Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It's a Thin Line Between Love and Hate


Fans of the New York Yankees are currently embroiled in a love/hate relationship with the best player on the team. Arod is the target of the most consistent booing of a player since Tino Martinez took over for Don Mattingly in '96. I called Arod the best player on the team because he undoubtedly is. He's better than Jeter, Damon, Sheffield, Giambi and Matsui. He is the reigning AL MVP. He was AL player of the month in May for Christ sake. June isn't even half over and apparently that has all been forgotten by the Yankee faithful. Jason Giambi was the AL player of the month in April, but had a very forgettable May. He was still not subject to the abuse that is heaped on Arod on a daily basis.

There has been a lot of speculation about why Arod has failed to connect with the NY fans, but what it all comes down to is money, a quarter of a billion dollars to be exact. He has the richest contract in North American sports history. $250 million is a lot of money and with that contract comes great expectations. So what has Arod done since he signed that contract? He's averaged 48 home runs, 126 rbi's and 125 runs scored a year and he has won two MVP awards. Those are hall of fame numbers any way you want to slice them. The problem has been that even with that kind of stellar performance, it has never been enough to satisfy the fans. In their minds, someone who makes that much money should always come through when it matters, should never make and error and should lead their team to a championship every year.

The standard is of course impossible to meet. Arod is fighting a losing battle. The Yankees have to win every year for him to win fan support. He is seen as not hitting in the clutch, when the numbers show that he is a very good hitter with runners in scoring position. They point to David Ortiz, who in '05 hit 21 home runs that tied the score or put his team ahead. How many of Arod's home runs were in the same category last year? 21. It's perception, not fact that hounds the Arod legacy. He doesn't produce in the playoffs, is another charge that is leveled against him. He has a higher slugging percentage, On base percentage and the same batting average as Derek Jeter. Jeter is supposedly one of the most clutch hitters in baseball. Arod was raked over the coals for his performance against Boston in the '05 playoffs. His average was a pedestrian .258. Jeter's average for the same series was .200.

Arod will never be Jeter, however. Derek gets a free pass because he's won multiple times already. Although I do remember Derek getting booed a couple of seasons ago when he started out batting around .200 for the first two months of the season. New York fans are fickle. Yankee fans are spoiled and fickle. They expect perfection every time. Baseball is a game that even the greatest of hitters is going to fail about 65-70% of the time. That's just the game. Fans in NY are supposed to very knowledgeable about sports. However at this point they just appear opinionated, which is not the same thing. I was at the game last night and in the 8th inning a fan tried to get a "lets go Arod" chant, but he was quickly dissuaded from continuing by a preponderance of dirty looks and comments.

Fans should really look at the players with a little more perspective. Sure it's frustrating when Arod strikes out, but they have to realize that everyone strikes out. Everyone fails. It's just that great ones, like Arod, fail less often. He's not Superman. He will fail, a lot, but that doesn't mean he's a failure or deserving of the derisive treatment that he has been afforded of late. Arod is one of the top three players in the game today and has been for ten years. He'll probably go down as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. Perspective people. It's all about perspective. By the way Babe Ruth struck out over 1,300 times in his career. See, nobody's perfect. Not even The Babe.

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