A-Rod And Miami: What We Know

I broke the news here yesterday that representatives of the Yankees and Marlins – later identified elsewhere as New York team president Randy Levine and Miami owner Jeffrey Loria – had discussed a trade that would send the crumbling Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez to the Marlins.

As the supplemental reporting of others indicates, this may have begun as a sarcastic response by Levine to a chimerical wish by Loria. But the ownership groups of both clubs know damn well this is no longer a joke, and they can ameliorate if not solve each other’s problem. A lot of the blockbuster transactions in baseball history have begun as jokes or expressions of exasperations (Manager Leo Durocher’s stunning move from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the New York Giants in mid-season 1948 comes to mind).

My sources have little else to add today, except to suggest that the Marlins might be willing to swap more of their overpriced stock for Rodriguez and the net differences in salary than previously indicated (say, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle for Rodriguez and 60 million or so). That will all depend, I’m told, on just how much Miami season ticket sales drop after the disastrous 2012 season.

As to the key players, only Rodriguez is talking, saying after the Yankees’ ignominious finish in Detroit that he wanted to remain in New York and would not waive his no-trade clause.

After Yankees’ Senior Vice President/General Manager Brian Cashman had dismissed Wednesday’s report as “100% not true,” reporters Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York and Jon Heyman of CBS then revealed the Levine-Loria conversation, and the sad fact that Cashman apparently didn’t know about it, nor the hotline it created.

Today, another embarrassed executive who was clearly out of the loop – Marlins’ president David Samson – insisted there had been no negotiations, while Heyman and others ran with the explanation that the Rodriguez talk was just a joke made last April during the Yankees’ stadium christening exhibitions at Miami and that was that.

My primary source says Marchand and Matthews have it right. It was an offhand remark that has turned into at least an avenue to discuss an anything-but-offhand trade:

What began as a casual, joking conversation between New York Yankees president Randy Levine and Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria about the possibility of Alex Rodriguez playing for the Marlins may develop into serious trade talks this offseason, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.

Others have dismissed the story because no team is talking trades while it is in the process of being humiliatingly swept out of the playoffs. Of course they don’t. But nor does planning for 2013 freeze just because 2012 games are still being played. Anybody pay attention to the weekend of Yankees’ bench coach Tony Pena? Sunday he had to manage the last three innings after Joe Girardi got ejected. Tuesday he was back in his adjunct role at Girardi’s side. In between, on Monday, he was in…Boston. To interview for the Red Sox manager’s job.

The off-season trades, free agent signings, hirings and firings – and the possible trade of Alex Rodriguez – are all starting now. Right now.

The logic behind moving Rodriguez to Miami is impeccable. Whatever damage A-Rod did not himself do to his reputation, the Yankees have – both on and off the field. They have devalued him as a player (he helped) by the extraordinary step of benching him while the team collapsed. They benched him even against Justin Verlander, against whom he could claim a career 8-for-24 mark with three homers.

They may have even baited him into insubordination. Supposedly by accident, the now imperiled-manager Joe Girardi submitted two different lineups for the rained out Wednesday night ALCS Game 4, one featuring Rodriguez, the other without him. A former major leaguer told me today he wouldn’t be a bit surprised if A-Rod hadn’t seen his name on the initial card and told Girardi where to go – which could easily have been what the Yankees wanted him to do. If you don’t buy that bit of conspiratorial sci-fi, how about weighing whether it’s more likely that for a game that could decide whether or not they kept their jobs Joe Girardi and his coaches ‘accidentally’ wrote out two line-up cards, or the Yankees decided to try to further mess with A-Rod’s head?

It is also speculative, but the Yankees (particularly through the nefarious Howard Rubinstein Public Relations Agency) have long employed the Strategic Leak, with the receiving end usually being The New York Post (for whom Rubinstein also works, in a relationship that mainlines directly to Rupert Murdoch himself). What better and more authoritative source could there be for the Casablanca-like “I’m shocked, shocked, that gambling is going on in here” quality to the Post’s splashy story that Rodriguez was trying to get the phone number of an Australian bikini model during Game 1 of the ALCS, than the Yankees themselves? Who would know she was there? Besides the principals, who would know what the ballboy saw? Who would know all of it? The Yankees. As I alluded to yesterday the autographed-ball-as-groupie-troll bait is probably attempted ten times a day in organized baseball.

But why hurt A-Rod when you’re trying to get rid of him?

Well, that’s easy. You don’t just have to find somebody willing to take him off your hands in a trade that doesn’t humiliate you. You have to convince Rodriguez to drop his no-trade clause. And nothing makes that likelier than being able to say to him ‘did you like the last two weeks? The sports pages? And the gossip pages? Would you like five years of that?’

