Are the Yankees Protecting A-Rod’s Feelings?

Keith Olbermann was fired by the Yankees, sort of. Reggie Jackson was fired by the Yankees, sort of. Both of them disparaged Alex Rodriguez, sort of. This means that the Yankees are protecting the feelings of their aging star — sort of.

First was Olbermann’s transgression. He spotted Yankee assistant Brett Weber relaying signs to Alex Rodriguez, so he posted the picture and pointed out that the star was getting confirmation of the pitch he just saw. It wasn’t cheating because Rodriguez was in the on-deck circle. The Yankees retorted that the gun wasn’t working well that day, and it was all an effort to help their players get information they normally received from the stadium boards. Olbermann, in a post that laid this all out on his MLBlog, insinuated that the implication was still there: Alex Rodriguez needed help from the stands in order to understand what he had just seen from a closer vantage point.

Olbermann was fired.

Next up was Reggie Jackson. He uttered the following sentence in a long interview by Phil Taylor at Sports Illustrated:

And A-Rod? “Al’s a very good friend,” Jackson says. “But I think there are real questions about his numbers. As much as I like him, what he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records.”

That won Jackson, who is a special adviser to the Yankees, a suspension of sorts. The New York Daily News reports that Mr. October has been told to “stay away” from the team for now. A source was quoted in the piece as saying that “A-Rod doesn’t need the aggravation.”

So that’s it. Two Yankee employees, fired for attacking Alex Rodriguez.

Que the ‘sort of.’ First, Olbermann was fired from his once-a-year work as color commentator for the Old Timer’s game. He may have enjoyed performing those duties, but it wasn’t a huge deal. Members of the critical media are not usually also announcers for the same team — and if they are, they know how fine a line they are walking when they take on the team that either pays or approves their paychecks. Jackson wasn’t fired, he was merely suspended. Neither of these men had high-profile or crucial responsibilities to the Yankee organization.

And were their comments so critical? Olbermann suggested that Rodriguez would like to know the in-game velocity readings for a pitcher before he stepped into the box. Most players would. Jackson said something that most fans feel, that a positive test is a cloud over a player’s accomplishments. Perhaps not the best for a team employee to say, and also maybe not the best timing given the high-profile series in Boston, but not something that was private or attacked his current performance.

By most numbers, Alex Rodriguez is having the worst season of his career. His isolated slugging percentage and strikeout rate are at career lows. His overall line over the past three years has settled to .272/.352/.474. His defense looks like it’s slipping. He’s had a great career, but he’s now a couple weeks short of 37 and the decline is full-blown, organic-looking, and obvious — and questioning the role of steroids in the velocity of his decline is only natural. He’s probably a true-talent three-win player right now and the Yankees owe him more than $120 million until 2017. They aren’t likely to get a great return on that investment.

Those are unqualified, critical statements of a player and his team. If I were a YES announcer, with all the responsibility and visibility that job entails, talking this way — if I took the risk — would be an attempt to preserve the appearance of objectivity. Any feedback from the Yankees would most likely be quiet and behind the scenes, but a firing would not be unprecedented. If I were more loosely associated with the team, that feedback could be more final and without explanation.

And that has less to do with the Yankees trying to protect a particular star’s feelings and more to do with the everyday work of marketing and operating a baseball team.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

45 Responses to “Are the Yankees Protecting A-Rod’s Feelings?”

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  1. jess says:

    yep they are

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  2. TacoTruck13 says:

    Oh they totally are. I was listening to Mike and Mike this AM, and Mike Hill (who is a Yankee fan) was saying that Jackson deserved it cause he “did the wrong thing.” What did he do wrong? Nothing! He spoke the truth. Alex ADMITTED to using. Therefore, people put an * next to all his numbers. The Yankees are just cottling ARod, that’s all.

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  3. geefee says:

    If, hypothetically, the same things were said and written about any other Yankee player the same thing would’ve happened. But I’m not so sure an article like this one would have been written.

