherein he will be turning 39 (in August) and looking at the backstretch of his career anyway. If all this sounds like a lot of bluster with not much solid application of “justice,” welcome to the world of modern sports.

Alex Rodriguez is considered one of the most loathed individuals in baseball, if not in American sports in full. Most of that comes from what is perceived as his interminable, unrelenting ego that is fed to bursting by the media. Rodriguez has a face the camera loves, and he knows it, and he’s not afraid to halt the metaphorical parade in order to bask in his ardor of himself. Well, that is a disease that most of major sports suffers. Heck, that’s something found in every corner of celebrity — we make stars of people just for being pretty these days and, occasionally, having sex on-camera. Accusing A-Rod of that is trying to extract him from the ongoing narrative of modern pop culture. It can’t be done.

In his earliest days, a lot of this could also have been said of team captain Derek Jeter, but he has matured over his years with the Yankees, some by choice, some by necessity. With the death of longtime owner George Steinbrenner who was clearly the heart, soul, wallet and loud mouthpiece of the team, Jeter assumed the mantle of standardbearer, and by and large he’s handled the responsibility well, even through his own season-grinding injuries of the past couple seasons. With Jeter today, there’s a sense that he’s at peace with being “Yankees Star Derek Jeter,” a much different ordering of affiliation than A-Rod seems to stomach.

It is, in fact, the ghost of Steinbrenner that has to take the majority of blame for this current situation. He wanted to win, as all sports-connected figures do. He was willing to spend a mint. He suffered high intensity personalities, sometimes repeatedly, to make it happen. We can retrospectively grimace at the negatives of repeat manager Billy Martin, players Reggie Jackson and Daryl Strawberry, but when they were focused they got the job done. But there is a price to be paid, and Steinbrenner willingly paid it, and so that overall culture has ingratiated itself with the rest of the mythos of sport, of music, of film and television stardom. My paycheck validates my fame. My fame earns my paycheck. My actual worth and talent takes a distant third and may not even be a top five on that list.

Different sport, same city: last year saw the beginning and the end of the Tim Tebow era with the New York Jets. Much was made of the overtly Christian football player’s entry onto a team that, only a couple years before, was dealing with Brett Favre’s emailed penis-pictures scandal. Tebow was not ready for the glaring spotlight of New York, neither in the quality of his gameplay, nor in his epidermis thickness and everyone knew this. It is widely assumed, and I assume right along with, that Tebow was hired not to be a quarterback for the Jets, but as a stunt, a gimmick, and a way to sell lots and lots of jerseys. His squeaky-clean M.O. didn’t hurt either as the team was trying to wash out the bad taste that Favre’s junk left behind.

Buying the name “Tebow” was more important to the Jets than contracting the services of Tebow. Buying Rodriguez was similarly as important to the Yankees although they rightly had an assumption they would receive a proper return on investment. At this stage now, A-Rod’s R.O.I. cannot possible measure against the ill-will he has brought upon himself and the team, or his continued disregard for the team. His inability to sit down, shut up, and take one for them has proven once again that he can only see himself as Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, and not Yankees teammember Alex Rodriguez. That means something.

But what does all this mean to me personally? Not much. I’m a Mets fan and, last time I looked, they still suck.