Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A-Rod Kabuki (with update!)

Japanese kabuki theater is is known for its highly-stylized drama and for the elaborate make-up and costumes worn by its performers. It's also a term Mickey Kaus has used to describe those occasions when politicians make grand gestures and pronouncements so that they will appear to care a great deal about issue X, only to abandon issue X once the public has satisfied itself that that issue X has been sufficiently cared about, even if nothing is ever actually done about it.

I have no idea if the A-Rod coming back to the Yankees story can be believed, but it smells like kabuki theater to me for a number of reasons:

1. The quotes about the Yankees bringing him back "on our terms" seems silly. Their terms were to bring him back before he opted out and when the Rangers were still subsidizing them. Anything they do now is not on "their" terms, they're on A-Rod's terms, and negotiating any further only serves to obliterate any credibility Cashman can over hope to have in future negotiations;

2. If I worked for the Yankees and I knew I wasn't going to be bringing A-Rod back or replacing him with someone like Cabrera, I would certainly want to have a story out there portraying me as doing all that I could to at least try -- and talking up the notion of a below market deal -- so that when I ultimately ended up with nothin' at 3B next year, the story would be about how unreasonable A-Rod was, not how I was unable to get the player I needed to keep the postseason streak alive;

3. The whole "keep Scott Boras out of the room" stuff strikes me as part of the above calculation (i.e. "let no one say the Yankees got played by Boras!"). Sure, the Yankees are saying that so that Boras can't simply take whatever offer they make out to Anaheim in an effort to up the bids there, but what's to stop A-Rod from telling Boras what the offer was and then Boras shopping it to Anaheim? Rodriguez has been repped by Boras for half of his life. He will remain loyal. This seems to be more about the Yankees trying to create a political position in which they can later say that they did not cave, they did not compromise, they kept their honor.

4. The "A-Rod came to us first" angle may or may not be true. If it is, isn't it very likely that such an approach was to lure the Yankees back into the talks so that they could serve as a threat to Arte Moreno (or whoever), causing them to up the offer? Wouldn't the Yankees have to at least assume that was what was happening?

5. The stuff at the end about A-Rod trying to rehab his image over Game 4-gate seems really self-serving by the Yankees, and isn't all that credible. It's self-serving because it opens the door for wholesale A-Rod trashing if he ends up signing with someone other than the Yankees (i.e. "By coming back to us to talk A-Rod seemed, for the first time, to care about his image more than money; the fact that he didn't sign with us shows us that he really is just Pay-Rod. Good riddance!"). It's not credible because A-Rod has had far worse image problems in the past and has never gone all that far out of his way to try to rehab the damage. Indeed, one thing that seems to be a central personality trait of A-Rod is being completely oblivious to what constitutes good P.R. and what constitutes bad P.R. Now he's an image doctor?

6. Finally, the whole bit about New York being the only place where A-Rod could "see his face everywhere" is laughable. He's been in New York for four years, and its still Jeter's town. Why would that change going forward? Has the anonymous author of those quotes ever been to Los Angeles? They put up giant billboards for Rob Schneider movies. Don't you think they'd do the same for Rodriguez?

There are many, many reasons why both the Yankees and Rodriguez would want the story that they are seriously negotiating to be out there, all of which have nothing to do with him actually being in pinstripes and at the heart of the Yankees lineup in 2008, and all of which give the parties an incentive to put on a little kabuki makeup.

My view -- which I've held since last summer -- is that Rodriguez and/or his wife are done with New York and will go almost anywhere to escape. I also think that the little Boras/Rodriguez southern California retreat held just after the end of the season was designed to sell him on going to Los Angeles, and I wouldn't be surprised if during that retreat Boras and Arte Moreno had a cocktail one evening to discuss life, the universe and everything while Rodriguez himself sat in the next room to maintain plausible deniability. I think everyone involved -- Angels, Yankees, and Rodriguez -- needs the Yankees to at least appear to be in the mix for their own particular purpose (Yankees and Rodriguez for reasons stated; Angels so that it doesn't look like it was a done deal a long time ago).