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  4. PlateTectonics says:

    The Yankees are trying to protect their brand, not necessarily Alex’s feelings, and this extends to the so-called journalists–whomever they are–who work for the YES network. There is no such thing as “objectivity” any longer; the message has become, sadly, get loyal or get gone. That the corporation makes these moves publicly, and by extension reiterating their organizational stance on said moves, is clearly by design.

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  5. phoenix2042 says:

    Alex has always been a guess hitter, which is odd given he was once such a great hitter. One would expect him to have good pitch recognition, but he really does not. He guesses and swings, and if he hits it, it’s hit well, but a lot of times he misses and looks really bad. For a guess hitter, it’s extremely important to know what a guy is throwing so you can know what to guess on, so I’m not surprised that he has someone helping him to make an educated guess. Unrelated, but wow does that contract look bad. I would rather the Yankees trade him and his contract straight up for Vernon Wells and his contract. And there aren’t many guys you can say that about.

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    • PlateTectonics says:

      So a career .300 hitter over 10000+ PA’s is, and always has been, a guess hitter? That statement is so absurd as to be laughable. And you’re going to trade his contract for what? The guy, whether you like him or not, is going to wear a Yankees cap in his (inevitable) HOF induction…and you’re willing to lose that for what? A marginally less crappy contract in the near-term? Gotta think longer-range than that.

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        Watch a game and see how he guesses. He was a career .300 hitter because of how well he could hit it, and he was a smart guess hitter. It’s not like he just swung randomly. He guesses right more often than not (or he wouldn’t be the great hitter he is/was), but you see him get horribly fooled an awful lot. His results over his career do not tell you what his approach is, they just tell you that he had success with that approach. That’s like me saying, “Vlad Guerrero had a poor plate approach/discipline?!? He hit .318 for his career over 9000 PA!” Also, I am thinking long term: Arod will be dragging this team down for another 5 or 6 years (forget which), whereas Wells will be gone long before that for way less money. Short term you want Arod because he can still be above average, but long term you want Wells because he won’t drag down your team as long or as much.

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      • monkey business says:

        A Rod in the HOF? Not going to happen. Only about 30% of voters are willing to vote for accepted juicers.

        But I’d bet the Yankees will retire his jersey.

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    • What? says:

      A-Rod is still a 125 wrc+ hitter at this late stage of his career. Vernon Wells is below replacement level.

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        And how many years will Arod spend at or below replacement level while collecting 25mil paychecks?

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      • PlateTectonics says:

        It’s the Yankees, not the A’s…his value to the org isn’t only defined by WAR. As should be the case, he’ll end his Yankees career riding atop a wonderfully sexy white stallion a la Boggs in ’96.

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    • GUY says:

      A guy with a K rate of 18.1% is a guess hitter? There’s no way that he’s built a career being one of the best hitters in baseball by having poor pitch recognition.

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      • Antonio bananas says:

        But really though, he has real good recognition AND could be a good guesser. Like “if this is inside, it’s heat, if it’s away, it’s a change”. I mean, being able to eliminate choices and recognize what it is of the few remaining pitch types, would be pretty dangerous. I donnony it’s so outrageous that he can guess what’s coming. Chipper does it. The two styles aren’t mutually exclusive.

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    • everdiso says:

      your argument/comment falls apart when you say a hitter like arod has poor pitch recognition. you cant be serious.

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  6. Rogers Hornsby says:

    You overlooked a major point, reports say the Yankees were furious that Jackson criticized Carter and Puckett, not to mention numerous living HoF members, including Niekro and Blyleven. The “time out” was probably more for this than A-Rod. A hitter with 2600 strikeouts and a .262 batting average probably doesn’t need to run his mouth regarding other HoF members and trying to speak for them.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I think the Carter criticism was an awful thing for him to say. For one thing, Carter’s a definite HOF catcher. Reggie is misguided if he thinks otherwise. For another, he just passed away and it’s in extremely poor taste to make such comments a few months after his death.

      That said, I don’t see why the yankees brass would be furious about the comments. Mets and Expos/Nationals brass, yes, but not yankees brass.

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      • Oasis says:

        Yay Censorship!!!!!