As many columnists noted today the Yankees have no choice but to put Rodriguez in another uniform ASAP. The reason they gave him a contract through his age 42 season – the pursuit of the career home run record – is now a pointless irrelevancy. The 2009 admission of steroid use has made the ‘clean alternative’ to Barry Bonds into a pathetic joke. And, given his rate of decline and frequency of injury, Rodriguez is a less-than-even-money bet to hit the first home run milestone for which he would get one of those $6,000,000 bonuses. It’s Willie Mays’ total of 660 and Rodriguez ended the 2012 season with 647. A-Rod needs thirteen. He had thirteen as of June 26 this past season. He would hit exactly five more thereafter, in 199 regular season at bats.

You know how many homers a rate like that produces over 500 at bats? Twelve. Thirteen if you round up with a vengeance.

But more relevantly, even if Rodriguez has some sort of Jeterian renaissance ahead of him, the Yankees have spent the last week all but neutering any chance it has of blossoming in New York. They have made him – and many of the other stars – into damaged goods. Ten days ago Girardi was extolling the pricelessness of a consistent line-up. Since that moment he used seven different batting orders in seven games. In the process, he threw virtually everybody in his line-up except Jeter and Russell Martin under the bus.

The Yankees ownership can thus, with fake mournful looks plastered onto their phony faces, not pursue free agent Nick Swisher, and unload Rodriguez at any price, and sign a bunch of cheaper alternatives, because of the crisis they themselves have facilitated. For weeks they’ve been reminding me of the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies.

This is not one of the great teams of history but it was one of the most instructive. The Phils cut through the slightly-favored Dodgers in the NLCS (1-0, 1-4, 7-2, 7-2). Ever seen that Gary Matthews homer slamming off the facade of the second deck at the Vet? That sealed Game 3 and it hit about two feet below my auxiliary press box seat and it sounded like a bomb exploding.

The Phils walked into the Series as nominal favorites over the Orioles. Baltimore seemed to have a slightly better offense but Philadelphia had the pitching. Back of John Denny and Al Holland the Phils took the opener on the road 1-0. But when the Orioles took game two, Manager Paul Owens pulled a stunning move. Even though first baseman Pete Rose had gotten within shouting distance of Ty Cobb’s all time career hits record, and had gone 6-for-16 in the NLCS (5-for-9 in the last two games), Owens benched Rose, citing Rose’s 1-for-8 start in the Series, and swapped in Tony Perez against lefty starter Mike Flanagan. Perez got a weak single and looked like a statue in the field, and Owens undid his move for Game 4, but by then it was too late.

In dropping the last three games, the Phillies scored six runs and they had to blow up the franchise. They released not just Rose but Joe Morgan, too. They sold Perez back to the Reds. They offed veteran reliever Ron Reed. And in the last week of Spring Training they purged Matthews (sending him to Chicago for almost nothing, where he led the Cubs to the 1984 NL West title) and reliever Willie Hernandez (sending him to Detroit for even more almost nothing – and Hernandez won both the Cy Young and the MVP as the Tigers rolled to one of the most dominant seasons of the last 50 years).

The Phils would bubble up to the surface for a fun 1993 NL Championship (the Joe Carter World Series). But excluding that, it would be nine managers and 24 years before they would again finish first.

And the dominos all began to fall when they benched a controversial superstar who was pursuing one of the seminal records of baseball. Now why does that sound so familiar?



  1. sanford943

    Even for nothing, why would anyone take on Rodriguez. As you have pointed out his numbers have gone down and he has been injured a lot. Even though the Marlins could probably stand saving some money whey would they trade Buhrle. The Yankees could just let him go. Either way they are going to have to pay his salary. The Yankees are not blameless in all this. For hoping Rodriguez would hit a lot of home runs and approach a record they gave him more money than anyone else would. Too bad for them.

  2. mary_caruso

    You have presented a very compelling case. I believe the Yankees have already made the decision and were just waiting for the final blow from the ALCS when they lost miserably tonight. It looked like the life was literally knocked out of them. I had thought they were pulling these stunts to spark some life back into the already comatose team by panicking the players into submission to produce. It didn’t work. No great loss of A-Rod. I hope he finds better in Miami. It suits him.
    Often people repeat tried and true processes to attain the same outcome. It was an exact parallel to the Pete Rose situation. Time will tell and so will the managers and owners in their own time. I think the Yankee organization should rethink Girardi too. He hasn’t rendered any stellar performances lately either.
    The thing that nudges me the most is the amount of money that is involved in the sport. Again the corporatists have infiltrated the last bastion of grass-roots, home-grown enjoyment and sucked the life out of it like they do with people. Thank you for keeping us informed of the shenanigans that go on in baseball. I’ll get back to my reading now. The book is titled ‘Ball Four’.

  3. Juan

    Steering this thread back to baseball (sort of), shed not too many tears for the Yankees and the most bloated payroll in baseball.
    Derek Jeter will surely find solace in his $80-million mansion and rehabilitate while fielding dates with Mariah Carey, Madonna or some such celebrity. Meanwhile, noisy A-Roid will return to “livin’ la vida loca” in his $160-million mansion and resume dating Ricky Martin or whoever it is now.