Crazy? Maybe. I'm just riffin' here. But that makes way more sense to me than the notion that the Yankees are suddenly hot for Rodriguez and he willing to go back to them.

UPDATE: Many stories now leaking out that, yes, A-Rod and the Yankees are going to happen. Frankly, I'm astounded. Astounded that the Yankees would reverse themselves so quickly (does anyone ever take them seriously in a negotiation again?). Astounded that Rodriguez would willingly subject himself to the New York media for another decade. Just, well, astounded. Part of me still believes that Boras will hold a press conference tomorrow to say "Psych! The Angels just outbid the Yankees by an extra million a year and we signed!" but at some point you have to stop going with your gut and go with the evidence, and the evidence coming in tonight suggests the Yankees will remain the home of A-Rod.

I don't think I'd do it if I were him, but in terms of our abilities, situations, motivations, and just about every other conceivable measure, I'm closer to being my coffee pot than I am to being Alex Rodriguez, so what do I know?

More later, if and when it becomes official.


Diesel said...

Weren't the Yankees' "terms" that they wouldn't fucking negotiate with him if he opted out?

I swear, it's like the Steinbrenners got to write that story themselves.

rufuswashere said...

I like this story, both for its intrinsic drama and for the insightful commentary I now get to read all over the internet.

Ah ... the off season. The post-season was a big yawn this year (and has become one every year), so the Hot Stove League is now 2nd only to the regular season in enjoyment.

Michael said...

While the idea that him trying to clear his name does appear to be self serving for the Yankees, I would not go so far as to say it is not credible. Let's not forget this is the man who wants everyone to like him, and now nobody does. What better way to save face than to fire Boras (even he has to realize that he has more money than he knows what to do with and with or without Boras he'll probably have another record breaking if not close to it deal) and to let Boras take the blame for everything that has transpired in the past month or so. I don't care how much he has "changed" in the past year, the fact that he is one of the best players in the game and currently hated by most on a level that only Barry Bonds can comprehend will getto anyone.

Anonymous said...

How was the post-season a big yawn? This year you had:

1. A one game playoff to decide the NL Wild Card, played between a team that went on an improbable winning streak and a team that had blown a chance to clinch by failing to get the last out of its prior game.

2. Theeeeeeeeeeee Yaaaaankees looooooose (with an impromptu bug attack(!) and big game heroics by Carmona and Petite.)

3. A tightly contested World Series, err, ALCS that went seven games.

The whole Sox-Rox thing was really akin to Major Leaguers touring Japan after the season.

rufuswashere said...

Yes, there were some good moments in the post-season. BUT:

1) The new schedule and many sweeps made for many many many off days.
2) The time between pitches, time between innings, and the late starts all conspired to make the whole thing kind of tiresome after a while -- esp as the World Series was so unbelievably one-sided.
3) The inane commentary of the national media is particularly annoying during the post-season -- one can practically predict the next cliche to be uttered.
4) Plus, there was that wonderful Oct 1 2007 post by none other than Rob Neyer's favorite blogger (this Shyster guy), perfectly articulating why the post-season is not as great as the regular season -- I highly recommend it.

Harley said...

This post is already close to moribund, both in its foundations (in this you should know better) and its assumptions (hey, you're wrong, but that's not entirely unavoidable when making predictions).

Better luck next time.

Osmodious said...

How about the possibility that this is a Boras ploy? Seriously, he's seriously miscalculated and has helped damaged his client's reputation (which, as mentioned, had some 'issues' to begin with), so he has devised a plan to take some of the heat off of ARod AND, as pointed out above, maybe spin the price back up to what he feels ARod 'deserves' (at least in the neighborhood).

I agree that it seems like theater, partially because of Caple's blog the other day that outlined the 'true cost' of signing ARod now (i.e. it's more than just the lost $21+mil from Texas...there's the extra luxury tax, etc.). I just don't see the Yankees spending over $30mil a year on him. But I never would have predicted that Kevin Brown trade, so what do I know?

PONCH said...

It true...we have giant Rob Schneider billboards out here.