Thursday, February 10, 2011

A-Rod, Get Real

   By Ross Newhan

      --With a batting order that includes Madonna, Kate Hudson and now Cameron Diaz, Alex Rodriguez looks foolish complaining about the Fox cameras finding him in a private box at the Super Bowl as Diaz fed him popcorn. And don't you just know that Yankee teammate Derek Jeter, the Prince of New York and a player who could and undoutedly has dated the most beautiful women in Manhattan without his private life becoming public, is shaking his head with a wry smile over A-Rod's latest fiasco.

     --So, as pitchers and catchers report to training camps, a contract story already overshadows all of Florida and Arizona except, perhaps, Michael Young's trade demands, Albert Pujols and agent Dan Lozano have set a Feb. 15 deadline for reaching a contract agreement with the Cardinals or else the first baseman will certainly test free agency during the next off season. Pujols, 31, will make $16 million this year in the final year of a seven year, $100 million contract. He has never been baseball's highest salaried player despite being the game's best hitter with 10 consecutive seasons of 100-plus RBIs and 10 of 30-plus home runs, including six of 40 or more. This off-season he has seen Jayson Werth, with no 100 RBI season to his credit, receive a seven year, $126 million contract from Washington and Carl Crawford, with no season of even 20 home runs, receive a seven year, $142 million contract from Boston. Reportedly, the Cardinals have not even presented Pujols with the outline of a proposal, playing a dangerous game with their highly principled first baseman.

   --Yes, Michael Young would fit perfectly in either the Dodgers or Angels lineups, but it is not going to happen and, in all probability, Young is going to remain a Texas Ranger because the club simply can't make an equitable deal for him with anybody and really doesn't want to. Young, although not specific, says he was misled and lied to, apparently about playing time after the Rangers acquired third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher-DH Mike Napoli and apparently by general manager Jon Daniels, but most people close to the club believe any hard feelings can be and will be eased and Young will end up with enough playing time to maintain his 185-hits per season average.

    --OK, let's say that Young is traded. The Rangers would have to get a front line pitcher in return, and is anybody ready to part with a pitcher who fits that category? The real issue confronting the American League champions beyond placating Young  is the reliability of their rotation with Cliff Lee gone or the vacuum at closer if Neftali Feliz (with his 40 saves)  is moved into the rotation. Right now the starting fivesome is something of a trial balloon after C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, although the Rangers have a sleeper in Brandon Webb, the ex-Diamondback who has appeared in one game over the last two seasons and had shoulder surgery in August 2009 after averaging 18 wins with a 3.23 ERA over the previous four seasons. Webb was signed to an incentive laden contract and remains a huge quetion mark.

   --Andy Pettitte has officially retired, and the immediate question is: Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? My answer is yes. He won only a fringe Hall total of 240 games but had a 3.88 earned-run average while pitching 13 of his 16 seasons in the DH American League and made at least 30 starts 12 times. He also is the all-time leader in post-season starts (42), innings (263) and wins (19), for much of which he can thank the Yankees and the expanded playoff schedule. Obviously, his 2007 admission of HGH use will weaken his candidacy among some voters--and, yes, I have said I would not vote for any player where the use of a PED is clear cut--but Pettitte made a stand up admission in his deposition to a Congressional committee and I accept his testimony that the HGH use was limited to two occasions. In Roger Clemens' ongoing court fight to clear his name, insisting he never used steroids or HGH, Pettitte's testimony to Congress that his close friend told him directly that he did use PEDs remains Clemens' biggest obstacle. The Clemens' perjury trial is scheduled to begin in July, and Pettite is expected to be a government witness. The respected left hander, in a news conference announcing his retirement, said he simply wanted to spend more time with his family and that his anticipated trial apperance, likely to be emotional and highly charged, played no part in his decision.

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