  4. pepefreeus

    Jeter has far too much taste to ever be involved with Madonna.

    Gary Matthews spent most of his MLB career being underestimated by fools and was traded for nothing a couple of times. I would’ve actually preferred nothing rather than Bob Walk.

  5. SL Cabbie

    Joe Girardi, suddenly imperiled…

    Baseball in the Bronx… I’m wondering the team traded the Steinbrenner family if Keith would be consider becoming a fan again… In the play-offs, the song is usually “win or go home”; with them it’s “win or die.”

  6. SamYanksGiantsMets

    If Cashman can get Giancarlo Stanton in this deal he’s a genius. My proposal: A-Rod, Cano (to be traded for prospects by Miami in July), Nova and Gardner for JJ, Buehrle, and Stanton plus $50 mil going from the Yankees to Loria’s yacht collection.

  7. Michael Green

    I prefer not to politicize my comments here–like Keith Olbermann, I am here because I love baseball. I would note that whenever politics come up here, it comes from the right-wing that dislikes Olbermann. So let me just mention to them that their behavior, especially since the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, is proof that they are treasonous terrorist sympathizers who hate America and don’t deserve to be in a country as great as this one.

    Now to the topic at hand … back in the 1940s, Larry MacPhail ran the Yankees, got Tom Yawkey drunk, and talked him into trading Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio. MacPhail believed–understandably–that they would do so much better in different ballparks. Yawkey sobered up and said he couldn’t do it.

    Another great trade happened at Toots Shor’s between the Yankees of Dan Topping and the Dodgers of Walter O’Malley. The latter allowed that he hated Red Barber. Topping admitted to disliking Mel Allen. They agreed to a trade. The next day–“sans booze,” according to the witness, Jim Woods, who was Allen’s #2 broadcaster at the time–they changed their minds, but after that season (1953), O’Malley didn’t try to keep Barber and he joined the Yankees.

  8. Mark

    IF A-Rod is still with NY for spring training and has a less than stellar spring send him to AA and re-invent him as a pitcher, a reverse Babe Ruth so to speak. He still has a killer arm.

    He changed positions once, why not again? With more inter league play coming up this could be a brilliant move. He’s out of the public eye, gets to rehab his image and game and regains some trade value.

    Good BB Nerd as always Sir. Keep them coming.

  9. rolandtrotter

    If the yankees are trying to trade A-Rod who could afford to pick up the money that he is due? On the surface his contract is ridiculous, but when you factor in bonuses the list of teams that can take him on gets even shorter. If you take out National League teams that can’t DH him when his defensive skills decline the list is even shorter. Its interesting to see what the end of a big ten year deal looks like and could the same thing happen to Pujols in a few years?

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  11. falungongboy

    I’m a fan, Keith, but you hate seems visceral for the Yanks. You left out that A-Rod was a left over from Old Man Steinies hobby of collecting future HOF candidates. I was a conflicted as all Yanks fans were during the play offs. A-Rod wasn’t hitting and seemed fragile in his ineptness and indecisiveness at the plate. So what was Girardi to do? Keep him in a spot that Ibanez or someone else could have filled. If Girardi had done nothing, you and other piler’s on would have vilified (or congratulated) him. It is so easy to second guess!

  12. redpalaceskyeaglebullbluesox

    I found it very interesting that Yankees President Randy Levine, formerly Rudy Giuliani’s top labor negotiator during his reign of error in the 1990s, went on Michael Kay’s ESPN New York call-in show the day after the Yankees werre swept ou by the Tigers. He confirmed that there had been converssations over A-Rod with Jeffrey Luria but they happened at the beginning of the year when the Yankees were in Miami to open their new stadium and they were “in jest.” First there was an outright denial, now they happened but not seriously. On Opening Day 2013, A-Fraud will be wearing a Marlins uniform. The trade will occur either at the Winter Meetings or just before spring training camps open. As for KO’s veracity and truthfulness, I refer you to the slander Bill-o the Despicable laid on the US Army. He claimed not once but twice that the US Army massacred unarmed German POWs at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944. The truth is that members of a German Waffen-SS division massacred close to 100 unarmed American POWs in a field near Malmedy, Gelgium in the first few days of the German Ardennes counter-offensive now referred to asthe Battle of the Bulge. When KO and others called him on this reprehensible lie, first Fox deleted the video from their website. Then O’Really claimed he meant that US soldiers shot German POWs after the actual massacre happened. This nonsense occured at the time the Abu Ghraib horrors came to light. As a veteran of over ten years active duty service in the US Army, precisely over ten years more than Bill-o, Limbaugh, Cheney and Mitt the Twit, I’m still waiting for O’Really’s full, complete and unconditional apology for his defamation of the integrity and honor of the United States Army. I’ll take KO’s word over anyone on the right who make it up as they go along and don’t care whose good reputation they trash..

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