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      • LTG says:

        It’s not censorship to ask someone to leave your house for saying something you don’t want to listen to.

        Reggie Jackson has ample opportunities to voice his opinion. And others can respond to his opinion with their private interests as they see fit.

        The right to free speech only governs the public forum. Unless you can show that the Yankees are interfering with Jackson’s ability to voice his opinion in a public forum, you cannot support a censorship claim.

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      • geefee says:

        Hahaha, just a matter of time until somebody brought up censorship or freedom of speech. “Not a first amendment thing, man.” If there’s one thing this country’s good at, it’s stepping up and persecuting people for what they say privately when the government cannot.

        I was kind of surprised to learn Jackson is employed by the Yankees, and I’m still not entirely clear on what he does. But I’m guessing “advising” consists of just kind of hanging out and being Reggie Jackson – Yankee Emeritus. When you’re getting a paycheck for that, it’s not too much to ask that you not trash the team’s current players or dead beloved HoFers.

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  7. jstudz21 says:

    If anyone with a name like Reggie Jackson, worked for a different MLB Team and talked the way he did about one of their players and current Hall Of Famers, they too would likely be suspended if not fired.

    Reggie Jackson is an advisor, not a spokesperson for the Yankees.

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  8. Joey says:

    The Yankees are protecting their overall brand here. This is not just A-Rod but about the entire organization. The Yankees want to show that if you publicly criticize players, during a regular season in which the AL East is fiercely competitive, that you won’t be allowed to be part of the team. The Yankees don’t need distractions like this coming from their own guys.

    Loose lips sink ships. Reggie Jackson if he wants to voice his opinion can do it when he’s separate from the organization. To quote Tony Soprano, “whatever happened to the strong, silent type”? If he has something to say about A-Rod then bring it up to him. Don’t blast him in the media and then immediately take it back. Whatever happened to Omerta? In the day of Facebook and Twitter it seems like people just can’t keep quiet and have to shout their opinions.

    I know that the emphasis on this site is mostly advanced statistical analysis and study of the sport through new technologies like heat maps and spray charts and so on. But there is a major aspect of the mental condition of players, and how it affects their play, that often goes unreported. Psychology plays a huge roll in sports. There really needs to be a sports psychology website that focuses on that.

    You don’t want players carrying mental baggage onto the field every game. Rafael Palmeiro was run out of the game because the fans relentlessly reminded him of his positive test. Sure the earplugs could drown out the physical noise. But he couldn’t shut off the boos in his mind.

    The Yankees want A-Rod to stay healthy, break some milestone records, and contribute to another World Series team. They don’t need people within the organization talking about A-Rod’s HoF candidacy and slamming him for steroids use in a the middle of a stressful season.

    Did A-Rod take steroids? Yes. He was forced to admit it after he was caught. Everyone knows this. David Ortiz did the smart thing and moved on and you almost never hear mention of it. And his teammates and friends don’t ever blast him in the media because they know it would hurt the team and the organization. I guess Reggie cares more about his opinions than trying to help keep order in the clubhouse.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      Well the other reason that people don’t constantly criticize Ortiz for it like they do Arod is that Ortiz is generally thought of as a great guy, very genial and fun personality. People like him. Arod, even Yankees fans will agree, is at least kind of a jerk, if not the arrogant pr!ck he’s been called. Also, there is the fact that Arod is/will be breaking records, so the legitimacy of his new records is more important than Ortiz’s quest for 500 homers.

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    • siggian says:

      “Whatever happened to Omerta?”

      You do realize that “Omerta” essentially condones murder, drug-smuggling, racketeering, and other violent and illegal activities? They exist because of that silence. Sometimes we go too far in praising those who keep their mouths shut and we don’t praise enough the brave souls who do speak up.

      I’m not saying that Reggie should be praised. But he does have the right to offer an opinion, just as his employer has the right to respond to that opinion.

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      • Joey says:

        Hello? I quoted Tony Soprano. Of course I know what Omerta is commonly associated with. That was part of the joke. Get a sense of humor.

