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.