Derek and A-Rod

This seems like a subject worthy of a new thread. In a comment to SF’s “Isn’t That Special” post, one reader posed some (well-reasoned) criticism of A-Rod, which essentially amounted to the following:

1: He’s pompous, and therefore not very likeable
2: His presence has had an ill effect on Jeter
3: He’s only a marginal improvement over Soriano

Let’s address these in reverse order. First, I would argue that he is a very big improvement over Soriano. Number crunchers should keep in mind that Soriano is always a fast starter, and that he has slumped terribly in September and then in the postseason, when top-level pitchers can exploit his obvious weaknesses. Defensively, it’s no contest. While these factors may not add up to a massive Win Shares differential—though A-Rod is still far superior by this standard—the effects can be dramatic in crucial games down the stretch and in the playoffs.

As for the-A-Rod-is-making-Derek-nervous argument, I refuse to buy it. Jeter acolytes, YF included, have always contended that one of his core strengths is his ability to handle pressure. Why all of a sudden would that be different now? And if it were the case, wouldn’t his defense and not his offense be slipping? (His defense has been fine.) There’s really no evidence that A-Rod is gunning for the ss position: clearly, if Jeter plays anywhere near competency level, the spot remains his. And if he doesn’t, well, that’s Jeter’s fault, not A-Rod’s. In any event, having A-Rod sit behind him in the order should only help Derek.

Finally, there’s the personality test. No excuses for him here, but maybe we should give him more than 1 month to fit in. He may never have Scott Brosius’s humility, but then again Scott Brosius was a journeyman. And however much we loved Paul O’Neill’s intensity, were all of those temper tantrums really that adorable? People have faults. A-Rod certainly does. But Yankee fans can be thankful that none of them appear to come between the lines.

6 comments… add one
  • Counterpoint, in direct order.
    1. Actually, A-Rod is very likeable as a player, especially when you consider that he’s playing gold-glove caliber third base already. He’s started to produce, he works his ass off, he runs – what’s not to like about the performance? As for the person? Well, nothing he’s said or done shows me anything but that the most important thing to A-Rod is A-Rod. Fine, I can live with that. As JCL points out, I live with it with Pedro, so who am I to say? Bottom line, though, is that A-Rod is about A-Rod. As I see it, there’s no shame in admitting that. A booable offense, but not a condemning one.
    2. Cap’n Derek: Where is there any indication that the presence of A-Rod HASN’T affected him? You state that you “just don’t buy it”, which smacks of both resignation and denial, but there’s nothing to not buy. A-Rod arrived. A-Rod hovers at third. Jeter has been pitiful. And whether you like it or not, this whole A-Rod thing is an issue for nobody but Derek. It’s a non-issue for A-Rod – he can play third, short, wherever. He’s new here, and he moved to third for Derek’s sake. All is well in the A-Rod world. But for Derek, it’s a HUGE issue. For him to move would be a massive ego blow – it would show he’s not good enough, he’s not the best, he’s the captain and he’s being displaced. It’s got to be affecting him. So, it’s totally normal to expect that Jeter feels more pressure and that this situation is contributing to some, if not all, of his travails. Again, there’s absolutely no shame in admitting that this is the case. It doesn’t make Jeter a lesser ballplayer in the grand scheme of things, it just makes him human. This is something most Yankees fans will never admit, as far as I can tell.
    3. There isn’t a ton of empirical proof that A-Rod is a better October ballplayer than Soriano – he’s had a grand total of 53 postseason at bats to Soriano’s 146, so the sampling is not great (Admittedly, A-Rod played well in his appearances, however brief). This , to me, is a bit unfair, comparing a growing fourth year player to a seasoned veteran who actually has little-to-no playoff experience. You make it seem like A-Rod is Jeter when it comes to playoff experience. He’s not. Let’s get one thing on the record – Soriano’s no A-Rod, nobody has said that (not Neyer, if you read the piece). But to suppose that Soriano, at this point in the year, won’t improve in the clutch, learn the league, learn situations, improve his conditioning, and develop to the point where he’s a legitimate threat in October is ludicrous. To think that he’s going to fester as a tired October ballplayer is pure supposition – why wouldn’t he improve? Soriano is “always a fast starter”? What’s he got, like, 3 whole seasons of experience (versus A-Rod’s 9)?! You make it out as if both guys have 6 or 7 years under their belt and that there’s an even playing field of comparison. But that’s not the case. In fact, if you look at the stats, Soriano has been reasonably decent in his postseason appearances, albeit erratic. In 2001 and 2002 in the divisional series he hit terribly, but last year he hit .368 with a .789 OPS. In the LCS in ’01 he hit .400. In the WS in ’01 he hit .240, and last year he was a non-threat. So, his post-season play isn’t universally awful, it’s just wildly inconsistent, a sure trait of youth.
    4. Also – check your math regarding the win shares. In fact, A-Rod had, by my check, six more win shares than Soriano last year, which translates to two actual wins. Not sure that would qualify as “far superior”, by anyone’s standards.

    SF May 24, 2004, 5:04 pm
  • A counterpoint to your counterpoint:
    I think we’re all in essential agreement about point one. But the pop psychology analysis of Derek’s slump fails to convince. He’s slumping terribly. But is “pressure” from A-Rod really hurting his play? Is he being MORE aggressive, because he feels he must do more? Well, he’s always been aggressive. Maybe he’s had really shitty luck (say 10 of those line drives he’s smacked in the last few weeks fell for hits instead of outs—then all of a sudden he’s hitting around .275, and this question is moot). Maybe his wrist is a bigger problem than anyone’s let on. Maybe he needs glasses. Maybe he’s upset Kwame didn’t win the Apprentice. Maybe he’s nervous for Fantasia. Maybe A-Rod really is bugging himl. Who knows. But the evidence is tautological: A-Rod is on the team and Derek is slumping, therefore A-Rod is the reason Derek is slumping.
    Finally, it’s not that A-Rod is Derek in the postseason, it’s that Soriano showed such glaring weakness last year that it clearly led to his departure.

    YF May 24, 2004, 5:41 pm
  • I don’t want to get too snippy here, but even if Jeter had 10 hits fall in (which is an absurd fantasy), he’d be hitting only .244, and his performance would still be in question. Plus he’s K’ing at an alarming rate, on a pace for just shy of 140, a career high by almost 20% beyond his worst.
    This is not shitty luck. At worst, it’s a major career-worst slump, one which he will recover from, in all liklihood. But it’s not just line drives hit to the wrong spot.
    Lastly, to clarify as much as I can, I admit that it’s pure supposition that the presence of A-Rod is bugging Jeter, I can’t get in his head any better than anyone else. But it’s very reasonable supposition. Nothing more.

    SF May 24, 2004, 9:27 pm
  • I did not mean to imply that the slump was all hard luck, but clearly some combination of statistically hard luck and subpar performance. But all players slump, if this is a bit more severe than most, that may just be randomness amplified by media attention. Look at Tejada last year. He was a disaster until the All-Star break—and everyone was positive that the “contract year pressure” was killing him—but then he broke out in the second half. This year his numbers are once again huge.
    Slumps happen. The good news is that much of the Yankee team has been in a prolonged one, and they’re still fighting for first.

    YF May 25, 2004, 9:30 am
  • SF May 25, 2004, 11:15 am
  • What does this show? That DJ’s struggling? Big deal.

    YF May 25, 2004, 2:04 pm

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