        I hope A-Rod has Reggie Jackson whacked. I hope Reggie Jackson wakes up with a horse in his bed. “AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!! AAAAAAAHHH!!!! AAAAAAHH!!”

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  9. MikeM says:

    Reminds me that when Rodriguez did admit to using steroids, he was careful to point out that he only used when he was with the Rangers.

    This was so clearly bull. He wants me to believe that he was so competitive that he was willing to cheat and put his body at risk to help him succeed on a cruddy Rangers team, but that when he signed an even bigger contract with even more pressure to perform in New York he suddenly had a moment of conscience and stopped using?

    I am certain that this was another attempt, under King George, to “protect the Yankee brand” and that Rodriguez was ordered to deny use as a Yankee.

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  10. Ben says:

    quite surprised this post required more than a 1 word response… YES

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  11. kid says:

    Reggie’s spouting off highlights a much bigger problem – HOF members treating the HOF as their own personal Treehouse, using every and any reason to try and keep it as exclusive as possible. Confirmed PED use, admitted PED use, strongly-suspected PED use, possible PED use and was-in-the-same-clubhouse-as-somebody-who-used-PEDs are all valid reasons, according to them.

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  12. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    Jackson loves his own numbers so much, he’ll say something about anybody to make them look inferior to him. I’m sure all Jackson was really doing was trying to remind everybody how great he is.

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    • TKP says:

      Absolutely correct. I cannot think of a more arrogant baseball player (past or present) and this is just a way for Jackson to say “Hey these guys did steroids and I did’t therefore I am superior!” I am as diehard a Yankee fan as there is and I absolutely despise Jackson for his arrogance.

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  13. Frank says:

    Double-check your stats. He’s been a .272 hitter over the past three years, not .252.

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  14. John says:

    Ridiculous for Olbermann to criticize A-Rod for wanting to know pitch speed. Jeter was looking too. Why not take a shot at him?

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  15. Melkman says:

    Reggie is a douche. You don’t want to fire one of ure legends for being a douche, even though they are one because well, he’s one of ure legends. The happy medium? Stay away and shut up for a while, douche. Go thattttt way.

    It is in extremely poor taste on Reggie’s part, to try to, in a way, disparage Gary Carter’s career, especially considering the recent tragic circumstances with his passing.

    Put your numbers up against Cobb, Ruth, Mays, Ted Williams, Aaron, Gehrig, DiMaggio. Now who’s not in who’s class?

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  16. Rich Mahogany says:

    I would have more respect for the Yankees if the response had been “We disagree with Reggie’s opinions about ARod, Carter, etc., but everyone’s entitled to their say.” “Banning” him is over the top.

    Reggie deserves plently of scorn and ridicule for his comments though. He didn’t just say ARod’s numbers are tainted, he said HOF members wouldn’t attend ARod’s induction. He also issued his blanket “I don’t think X is a HOFer” statement, falling back on tired and disproved cliches (Jack Morris was the best pitcher of his era!). He sounded arrogant and obnoxious.

    Olbermann is a notoriously difficult person and there could have been many reasons for his “firing,” not just his ARod comment.

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  17. Jose says:

    John says:
    July 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm
    Ridiculous for Olbermann to criticize A-Rod for wanting to know pitch speed. Jeter was looking too. Why not take a shot at him?

    Exactly my thoughts. I think I remember games when Pedro Martinez was pitching for Boston in NYC and Jeter had his own man in the stand reading the velocity of Pedro’s deliveries.

    As for Jackson, he always loved the limelights and wants to still be part of the news cycle. His comments had to register in his mind as a no-no: You work for a business, you defend that brand. With the Yankees playing so well these last few weeks, why on earth bring this up?

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  18. Hurtlockertwo says:

    The Yankees will be trying to dump Arod in few years when he really starts to suck, that protection has nothing to do with him, just the Yankee image.

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  19. Yankee hater says:

    You people are forgetting the Yankees are an enterprise and have their workers under contracts. Reggie Jackson is their employee and they have the right/obligation of punishing him for bad talking one of the center pieces of of their most important product (the team itself).

    A firing would be in order if you worked for Microsoft and criticized Windows.

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